I recently delivered a short session on personal branding for a group of young people, on a Fastlaners course run by Uprising. Uprising is a youth charity, and Fastlaners is a short course to help ambitious young people with their careers.
A little bit of a departure for me – while I’ve done plenty of sessions for groups of young people, I’d never done personal branding before. But hey – I could do that.
I found while I was preparing that there’s quite a lot of cross over with stuff I’ve done before, stuff I’d done in the recent series of #abookintwominutes, and things related to confidence and public speaking.
We’re hearing a lot about how millennials (I think they still count as millennials? What have we decided to name the people after millennials?) don’t want to work hard, don’t want to get off their phones, don’t have any loyalty to their employers. In short, they want it all their own way.
I don’t believe this is true. The young people in this group all want to get on in the world, they all want decent jobs. I don’t think they’re that different to most others in this respect. Oh, and I didn’t see one mobile phone in the session I delivered.
On the other hand, I believe setting their own terms is a good thing. Why would they have any loyalty to an employer who doesn’t care about them as employees?
A couple of issues I wasn’t expecting came up, and mainly at the end, when they started asking questions about my background. And I realised I’d missed some opportunities. So here's the advice I gave them, and some I wish I ‘d given them.
I was asked, how do you have enough confidence? We talked about things like, fake it till you make it. Some the group were quieter and said little, others were more vocal. Either is fine, it’s all about your personality.
There are two types of confidence. There is the inner confidence in yourself – maybe self esteem is more accurate. The knowledge that you are worth something and have something to offer. I hope all the young people in the group have this – well, all young people to be honest. If not, seek help. Read books on confidence, change your beliefs about yourself, get professional help such as counselling if necessary.
The second is dependent on the situation. I don’t like driving. I’m confident enough to drive a short way, or even further if it’s a route I know, but not confident to take the motorway to Manchester for example. More on this can be found in this earlier post
There are ways to look and sound more confident, even if you don’t feel it.
One young woman told me how she wanted to find work in fine art and illustration. She had earned a degree in this, and had some relevant voluntary work experience. However, she is looking for work in the retail sector, so she can get some actual work experience on her CV. Whilst I admire her pragmatism, it would be a real pity for her to not pursue her real desire. What I wish I’d suggested is – get out there. Even if you are working in retail, blog, vlog, Instagram, Pinterest, podcast, whatever social media works in your desired field, do something and get out there.
I recently read Crushing It by Gary Vaynerchuk, and he is a big advocate of using social medial for your personal brand, to raise profile. Do this, and when you’re ready to make the transition to your chosen field, you have some assets, a track record, instead of having a standing start. I recommend a read of Crushing It, it’s an uplifting book as well as practical.
I mentioned the Rules of Work by Richard Templar. There is a lot of practical advice in there on how to get on at work, but there were one or two bits I disagreed with. However, fitting in, learn the system and make the most of it is practical advice. Not in a cynical or dishonest way, but fitting in to the workplace culture is a must. If it’s a poor fit for you, do your best while you look for something else. You spend a big chunk of your life at work – if you don’t fit, it leads to a miserable existence. I know, I’ve been there.
I mentioned the job early in my career when I was bullied by a manager, and was asked how to deal with this. Not expecting the question, I don’t think I was very reassuring, and I hope I didn’t create fear around this. Whilst it can happen, it isn’t a certainty in everyone’s career. How to deal with it effectively? This is a lot easier if you have inner confidence (see 1 above).
If it happens – if someone makes aggressive or passive aggressive comments to you, the best way is to deal with it immediately. Let them know you understand what they’re doing, that you expect to be treated with respect and won't play mind games.
If things do get out of hand, go to your HR department or another manager for help. There are resources out there should you find yourself in this situation, and this earlier post gives more details.
Have a clear idea what’s important to you. What are your values, what does work mean for you? Your’re entitled to look for this. Yes, you have to play your part too, but being assertive and confident in what you want out of life and expecting to get it as a reward for everything you put in isn’t too much to ask.
We talked a lot about authenticity and integrity, and examining your values in this way can help you to bring your best self to work.
It was a pleasure to meet you all, and I wish you all the luck in the world in finding work you love. And if any of you do start a blog, vlog, podcast or something else, let me know, I’ll be delighted to share it on.
Last week's post told Jeanette's story, and showed how untrustworthy managers can cause problems.
Firstly, it does fall to this manager to be willing to look at his behaviour and determine to develop his skills and alter his approach. Or it falls to his managers to encourage him, or get rid of him. But let’s suppose he is willing to change. How can he develop the trust of his team?
Stephen Covey, in The Speed of Trust, says that it can be done, even though it is tougher to regain trust once lost.
There are four elements – two relate to character, two relate to competence, and all four rely on each other.
The four elements are
Let’s look at what each of these mean.
Doing the right thing – even if no-one is watching. Integrity is more than honesty, it’s also congruence, humility and courage. After Gandhi spoke for two hours without notes to the House of Commons, his secretary said ‘What Gandhi thinks, what he says, what he feels, are all the same.’ And it’s important to have the courage to do the right thing, even when it’s difficult.
We all make mistakes. But what’s important is our intent. If we believe that someone’s intent is to help, do good, then we will feel we can trust them. But if we don’t trust their intent, how can we trust them? Using the example above, if we think the manager’s intent in yelling at his junior staff member was to help them learn (alright, that’s a stretch, but if he was normally helpful, and this was out of character, then we might accept that the telling off was meant to help her not to do it again) and we would still have trust for the manager. But if we know the other stuff about him, we’ll believe the roasting will be to protect his own behind, and that he has no interest in actually helping his team member to develop and grow. And the mistrust is what will develop and grow.
Moving on to competence, we will not trust someone who we don’t think can do what we expect them to do. You might trust your GP for example. But if she then says you need open heart surgery, and she will do it for you, you’re unlikely to trust such a specialised procedure to a general practitioner with no experience in surgery.
What results have been delivered? Moving back to the manager (I should give him a name – maybe I’ll call him Ron – Ron Manager?) what results has he delivered? The job of a manager is to get the best out of his people. Probably to help retain expertise for his organisation, reduce stress and sickness absence. Ron is losing people left right and centre, there’s above average sickness absence, and those that stay don’t perform very well, motivation is at an all time low.
On the other hand, a manager who has a happy and productive team obviously has their trust, and equally important, trusts his team to carry out the organisation’s purpose without looking over their shoulder, and knows they will go above and beyond when it’s needed.
If you would like to improve trust within your organisation, I’d recommend reading ‘The Speed of Trust' by Stephen Covey with Rebecca Merrill, see below for more details.You can also give me a call to talk about how Silvern Training can help you achieve a positive, dynamic workplace using our seven guiding principles of Pam Cast.
Call Lindsay on 0121 624 1957
Covey, Stephen M R and Merrill, Rebecca R 2006. The Speed of Trust. Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc New York
The last – and most important - of our seven principles is trust. Although it is the most important, it is last for a reason.
You can’t have trust without the other six principles in place. A friend of mine was often complaining about her manager, and one of the things she often said was ‘I just don’t trust him’. So one day I asked her why. She launched into a bit of a tirade, I was almost sorry I asked.
‘I knew that in whatever situation he wouldn’t put my interests first, always the organisation or himself. He wouldn’t have my back, even if I was following his instructions, it would be my head on the chopping block, and he wouldn’t even have blinked.
If demands were made for the team to work in a different way, he’d just agree to it without asking us if it caused any problems, even agreeing to things that went against our employment contract, things that jeopardised our safety, because his bosses wanted it. He’d just buckle under pressure, and never look out for us. When the problems were brought to his attention, he just became patronising, belittling the danger. He would never admit he’d made a mistake.
A new, junior member of staff once did something that breached client confidentiality – it was accidental, it wasn’t malicious. It was serious, and she needed to be called on it, but this manager bawled her out over it in front of everyone. He didn’t take the time to work out if she had missed out on training, he just tore off a strip, I’ll show my managers I’m coming down hard on you.
To meet our tough performance targets, we needed to work extra hours, and we’d often done this out of goodwill. But if he hadn’t got our backs, why should I have his? All goodwill went, our motivation was totally depleted. In another role, I often went over and above if the team needed it, I would do it because I knew they had my back.’
I asked my friend how she felt now about this experience. She said that even now, more than a couple of years later, she felt angry about it, and it took a lot more experience before she realised it wasn’t her fault. It still irritates her that she judges her work surroundings by it. She isn’t fully happy in her current role, but is relieved it’s not as shit as that.
I’m sad for my friend that she had to go through that. I’m sad that she uses that as a benchmark for how good her job is. I’m also sad for the organisation and the people it’s meant to serve.
Let’s dissect some of the things she said about her manager’s behaviour.
He wouldn’t have my back
He’d just agree to it without asking us if it caused any problems
He just became patronising, belittling the danger
He would never admit he’d made a mistake
This manager bawled her out over it in front of everyone
He didn’t take the time to work out if she had missed out on training
Goodwill - if he hadn’t got our backs, why should I have his?
In other words, he wouldn’t support members of his team
Again, showing the lack of support. Also taking away the team members’ autonomy
No appreciation for the team’s opinions, contribution, concerns.
Undermining any trust there might have been
Appalling communication skills
Bawling her out would have no impact on future learning and development. Well, not in a good way.
People who don’t feel valued and appreciated won’t go the extra mile when it’s need.
Motivation was totally depleted. We lose sight of why we’re doing the job we’re doing if we don’t feel appreciated, supported, have no autonomy, suffering from poor communication amongst our team. Being engaged with our purpose makes us more effective and productive, but this engagement cannot thrive under these conditions.
The new member of staff publicly bawled out probably learned to keep her mouth shut, keep out of the way of the manager if possible. Ruling through fear and intimidation is not a good way to develop your team’s skills in becoming effective. Did she need more training in the rules of client confidentiality? Was this an error or omission on her part, or is it something that should be more effectively trained as part of the induction – are the current systems and processes as effective as they could be?
Another result is that my friend left – she looked for other employment, and found it. So that organisation lost someone with many years of experience in the field, someone who was committed to helping this client group, someone talented and with a lot of commitment to working with this client group, a difficult group to work with. They were left with the alternative of advertising, recruiting and training someone else. As I said last time, it can cost six to nine months salary, or £30,000 to replace a member of staff. Or not replacing her, so that they offered a lesser service, clients lost out, society lost out, the remaining staff were even more stretched and stressed.
And that’s just one team member. Multiply that – how many others did they lose? How much did they lose in sickness absence through stress? How much did they lose having a demotivated team, who were not willing to go the extra mile if necessary, because the manager didn’t have their back?
We’ll look next time at what can be done to develop and increase trust.
Why should you, as an employer, support your staff? They are there to do something for you, and you pay them for their service, so you don’t owe them anything, right?
Well, maybe, but then what happens when you need them to go the extra mile?
I worked in charities for a long time. I know that most of the people who work in charities do it because they love the sector, believe in making a difference for their cause, and usually are willing to work over and above their contracted hours because of this. They also know how strapped for cash their charity is. The public’s perception is that the sector is full of highly paid executives happy to take their excessive salary at the expense of the people they are meant to be serving. The truth is that most people are underpaid for the work they do, accept this because of their commitment to the cause, regularly attend events out of hours or work unpaid overtime.
I spoke recently to a teacher who works with teens in alternative education. The naughty kids, she called them, though I could tell she didn’t buy into this description, she was just using that to explain herself to people who didn’t understand her role. She’s worked for this organisation for a few years, and has amazing results getting these teens through their GCSEs. Someone asked her how she coped with misbehaviour and abuse. While she downplayed it, she did say it was tiring dealing with these students. Having done this myself a few years back on a part time basis, I can only imagine how exhausting it would be full time. So I asked if her organisation looked after its staff.
'Being honest', she said, 'No'. Most teachers only stay one or two academic years. She is the longest serving member of staff, but the organisation won’t fund her to complete her teaching qualification. So, despite her years of experience in a difficult role, she is trapped. She can’t leave like others have, because she wouldn’t be able to get a similar position. And can’t afford to self fund to gain her qualification. (Possibly because she’s not on a great salary, though she didn’t say this.)
It’s costing the organisation to operate like this. It would cost them around £2,500 to fund this teacher’s qualification. One source suggests that it is costing them six to nine months salary to replace an employee.  Another, an ACAS study in 2014, put the cost at £30,000 per person. And that’s without factoring in the loss in productivity because the replacement teachers aren’t as skilled at working with this difficult group of students. Their results aren’t as good as they could be, and the impact on reputation will be costing them too.
When I talk about trust (see next post) the example there is of a manager who ‘doesn’t have my back’. This person did leave that organisation. They say people don’t leave the job or the organisation, they leave bad managers. An article in Inc last year put the figure as high as 75% of people leaving because of bad management and leadership. It’s clear that lack of support is one of those factors. If people don’t believe their manager, and by extension their organisation, cares about them, then there is no loyalty.
On the other hand, a small manufacturing company gave one of their employees unlimited time off when his wife became seriously ill. They even paid him for a significant portion of the time he took. In return, he’ll have no hesitation in staying late, or more realistically, getting in early (his wife is now in a care home, he visits daily) if his company needs a rush job. He’s unlikely to look for another job, because he wouldn’t know if a new employer will be so understanding about his commitment to his sick wife.
Kevin Murray, who commissioned a YouGov poll, found that the single most important cluster of attributes in getting good results were understanding and caring, which he broke down into these components
Gallup, in their Q12 questionnaire, include a question asking whether your supervisor seems to care about you as a person.
So if you asked your staff right now, do we give you the support you need, how likely are they to say yes?
If you want to know for sure, you can use our free survey to ask them. Click the link here to get a code you can pass to your team. Individual responses will be in confidence, we’ll get back to you with the results.
Apparently, we love it more than we love a pay rise. (Ok, that assumes we’ve already got enough to live on, and I know that unfortunately there are too many people who can’t say that. I don’t think that’s right, and we should do something about that. But that’s not the problem I’m working on today.)
A 2012 study at Berkeley university found that while a pay rise briefly made us feel appreciated, a far better indication was the respect and admiration of our peers. We do love a pay rise – let’s be honest, even if you’re not mainly motivated by money, a bit more is usually good. However, the feel good factor soon wears off, and we get used to that extra income pretty quickly. According to that study though, we never get used to feeling the respect and admiration of our peers.
What happens if we don’t get respect and admiration? A friend of mine used to work as a teaching assistant, working with children who had special needs, to help them integrate into mainstream education. A worthwhile and rewarding job, you’d think. And she did love the children, and enjoyed helping them with their schooling. But the teachers in this particular school saw the job as low importance and she always felt that the head teacher didn’t value her contribution or that she was a useful member of the team. Unsurprisingly, she eventually left.
Failure, burnout, stress, no motivation – these are all symptoms when you don’t feel appreciated at work. They are common in jobs like call centre work, retail, low paid work. And of course results in lots of stress and high turnover of staff.
So let me turn this around – if you’re a manager, how often do you show your appreciation for your team? Do they feel respected and valued? How many of your team have the respect and admiration of the rest of the team?
You might think you’re too busy to show appreciation. But as a manager of staff, that’s a key element of your job. And yes, I understand you need that too. Which brings us to workplace culture. If you have a culture of ‘too busy’, stressful, no time, don’t care about people, then you get what you deserve – people who are too busy to do a good job, people who are too stressed to give their best, people who will leave as soon as something that looks better comes along.
Even call centres can have a culture of looking after their staff. The Admiral Group is regularly named as one of the best places to work. In his account of working part time at their Cardiff call centre, James Bloodworth says
‘…even dull jobs could be made bearable for the workforce without any real cost to employers. Working in the retentions department of a car insurance firm was as dull as I had expected it to be. Yet the company did make a serious effort to ensure that it was not the sort of workplace that, sat at home watching Coronation Street in the evening, you dreaded returning to the next day. It was tolerable, and most of the staff I spoke to seemed if not to enjoy it then at least not to find it too oppressive, even if I thought they should be paid more.’
Hired. Six months undercover in low-wage Britain, James Bloodworth (2018) Atlantic Books, London p1 185-6
The more valued we feel, the better we work. Those who regularly receive praise and thanks for a job well done are more likely to go the extra mile when it’s needed.
If you want to know how to change the culture in your workplace to one that fosters a culture of worth and appreciation, give me a call and we’ll talk about how Silvern Training can help.
Speak to Lindsay on 07976 816704
 Anderson, C et al ‘The Local-Ladder Effect: Social Status and Subjective Well-Being’, Psychological Science 23 (2012): 764-71. Quoted in Friedman, R 2014 The Best Place to Work Penguin Group New York
A quick Google search on what do employees complain about shows that communication crops up in most top 10s. An Inc article on how to make sure your employees never complain about you as a boss puts clearly communicating performance expectations at number 1. Another top 10 puts communication problems above not paid enough, job insecurity and a bad boss. A You Gov poll said that 94% of managers believe they are good listeners; only 65% of their staff agreed.
I remember when I worked at a largish charity a few years ago, we did a quality audit, using the EFQM model, and one of the key areas where we fell short was on communication. My particular grievance was that I felt left out of too many conversations, I didn’t know everything that was going on. While this might well be a personality fault – perhaps I’m too nosey – but I felt that as a fundraiser, I needed to have a good understanding of what was going on across the organisation. I hated finding out that someone else was doing a funding bid and I didn’t know it was going on, or needed funding urgently for a project, but then I couldn’t get the information I needed to apply for appropriate funding.
At the same time, we had lots of meetings. I attended lots of meetings, even without the ones I complained about not being involved in. And then I hated sitting there listening to people talking at length about the problems they were having, or some meeting they’d had and had to give us a blow by blow account of who said what to whom. Just give me the headlines, dammit!
Of course, with hindsight, I can see that the organisation had good intent, but just needed to get smarter about how it shared information. Peter Drucker, in his seminal book Managing Oneself, describes people as readers or listeners. Some people like to read for information, others like to be told it, to get an oral report. I realise now that, whilst I love to talk, and developing my skills as a listener, I get too bored if I have to listen too long to something, especially if I’m not involved. Conversation – I love a good conversation, but meetings aren’t about conversation. Give me a written report that contains the information I need, please. Meetings should have a specific agenda, good discipline about sticking to it, but most of all be necessary to meet a defined purpose. There are other, more effective, ways to share information
Another complaint often heard about communication at work is too many emails. Some organisations have a tendency to send long emails, cc ing in anyone they think needs to be kept informed. One charity worker I spoke to said the bane of her life was long emails, where she had to spend ages reading through to check if there was anything she needed to know or needed to do, buried somewhere in the missive. Often there wasn’t. But sometimes there was, so she still had to read them. And another manager complained that people sent him an email to ask a question, rather than get up, walk to another desk, ask him the question, sort it out straight away. On the other hand, if you have a culture of always open, you’ll be constantly interrupted, so this can have its drawbacks too.
One of the most crucial, and underrated, communication skills is listening. 94% of managers believe they are good listeners. But only 65% of staff say their managers are good listeners. So it sounds as though a significant proportion of managers are deluding themselves. The You Gov poll asked what is the biggest mistake leaders make when working with others? 41% said inappropriate communication or poor listening. When asked to choose the top five from a list of potential missteps by leaders, 81% chose failing to listen or involve others.
Why is it important? If we go back to my experience of feeling left out, as well as paradoxically hating to waste time in meetings, this taps into some fundamental feelings about work. My sense of belonging, how engaged was I with the purpose of the organisation and my role in it, was I clear on what was expected of me? Was my contribution valued? With hindsight, I accept that it was, this organisation had so much good intent, but there were some things it could have done better. As well as communication, several staff complained that they didn’t feel appreciated. If they had communicated this better, motivation and morale would have been way higher.
It’s not easy, but the rewards are worth it. Sometimes, your staff won’t know what they need, like me simultaneously complaining about not being involved in meetings, and going to meetings that are a waste of time. Back then, if someone had taken the time to work out what my actual complaint was, and consider my preferred style of communication, the problem could have been resolved. However, throw in that other team members will have differing needs, and you see how complex this can get.
Here are five techniques that work, one of them, or a combination, may be right for you.
Whether you can improve your communication with a simple fix will depend on what your workplace culture is like at present. If you have generally good leaders and managers who are willing to work on their skills, then a few changes can make all the difference. However, if there are wider problems and the other Pam Cast principles are not an integral part of your culture, then the techniques above will be like putting a sticking plaster over a wound that needs stitches. If you’re afraid this is you, take the questionnaire now and see what your strengths and weaknesses are.[WPMKTENGINECTA id=”20c4f399329e401380″ align=”center” hastime=”false”]
 Murray, K 2017 People with purpose, Kogan Page, London p 186
How much do you invest in training and coaching your team? Does everyone feel they are good at what they do and take pride in becoming even better?
My husband runs the family tool hire business, and every now and again, asks me to go in and cover for him for a couple of hours. He works alone, so if he needs to make a delivery during the day, I get to go in and be the sales assistant. It’s fine, until someone comes in and asks for something.
Firstly, I struggle with the stock control on the computer – I’m not that familiar with it, so it takes me a while to work out if we’ve got an angle grinder available. Once I’ve established that we have, the next problem is that a) I don’t know what it looks like; b) I don’t know where we keep it on the shelves; and c) don’t know what disc you need to for the job you want to do.
So I end up feeling useless and incompetent, and just hate being there. It’s really not a nice feeling. And yes, if I worked there full time, I’d learn and improve, but because I don’t that feeling of incompetence arises every time I’m on the premises. Also, it’s his business, he wants it run his way, so I don’t get much autonomy either.
We return again to Daniel Pink, and his book Drive; the surprising truth about what motivates us. As well as purpose and autonomy, there’s mastery. To develop mastery we need three things.
How is this relevant to you as a manager? I’ll introduce another writer here, Cal Newport. In his book, So Good they can’t Ignore You, he contrasts the passion mindset with the craftsman mindset. He uses the example of a young man who composes guitar and banjo music, and how he practices small sections repeatedly. You may have bought into the premise that you should find work that you’re passionate about, if work is your passion you’ll never have to work a day in your life. I certainly did. Newport says this is all wrong, for many reasons I don’t have time to explore now. But one that’s relevant for our purposes, Newport says this is all about what the job can do for you. Contrast this with the craftsman approach, which is all about what you can bring to the job, what value you add. If you take this approach to your job as a manager, how can I be a better manager today than I was yesterday, how can I continue to improve and learn more about serving my team, then you will be adding tremendous value to your organisation. If you can encourage your team to take the same approach, then they too will continue to grow, improve and add more value to your organisation.
Through this approach, you will develop passion, find motivation and have moments of flow, which is beneficial to your wellbeing. It’s a win-win. You and your team will be adding value to your organisation, and as a result your motivation and wellbeing increase.
If you want to master your team by developing the craftsman mindset, I’d love to hear from you. What do you think of this idea? Let me know in the comments below.
How much do you hate being told what to do? It’s one of my pet hates – tell me what to do, and I’m likely to do the opposite, even if what you’re telling me is what I was going to do anyway. Except… can’t really do that at work, if you want to keep the job.
Control is the flip side of autonomy. We’ve all come across those managers who keep a close eye, micromanage, make a song and dance if you’re even a couple of minutes late getting in to the office. You might even be the kind of manager who likes to keep a close eye on your team, afraid that they won’t get on with it if you don’t.
I once worked for a manager who kept all the bigger picture information, about the key strategies and objectives, in his head. He only shared what he thought he needed to, jobs were allocated as and when he wanted them done, usually with detailed instructions. He’d be checking how we got on. As a result, no one showed any initiative, and waited for his approval before getting on with stuff. In turn, he’d be really frustrated that no-one showed initiative, setting up an unvirtuous circle.
Daniel Pink, in his book, Drive; the surprising truth about what motivates us, says there are three things, autonomy, mastery and purpose, and that autonomy is the most important. There are four ways we can exercise autonomy
Different people will prefer autonomy over different elements, and it may be a little more difficult to have control over who you work with; you may have inherited a team, or joined an existing team. There’s still some room for creativity though.
Why is this important? According to Pink, the old fashioned style of management is ineffective at motivating us. He gives examples of a results only work environment, where employees can decide for themselves how they go about their work, and when it’s done. Night owls can work at midnight if they like. They are accountable for results of course, but the results are typically an improvement on the old style of management – a 35% increase in productivity in one example. Another successful initiative is allowing 20% of time to be spent on a side project. Employees are allowed to spend one day a week working on a project of their choosing, working with who they’d like. Google is maybe the best known of these employers, and has made a great deal of money from side projects like gmail, and other organisations have also had success with this.
If you’d like to harness the power of autonomy for your team, please do get in touch. What issues does this raise for you? Please leave a comment below
What’s your purpose? Do you have a clear idea? Do you live every day to fulfil that purpose? What does the question even mean?
You may have some ideas – if you’re a family man or woman, you might view your purpose as raising the best children you can, if you’re religious (I’m not) you might have a clear idea of what God’s work is for you. But what if you’re not? Or you think that fine, I’ll agree that one of my purposes is to bring up a happy healthy family, but surely that’s not my only purpose? (I’m a feminist, so yeah, that.) So what about at work, what’s your purpose at work?
I believe that the work we do is intrinsic to our identity and self esteem. You meet someone new, fairly early on they ask, ‘What do you do?’ How you feel about your work is bound up in how you feel about yourself. If you can give an answer with which you’re proud, or at least comfortable, you feel better about yourself. If you don’t like what you do, you’ll show this in your reply to your new acquaintance.
I’ve worked in all types of organisations, and many years ago I worked in the civil service. One job involved collecting unpaid taxes, including prosecuting evaders. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think we should all pay our taxes, and if not, we should be responsible for the consequences of paying a penalty. I just didn’t want the be the one chasing them, especially for a government whose policies I largely disagreed with.
That job didn’t end well for me – I had a major disagreement with my manager. She wanted to maximise income – I’m sure you could argue that was a legitimate purpose for the job. I thought we were persecuting motorists and the penalties were not in proportion to the offences, and my team thought the same. The purpose of the job just wasn’t a good match for my personal values, and I eventually left the civil service to work in the charity sector.
This anecdote also demonstrates that what works to make one person proud can make another uncomfortable. ‘I’m a civil servant’ – it’s fine to be proud of that. ‘I’m a tax collector’ – also a worthy purpose, but I just didn’t feel comfortable saying so.
From Simon Sinek’s Start with Why, via Daniel Pink’s Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us, to Kevin Murray’s People with purpose, authors and researchers are showing us how purpose makes a difference with our motivation and productivity at work. According to Murray, your job as a leader is to give everyone in your team or organisation a greater sense of purpose. It delivers better performance and faster growth. Employees live longer, have fewer illnesses (less sickness absence) happier lives and feel fulfilled.
Murray also inadvertently demonstrates what can happen if you haven’t nailed this. He gives the example of Monarch Airlines, and how they saved the business from the brink of collapse. This was in 2014. They also teetered on the brink again in 2016 and were saved. Only to collapse the following year, September/October 2017. His case study talks about how they reviewed their purpose, mission, values and goals, got feedback from employees, buy in from the managers. The CEO seemed to be going about things in the right way, but the framework for success was, to my mind, still full of management speak and jargon. The purpose – ‘to show we care’. Care about what? Their medium term vision was double passengers and double margin. There were six strategic goals, four about finances, one about customer satisfaction and one about employee satisfaction (the last one on the list). Hmm, so that’s what they mostly care about then, profit.
Surely the purpose was to get people to fabulous holiday destinations? Have a wonderful journey? Or for the holiday division, to make sure people had fabulous holidays? I accept that there were other factors in the collapse, economic and Brexit, but I still think they got it wrong with their culture change.
The non profit sector has a head start in this – we’re already thinking about more than profit. Tapping into this for your organisation will increase your team’s productivity and create more value for your stakeholders.
Knowing the point of what you’re doing, and getting the meaning of it. Being engaged in the mission, vision and values of your organisation. And your team all get it too. The non profit sector is full of people who joined because they believe in its purpose, but sometimes, in the pressure of being overwhelmed, stressed and overworked, this can get lost.
If you would like to reconnect with your purpose, and help your team re engage too, I’d love to hear from you. Let me know, what are the challenges you’re facing right now? Leave your comment below.
 Ibid pp 170-6
Happy new year! Yes, I know I’m late to this party, but it’s still January right? I’ve had a lovely Christmas, a fab holiday over the new year, and a bit of time reflecting on my goals for the coming year, so it’s taken a little while to get started. I hope you had a wonderful break too.
Many people do take time out at the start of a year to think about their goals for the coming year, and our work life is often a factor in this reflection. Do you want a new job? Do you want not to have to work? Do you want to start working for yourself? Maybe. Or maybe you just want to enjoy what you are doing more? We don’t always need a big change to make things better. If you’re in the non profit sector, you may be committed to what your organisation does, but you don’t have a great working relationship with your colleagues or boss. Maybe all it would take to improve things for you is to make some changes to your current situation for things to be a whole lot better. Maybe you love what you do, but you’re stressed out from how big your workload is. Making a few changes to work smarter could be all you need to increase your happiness at work.
A new study reported in the HR Review said that a 1% increase in happiness could boost the UK economy by £2.4 billion a year. They kind of ruin it a bit for me, by then giving examples of things that improve happiness, all being in the control of the individual – exercise, get more sleep and reflect on their own wellbeing. These things are all well and good, and yes, of course if you want to be happier and are not doing these things, great, you can start and get happier. My beef with this though, is that what if work is a cause of your unhappiness and stress? Do we absolve organisations of their part in our happiness? There needs to be a balance between taking control of your own destiny and not letting organisations off the hook.
Always good to take control though, and in a new series of videos one of the aspects I look at is how to improve productivity at work by harnessing the power of autonomy. If you’d like to learn more you can watch the intro here.