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Autonomy

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

  • The work we do
  • How we go about it
  • When we get it done
  • Who we work with

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

Find your purpose at work to improve workplace culture

Finding your purpose

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.

​What difference does it make?

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.[1] 

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’.[2]  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.


[1] Murray, K 2017 People with purpose, Kogan Page, London p 43

[2] Ibid pp 170-6

Happy new year!

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[1] 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.

https://youtu.be/DEaaj09WhUQ​​​


I'm having some technical issues, so if you'd like to sign up for the video series, please drop me an email at lindsay.milner@silverntraining.com and I'll get them to you.


[1] http://www.hrreview.co.uk/hr-news/1-happier-workforce-boost-uk-economy-24-billion-year/109479?utm_source=Gatormail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=HR+Daily+Monday+-+15-01-2018&utm_term=No+more+blues+this+Monday&utm_content=31013&gator_td=NAKOXqzV%2b7eQwpvCpf7uITL30GscmKIBnEhafFl%2bwFhIgsTCnvJ50oKnehVC3A8h%2bVkAipOrioHHnaI8yFKbsysEh3EstE8fH5f38DwJs6CPK49tRcx2Ko1rSYPPy1gD1EndiOoED2C8FUvJUSyh%2f2b%2f29znsVt1xu3KuLZo3%2buNlp3dcfZjKR%2b0q8LzTZXrTDx5zCs%2beNvzFBjwVXWntlxQbuJu0Au3Tdrf1vMyWvN5KhVVPLwU94HkbNfUjQDn71Q%2bW3q75ut0l%2b%2fi8cCgTmR2yN9HrF9lLPvZ%2bkdTfUkkC6EigbWrEw%2bTKD5ef426

Seven secrets to being a great manager and having an awesome team

PAM CAST, that’s the seven secrets.

PAM CAST is my mythical superhero manager

Purpose

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.

Reconnect with the purpose of your organisation, and help your team reconnect too, and everyone will feel the sense of achievement that comes with doing something worthwhile.

Autonomy

Once your team has clarity on what is expected of them, leave them alone to get on with it. If you’ve delegated the task, delegate the power for them to decide how to carry out the task. All you need concern yourself with is the outcome and when it needs to be done.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should wash your hands of all responsibility. As well as ensuring your team understand what success looks like, they must also know that they can come to you if they need help or it’s going wrong in some way. But don’t be looking over their shoulder and micromanaging. Everyone hates that.

Mastery

We all like to feel that we’re good at something. On occasions, I’ve had to cover for my husband’s business – dealing with tools like angle grinders and reciprocating saws. No, I don’t know the difference, and I hate the feeling of incompetence when someone asks me something I have no clue about. So make sure

· You recruit people with an aptitude for the work you need doing

· Equip them and train them for the work

· Continue to support them and give them room to grow

Communication

Look at the communication culture within your organisation. Is everything done on email, even though you could get up and go talk to someone a few desks away? Or do you have the opposite problem, anyone thinks nothing of interrupting someone deep in concentration on a lengthy report or statistical analysis? Do you have endless unproductive meetings? Or never keep people informed of what’s going on so they feel left out?

It's important to have good systems of communication so that you can strike that balance of keeping people in the loop, without wasting their time on too much information. A team manager in the banking sector holds a 30 minute skype call every morning at 8.30 with her team, and finds it a great way to ensure clarity amongst her team. That might not be quite right for you, but think about what might work and give it a try.

Appreciation

We all thrive on praise, even those who think they’re motivated by money. If we feel truly valued at work, we work better. When there are problems, we are more likely to stay late if needed, get in early, do whatever it takes to achieve the desired outcome, when we know that our efforts are appreciated. The appreciation comes first though – if we don’t feel valued, we don’t go the extra mile. If we already know we’re valued, then we will. So it’s up to you to make sure your team knows you appreciate them and their work.

Support

Research has shown that people who have a friend at work tend to stay longer with an organisation. That feeling of support, knowing that someone cares about you, makes a big difference to our work experience.

Take it a step further, and if we know our managers care about us, that our organisation has our back, this helps to create that feeling of being valued. Like appreciation, the support has to come first. If someone is having difficulties, show them that you care by giving practical support. If they’re having difficulty with a task and you can help, then help. Expect others to help too, work together as a team. Prioritise as a team, rather than work in isolation.

It’s not just work difficulties where we need support. A friend’s wife is seriously ill in hospital, and he’s spending every evening after work visiting. His employer allowed him time off without limiting it when the accident first happened, and again when she took a turn for the worse. How much more stress would it cause if he was worried about losing his job as well as losing his wife?

Trust

Probably most crucial of all is trust. It’s fundamental to how we work, and if it’s not there, it will take a long time to develop. It won’t develop without the other six factors mentioned above, it can’t exist in a vacuum. But as the manager, you can lead the way. Show your team you trust them by communicating the purpose clearly, giving them the autonomy to manage themselves, investing in their growth and mastery, communicating effectively, appreciate what they’re doing, giving them support when they need it, so that they know you sincerely have their backs, and they will grow to trust you.

Do all this, and your workplace will be phenomenal. I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy, but the results will be worth it.

Want to know where to start?

Do this quick diagnostic to see how you score on the PAM CAST scale

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Report – a review of some of the big issues facing the non profit sector

There are a lot of changes afoot in the world of work, and the non profit sector isn’t protected from them. In fact, it can be even more volatile than the private sector in some ways.

I wrote some time ago about workplace culture, but now I want to take it wider and look at a bigger picture of trends affecting non profit sector workplaces. What else is going on in the world of work that can affect how much you enjoy your work and how effective your team are? This post aims to look at the wider picture. Workplace culture has an effect on employee engagement, and we’ll have a look at that, as well as trends in employment generally, like zero hours contracts, part time and self employed working, and what’s happening in the voluntary sector. We’ll briefly cover some recent studies into the future of work and productivity, and the changes that technology is likely to bring.

Employment trends

The government is celebrating highest levels of employment since records began in 1971, but in the meantime, many charities are all too well aware that levels of poverty, including in work poverty, are increasing problems. The level of employment masks a growth in part time work, zero hours contracts and self employment – much of which is low paid, or not really self employment such as delivery driving. The voluntary sector is a big employer of part time staff, a significant proportion of whom would like more hours, and the highest proportion of staff on temporary contracts, so high levels of uncertainty and instability. Many people in the sector know that they are trading better pay and long term prospects for making a difference in the world, but that doesn’t mean they won’t suffer the consequences of low pay and uncertain employment status.

Skills shortages are affecting all sectors, though information on the non profit sector specifically is hard to come by. Despite the recent election and the challenges of Brexit, there are a few government reports that address the issue of work. The recent Taylor review of modern working practices examines what constitutes good work, and BEIS issued a green paper, to be followed in due course with a white paper, on the UK industrial strategy. (References are provided in the full report, available to download.)

And what about technology? It's hard to say how much this will affect the non profit sector, or how, but what is certain is that there will be changes. Some jobs will go, and others will be created in their place, and those who can adapt, as always, will weather the storm best. Jobs that need the human touch won’t be taken on by AI or robotics though. The data input finance person will be replaced, but the finance director won’t. Fundraisers won’t be replaced. Care staff will still be needed.

Voluntary sector

Ever since the banking crisis in 2008, the sector has been suffering from the financial squeeze. Voluntary funding is recovering slowly, but still not up to pre recession levels. Earned income has been rising slowly, to some extent compensating for this. But charities are having to do more with less, with rising demand for services in the wake of a shrinking public sector. Local authorities are fast approaching the point where they can only just about meet their statutory obligations, according to one report, and there will be little or nothing left for other services, leaving the non profit sector to fill in the gaps.

At the same time, public trust in charities is declining, possibly because of the unfavourable press they’ve received. This has led to a change in the regulatory framework. Whilst still called self regulated, I find it a bit of a stretch when we’re subject to some of the same regulations as other organisations, plus charity law. There is now the new Fundraising Regulator to monitor our fundraising communications, and the advent of GDPR law that comes into effect next May.

Costs

All this has cost implications for organisations. Not just in the sense of running costs, overheads, but in the effects they have on the leadership and staff. Productivity drops when people feel overwhelmed and overworked and unappreciated. Since the recession, government and business thinkers have been puzzled by the drop in UK productivity. Equally, there are those who link productivity to motivation, employee engagement and other factors at work. I previously said my favourite definition of workplace culture is the by product of consistent behaviour, and if you have a team who feel overworked and underappreciated, I’ll wager you have a culture you don’t really want. You may even have stated aims that run counter to this, but stated aims mean nothing in the face of consistent behaviour.

Sickness absence continues to be a cost for organisations, and stress is the biggest cause of long term absence. Presenteeism (where people come to work even though they are ill) is reported to be rising. Staff turnover is difficult to quantify for the non profit sector as a whole, but the costs of fully trained and experienced staff leaving, recruitment and training to replace them are undeniable.

Employee engagement is becoming a bit of a buzzword, but Gallup have been collecting figures on this for a decade, and their findings are remarkably consistent over this time; fully engaged staff are a minority. UK figures are not easy to find, and non profit sectors even thinner on the ground. If you’ve done a staff survey that may give you some indication about your organisation. But just measuring it and finding out if it’s low isn’t enough, what actions are you taking as a result of your findings? Engaged staff are committed to the purpose, enthusiastic advocates for your organisation, are more productive, stay longer and are less prone to sickness absence. What is it costing you to have staff who are not fully engaged? What is the cost of the actual culture being at odds with the culture you want to foster?

Conclusion

We live in interesting times, as the old saying goes. There are many challenges facing the non profit sector, and I’ve only really scratched the surface here, focusing on matters that will affect those employed in the sector.

With the challenges you’re facing – a difficult jobs market, skills shortages, rising demand for services, changes to the regulatory framework, technology, it makes sense to do what you can about the things you have some control over - overwork, stress, low productivity, absenteeism and high staff turnover. By making some changes to your leadership and management style, you can quickly increase engagement and notice the benefits of a better workplace.

I know from many years working in and with the non profit sector, it's full of people who are committed to doing their very best to make a difference in the world and help those with less.

By taking steps to make the workplace better, you're not just helping the people you work with, you're making a massive impact for the people your organisation serves too.

Want to know more? Download the Full Report

Seven mistakes managers make and how they affect your productivity

Lack of clarity

Your people don’t know what is expected of them, or why it is important. They don’t understand the purpose of their tasks, the mission, vision and values of the organisation. As a result, they are not meeting the organisation’s goals

Micromanaging

You might be micromanaging because you’re a control freak, or possibly just because you are worried that your team don’t know how to do their work properly, or they won’t do it the way you want. As a result, no-one on the team wants to use their own initiative, creating more work for you instructing them.

Not investing

You don’t invest in your people, either with on the job coaching, or training and development programmes. You still expect them to get results though. This means that people stagnate, don’t develop and grow, and don’t become experts at what they do. They are either bored so not doing a good job, or bored so looking for something more worthy of their time.

Not communicating well

Communication is poor, with endless, pointless emails. No-one thinks of getting up and having a conversation to resolve problems, it’s all done on email. Which people don’t have time to read. Meetings are unproductive, seen as a waste of time, achieve no progress. People feel left out, they don’t know what they need to know (see lack of clarity).

Not showing appreciation

Everyone feels undervalued, so they won’t go the extra mile when it’s needed.

Lack of support

People don’t support each other – managers don’t support their team, colleagues don’t help others in the team. If someone is in difficulties, no-one offers to help. As a result, people feel overworked, overwhelmed, overloaded. People feel isolated, don’t feel as though they belong to team. Work doesn’t get done, and what is done is possibly not the most important things.

No trust

Managers don’t trust their staff to do their job properly, staff don’t trust that managers care about them, or are looking out for them. Trust is the really big one – it’s fundamental to how we work. And if it’s not there, it will take a long time to develop. But the results for your workplace are phenomenal.

Toxic workplaces

How do you recognise a toxic workplace?

If you’re in one, you’ll probably know. But just to put some definition on it, you will see some or all of the following

· Poor management

· Lack of autonomy – micro managers, lots of rules and regulations

· Blame culture – people afraid to make a mistake or own up to it, because of repercussions

· Bullying and harassment

· Bad working practices

· Work overload

· No recognition of effort

· Lack of trust

What effects does it have?

No-one enjoys coming to work. Morale and motivation are low, so productivity is low. More people are off sick because of work related stress. Or they come in to work when they are sick (presenteeism) so they’re not performing well, and maybe passing their germs onto the rest of you. Staff turnover is high, increasing costs of recruitment, leaving you to manage vacancies until you hire replacements. Which also increases stress on those remaining, and reduces your productivity again.

What’s your place in it

Boss

Good news if you’re the boss. You can do something about it, because a workplace culture usually comes from the top. General Eisenhower said ‘Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.’ This is just as relevant (maybe even more so) in the corporate, business or public services worlds than in the military. Your role is to create the conditions for your team to want to do the work. Not be doing it begrudgingly or half hearted, afraid of the repercussions if they don’t, but to do it because they want to.

Employee

As an employee in a toxic workplace you probably just get the fallout of the toxicity like everyone else. You’re having to work under the conditions outlined above, overworked, deal with poor management, getting little or no recognition or appreciation for your effort. You hate the job – or you might like the work, but hate the conditions you’re having to work in. A friend of mine works in a primary school with children who have special needs. She loves helping the children, but hates the management structure of the school and how she is treated by them.

Target/victim

In toxic workplaces there are often cases of bullying, harassment, someone being picked on or getting an unfair workload, or getting all the worst jobs. Everyone else lets this go on, because they don’t want to be the next in line to be picked on. The type of manager who operates through autocratic behaviour creates fear by intimidating her employees, bullying anyone who dares to questions her actions.

How can you respond?

You’ve got three basic choices

· Confront the problematic behaviour

· Ignore it and hope to stay under the radar

· Quit

These all have pros and cons, and likely outcomes. If you’re in a small organisation, how you take this forward will differ from a large, bureaucratic organisation that has policies, procedures, an HR department, but you still have essentially the three main options

If you want to confront a bully or poor manager, your strategy will depend on many factors, like your work relationship, how bad it is, what support you have, how strong you feel and what outcomes you’re willing to accept.

Likewise, if you’re planning to ignore it and stay under the radar, you need to consider all these factors, and the effect it will have on your stress levels, your emotional response and the effects on your home and personal life.

And of course quitting will depend on your financial and personal circumstances as well as your potential for finding something else

Guide for leaders and managers

If you are a leader or manager, your role is to create the conditions for your team to want to do the work of the organisation. If you have poor working relationships with your team, there are steps you can take to improve matters, like being clearer on expectations, avoid overloading with work, recognise achievements and create an atmosphere of trust.

Find out more

For more detail on these strategies, download my ebook, ‘A guide to toxic workplaces’.

Can you tell me if I’m onto something?

Does your organisation want to...

  • Reduce sickness absence?
  • Reduce staff turnover?
  • Improve employee engagement?
  • Improve employee wellbeing?
  • Improve staff performance?
  • Improve productivity?
  • Increase profits?

I am about to launch an innovative consultation service so that organisations can identify what works well, and what they can do to improve the factors listed above. However, first I'd like to validate the concept, test the market and refine the service I intend to offer.

This is where you come in. I’m offering a limited number of complimentary consultations to charities, social enterprises, schools, SMEs and other organisations, so that I can test the market. If you have one or more of these problems, begin by filling in the survey below, and I'll be in touch.



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Culture – the by product of consistent behaviour

A friend of mine took up running during her lunch break. What’s strange about that you may ask? Getting some exercise is good for you as a general thing, and during the lunch break, could be a good way to give yourself more energy and vitality during the afternoon. Well, she’s not really the running type, and the reason she took it up? She hates her colleagues so much, she’d prefer running to get away from the office so she could spend less time with them.

My favourite definition of culture is that it is the by product of consistent behaviour.[1] So what is going on in that workplace, consistently, to make someone prefer to take up an exercise they wouldn’t ordinarily be motivated to do? And what is my friend’s behaviour, going out alone at lunchtime instead of socialising with colleagues, what is her behaviour saying to her peers and bosses? It’s likely she would have developed a better understanding of her colleagues, and they of her, if she’d invited them along; shared activities are one way to develop good workplace relationships.[2]

I’ve worked in offices where staff were managed through control and fear. I remember one manager who told me, with some pride in her voice, that everyone who she had assessed as underperforming at their annual appraisal had gone on to leave the organisation. It apparently didn’t occur to her to wonder why people who had previously been good at their jobs were now underperforming. Or consider whether she had some responsibility for that.

I worked for a manager who kept all the information to himself, only sharing what he thought was necessary, and expected tasks to be completed how he wanted them done. Unsurprisingly, staff waited for approval before doing anything, and rarely showed initiative.

Sports Direct have come in for a lot of flak over their employment practices, but I’d like to pick out just one. Staff at their warehouse in Derbyshire are reported to be expected to submit to searches before and after leaving work to make sure they aren’t stealing the stock.[3] Trust comes up regularly as a key to good leadership, but why would an employee trust a leader who clearly doesn’t trust them? And if you’re judged untrustworthy, what are the chances you’ll try to live up to that expectation? Oh, and you’re not paid for the time you spent waiting to be searched. How likely is that employee to put themselves out for an employer who treats them with such disregard?

There is some good news though, it is possible to make changes for the better. A care home in Essex was one of the subjects of the scandal exposed by a Panorama programme, a couple of years ago, where elderly residents were routinely treated with abuse. Some staff were dismissed and prosecuted, but the new owners faced a major task to stamp out such behaviour. By adopting behaviours that model what good care is: the acronym KCR, meaning kindness, comfort and respect, was introduced in July 2014, the culture at the home has been transformed. “We said if we’re going to get everybody working in the same way and we’re going to really drive through … how we do things around here, unite everybody, we need to call it something,” “And it’s not just about how we treat the residents, it’s about how we treat each other as well.”[4]

But change is tricky. How do we change our consistent behaviour? Habits are hard to change. Research shows that it takes about two months to embed a new behaviour, and it’s best to only change one thing at a time. So what’s our motivation for making the effort?

There’s a growing awareness of the importance of workplace culture. There’s tons of research that shows people are more productive when they’re happy. When they’re not stressed. When they eat healthy food and get some exercise. When they see the bigger purpose of their work. When they have some mastery and autonomy over what they do. Not only are they more productive, but they are off sick less often, they are more likely to stay in their job.

So sure, change is tricky, but if you want your business to thrive, or even to survive, you will need to embrace it.

I’ll leave you with one final question – how is your behaviour impacting on your workplace, and is that creating the kind of culture you want?

Leave me a comment below, what changes do you think you could make?



[1] Fried, Jason and Hansson, David Heinemeier. 2010. Rework. Random House Group Limited, Chatham

[2] Friedman, Ron PhD, 2014. The Best Place to Work. The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace. Perigree, Penguin Group, New York

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/dec/09/how-sports-direct-effectively-pays-below-minimum-wage-pay

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/2016/jun/09/care-home-tv-investigation-panorama-turned-around

Anyone can make a mistake

I was reading something recently about workplaces, and working relationships, and was intrigued by this finding.[1] Apparently, some research was done about how many mistakes were made in a hospital, comparing places where the people were comfortable, got along in the team, and all worked well together, with other places where there were not good working relationships.

The researchers were surprised to find that more mistakes were made in the hospitals where everyone got on well, not the ones with poor working relationships. This wasn’t what they expected to see.

Being good researchers, they investigated further to see why this might be.

I don’t know if you can see the answer coming, but the results weren’t so counterintuitive after all. It’s not that the good workplaces made more mistakes. It’s that they owned up to them. And, more importantly, learned from them.

Those places where people didn’t work well together, no-one wanted to own up to the mistakes. That’s quite frightening in a hospital don’t you think? It means possibly no-one is acting to put them right, and if the mistakes are critical, or fatal – well, instead of getting help, the busy, stressed, incompetent, whatever adjective applies, worker, was probably trying to put it right by themselves. Or not, if they were indeed incompetent. Now, I’m not suggesting all healthcare workers who make mistakes like this are incompetent, most won’t be, but there’s bound to be some. But whatever the reason for the mistake, not owning up to it is costing people’s health and even lives. The lack of shared learning – how do we ensure this doesn’t happen again, is compounding the problem.

We all know the NHS is under extreme pressure, and allowing these kinds of workplace cultures to persist in such a crucial sector is madness in my opinion.

But there are lessons for us whatever our sector. Do we want people who take responsibility, own up to mistakes, work to rectify and learn for the future? Or are we happy to continue with teams who don’t get along, are afraid to step up and take responsibility, develop and grow?

How about your own workplace? Can people be honest and open about errors, or do they cover them up because of an environment of fear? What impact does that have on your organisation's effectiveness?  Start the discussion by leaving a comment below.



[1] Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I read this to cite the source. A check of my recent reading material hasn’t enabled me to find it – but if I do, I’ll come back and cite.