Have you ever noticed how sensitive a cat’s fur is? Barely touch a sleeping cat and it will twitch where you touch it. It’s purely reflex, I know, but it is something I love doing and always makes me smile. But it provides a useful lesson.
As a human being you cannot survive on your own. It doesn’t matter how capable or self-sufficient you consider yourself to be, it is practically impossible. Interdependence is an inescapable fact of life. If you are a manager or leader, you definitely depend on other people to achieve results. And, even if you aren’t, you are still likely to rely on other people to be able to get your job done. This makes managing relationships an essential life-skill.
John Donne encapsulated this when he said, “No man is an island, entire of itself: every man is a piece of the continent.” For most of us, this “continent” is the organisation where we work. This is significant because, if you are a “piece” of the organisation, it makes the organisation itself the ‘framework of relationships.’ This begs the question, “To what extent do you recognise this and regard your organisation as a ‘framework of relationships.’?
Less than 3% of leadership time is spent on collectively building a view of the future. At least, so said Gary Hamel and CK Prahalad in their book “Competing for the Future.” You might find some comfort in the fact that shocking statistic is over two decades old. But, even if things have improved subsequently, it is cause for concern.
Both the pace of change, and the fact that 70% of change initiatives, reportedly, fail to achieve their objectives, suggest that proportion should be significantly higher. This implies a need to take action to improve matters. Before identifying how to do that, however, you might ask, “Why, given the rate of change, do leaders not spend more time on this?” After all, safeguarding the future is surely a primary leadership responsibility.
It is encouraging to know that employee ownership is becoming increasingly popular and more widespread. According to Chief Executive Magazine the number of worker-owned businesses in the US is growing around 6% per year and such businesses now account for 12% of the private sector workforce. Apparently, this is due to initiatives “to empower their workforce employees by selling their stock to an ESOP or similar worker-owned arrangement” and/or “from founders wishing to reward employees while cashing out of their business.”
Yet, notwithstanding such developments, difficulties remain. The article identifies 2 major dilemmas:
- Private companies lack the public trading capability that listed companies use to motivate employees;
- Governance “challenges” if subsequent owners are unwilling to continue running the business.
Then, presumably as solutions to these dilemmas, the article offers two case studies. The first describes the transformation effected by a shared compensation system at Johnsonville Sausages; and the second reveals how, over 30 years, Burns and McDonnell, grew from 600 to 5,500 employees (816%) and increased revenues from $40 million to $2.6 billion (6400%) as the result of an ESOP (Employee Share Ownership Plan.) Then, despite this example of extraordinary growth that most organisations can only dream about, the article simply concludes by identifying the upside and downside of ESOPs. So let me add to the subject.
You could count all the words of Spanish I know on one hand, but “No Mas!” is a phrase I remember well (thanks to an historical boxing match last century.) But it took on a new relevance this past week.
This stemmed from a TED talk, “How to Save the World (or at Least Yourself) from Bad Meetings” in which David Grady coins the phrase “Mindless Acceptance Syndrome” or “MAS.” As you might expect from the talk title, he is referring here to an unthinking acceptance of attendance at meetings, something he definitely sees as needing to stop. If, like most people, your life is plagued by meetings, you will find it worth the less than 7 minutes investment of your time. For me, though, it had a deeper significance than just meetings.
There were two primary, ultimately inextricably linked, reasons for this.
Last week I wrote about The Golden and Platinum Rules in the context of Customer Experience. Today I want to discuss them in the broader context of human relations before, once again, narrowing the perspective and looking specifically at their role in the workplace. But, first let’s ensure a common starting point.
For some time now, I have been aware of the Platinum Rule. I have, however, remained sceptical and largely ignored it. After all, the Golden Rule has worked for the human race for millennia and underpinned much of what has been good. I don’t see how it can suddenly become invalid. But that is not enough: it is simply resistance to change. Finding out whether my doubts are justified requires a closer look.
I have recently noticed a spate of material on the subject of worker cooperatives. The most interesting was the Forbes article “For Some, Worker Cooperatives Emerge As An Alternative To ESOPs” which made me wonder if worker cooperatives were a new trend. If so, it certainly provides food for thought.
The article suggests that worker cooperatives are a result of changing demographics and a means of addressing the disruptive effects of generational change. Perhaps, but their providing a solution for only “some” implies that ESOPs (Employee Share Ownership Programmes) are the only other option. While history certainly entitles both to be options, being the only two suggests rather limited thinking. After all, both have their shortcomings, which – at the very least – warrants exploring other possibilities.
It could hardly have been better timed. After writing last week about achieving the remarkable, I received a newsletter from Charles Bennett, Partner and Thought Leader at The Focus Group, illustrating what achieving the remarkable means when it comes to customer service. In it he tells a powerful story from his experience. Like any good story it inspires and demands retelling, so it is with great pleasure that I share it with you. Here it is in Charles’ own words, exactly as I received it.
Like millions of people all around the world, I have been enjoying the spectacle of the Olympic Games. Watching top performers at the peak of their abilities is always good but the Olympics are special. They offer a unique combination of competition and camaraderie that creates a WOW! that uplifts athlete and spectator alike.
There can be no doubt about the intensity of the competition. Every athlete is striving to stretch beyond anything they have ever achieved before and prepared to endure massive physical discomfort in the process, which is what makes it such compelling viewing. Nevertheless, the competition somehow still, ultimately, seems to become secondary. Goodwill and good sportsmanship is manifested in a way it isn’t in any other sporting arena.