Happiness at work

How far will you go?

Far 9600035_sWellness, well-being and mindfulness are all becoming hot topics in the HR and business fraternity. It seems that there is a growing awareness of the fact that people perform better when they are healthy and happy. This is certainly progress and cause for celebration.

Yet, while it is unquestionably good news, it is also something you need to approach cautiously, for it implies the need for greater awareness of the employee as a person. Ideally you should have this already. Yet the pervasive lack of employee engagement revealed by surveys, indicates that such awareness is rare. This suggests that formalising this aspect of the relationship between manager or supervisor and employee presents a massive challenge.

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Transform Your Business Through More Effective Personal Reviews

What do you make of this chart that I came across this week?

Employee Profile Organisational

Before you spend too much time on the question, let me confess that it is not entirely a fair one, for this is a summary of that chart. The original was entitled “Employee Career Profile” and included definitions in each quadrants that made it too busy to include here. Thus to answer you need to know what those definitions were. So, going clockwise, they are:

  • Traditionally Loyal are company oriented employees who promote the company but are dissatisfied with or don’t care about the work they’re doing. This may impact on their performance. These employees may be happier and more committed in another position.
  • Truly Dedicated Ambassadors are employees who speak well of the company and are enthusiastic about their work. These employees are assets, and managers should use them, and their departments as models for others.
  • Strivers are career oriented employees who are more focused on their career development. They may be highly productive, but are also at risk of being head hunted. Managers should explore ways to increase company commitment.
  • Disconnected are employees who are not enthusiastic about their work or the company they work for. In the extreme, disconnected employees can cause dissent in the workplace. Managers should find and fix issues resulting in low commitment.

The fact that I altered the title may in any case colour your answer. My change implies both that I don’t altogether agree with it and the reason why. Apart from the implication that only ambassadors are assets, for me it epitomises the inherent flaw of nearly all HR and OD initiatives: it starts from the organisational perspective.  After all, how can you look at an employee’s career profile without addressing the employee’s personal aims and aspirations?  

Realistically assessing an employee essentially entails reviewing two personal attributes, as my chart below shows.

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Transforming Human Resources

You likely heard the news late last week that the Shell share price rose 7% in response to the news that the company was cutting 10,000 jobs. So, what was your reaction?

I wager it hardly made any impression on you. Yet that report encapsulates the pervasive attitude that people are simply a resource, and reinforces my case that the HR profession needs to change its approach. Let’s take a look how it could go about this.

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The Strange Dichotomy of Organisations and How to Bridge It

Dichotomy 12350504There is a strange dichotomy in organisations. Perhaps rooted in the Paradox of Management I described previously, it goes beyond that and lies in the fact that, although organisations depend on people to fulfill their purpose, generally they fail to take any account whatsoever of the intrinsic drivers of human behaviour.

An extreme case of this was a conversation with an executive who argued that putting people first was a complete waste of time. As he put it, “I employ people to do a job and I expect them to do it.  If they don’t appreciate how fortunate they are to have a job or they don’t want to do it as prescribed, there are plenty of other people who will!”

Wow! It seems hard to believe that such attitudes still exist. Yet, is it so surprising? Perhaps, despite claims about, and efforts to circumvent and “win”, the “War for Talent”, they reflect a fundamental, ingrained management belief.  Certainly there is plenty of evidence suggesting that, even if not explicitly expressed, they are pretty pervasive, and stem from a belief in the importance of jobs. But employment is about more than just jobs: it is about people.

Improving performance is seldom, if ever, as simple as substituting the person.  And why should it be? Even the exchange of machines can be complicated and their operation radically different. In every case you have to cater for the “needs” of the individual machine.  Those, however, are primarily physical/mechanical. But for people those needs are intrinsically physiological and psychological. Yet how often do you look at the physiological and psychological needs of your people?     

In his book “Leaders Eat Last”, Simon Sinek identifies the biological drivers of behaviour. Although these have their origins in ensuring humankind’s survival as a species, they are just as significant today. They therefore play as important a part in the modern workplace as they did in our hunter/gatherer history. In fact they determine our health and sense of wellbeing. Thus, failure to recognise them and shape them, inevitably impacts performance.

Similarly, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi identifies the psychological drivers in his book “Flow”. He describes “flow” as a state when we become so totally absorbed in what we are doing that we become oblivious to the demands of everyday life and says that this is a state of happiness resulting from our need to optimise experience. Key here is the fact that we are all intrinsically goal driven and therefore motivated to continue developing and reaching for new goals. When we are not doing this, we become demotivated, disinterested and disengaged. Sinek explains this is due to the body’s production of dopamine, which makes us feel good when we reach our goals, and serotonin, which is produced by the sense of pride we get when we feel that others like and respect us. 

Daniel Pink identifies the essential ingredients of employee engagement as autonomy, mastery and purpose. The first two are again readily understandable when you understand that they derive from the production of dopamine and serotonin. On the other hand, he links purpose closely with a sense of belonging, which Sinek says stems from the body’s production of “chemical love”, oxytocin, which it creates when we are in the company of people we like, trust and respect, or when we do something nice for someone else or they do something nice for us.

Thus, although coming from three totally different perspectives, all three of these writers reinforce one another’s conclusions. This makes their findings more credible, and more significant for you as a business leader. To significantly transform performance and results you have to create an environment that makes the best of your people or – more accurately – that allows them to make the best of themselves.  For this you need to consider how you are going to create a system or systems that addresses the physical and psychological needs of your people. Both collectively and individually, because every individual matters.   

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Contact me today for a free 30 minute conversation about how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ model can help you create an organisational culture that embraces change and transforms – and sustains – organisational performance.

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Bay Jordan

Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement.”


Why you, unwittingly, may be just going through the motions

Necessity 50123277_s

Have we got it wrong?  

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” That is the old adage that we all grew up with. (The picture shows just how old!) And like me you have probably never challenged it. But is it valid? Recently I have been compelled to question this.

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Holiday wishes

It is that time of the year to take a break from business and the serious aspects of business and running a successful organisation and focus on things that are just as - and possibly even more - important. Accordingly, I take this opportunity to wish you and yours everything you wish yourself for the holidays and the coming New Year. May it see the fulfillment of them all.

Happy Holidays

I look forward to your company again in the New Year.


A simple solution for transforming a ‘dire workplace’

Do you work in a dire workplace? The odds are that you do. At least according to Jeffrey Pfeffer, Professor of Organizational Behaviour at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University. In an article entitled "Why we don't get the leaders we say we want” he proclaims, “The state of workplaces, not just in the U.S. but all over the world, can only be described as dire.”

Pfeffer justifies his claim by citing that, whatever research data you choose to follow, “The picture that emerges is consistent: mostly disengaged, dissatisfied, disaffected employees. Moreover, there is no evidence that things are getting better over time.” I am sure you also find this discouraging, even depressing.  After all, it is tough to get up and go to work each day when you feel your workplace is “dire.”  It make no difference whether you are at the lowest level of the organisation or the leader trying desperately trying to change the culture: the feeling is the same.

If, however, you are the leader, you will find scant comfort in the blame that Pfeffer attributes to leaders, or his testimony that “about one half of all leaders are failures in their roles,” and that there is not a scintilla of evidence that more people in leadership roles are adhering to the many prescriptions offered.” The only relief you might find could lie in his explanations for this.

Far be it for me to say that leaders need to be better qualified, but I think there is undeniable merit in his case about the other two causes. Indeed I have myself previously written about how our preoccupation with measures. This is so strong that it has virtually come to be an obsession. Thus while Pfeffer is not wrong in identifying “bad measures” as one of the causes, what I think he has missed, is the relationship between bad measures and the not getting the leadership we say we want. He fails to adequately identify the fact that is the obsession with the bad measures that govern behaviour and that therefore prevents leaders from manifesting the qualities we say we are expecting. The truth is, those qualities still come second to “meeting the numbers.”

This means that there is nothing compelling leaders to adopt or consistently demonstrate the qualities being called for. We are actually placing our leaders in an untenable position where they can never embrace and consistently manifest them because they “have two masters.” This all boils down to what I have called “The Great Management Paradox:” the convention of calling people assets but persisting in accounting for, managing them and treating them purely as costs.

As I have written before, “A leader is someone who inspires people to want the same thing that they want.”  The only way you can consistently do this within an organisation, is to make the employees owners with a stake in in its results. And, in order to do this effectively, you have to stop treating people as an expendable resource and demonstrate that they have a value and that value rises and falls according to the contribution they make to the organisation. And I still have not encountered anything delivers both of these requirements, as my ‘Every Individual Matters’ model does.

From dire to engaged

So, if you truly want to be an effective leader, you should contact me now to find out more.  

Bay Jordan

Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, and the creator of the ‘Every Individual Matters’ organisational culture model that helps transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement.”


Beyond the Performance Appraisal

Infinity symbol 21580747_sPerhaps you have heard that Accenture is abandoning performance appraisals. (If not, you can read about it here.) Whenever or however you learned this, you likely immediately wondered, “What are they going to replace them with?” For you cannot judge whether this is a good thing or not until you know that. Even then it is not as straightforward as you might think.

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Here and Wow!

The other day I had an epiphany!  I was watching a Matthieu Ricard TED Talk on “The Habits of Happiness” and was struck by his equating happiness with well-being. I suddenly realised that happiness is not an elusive emotional sense but actually a situation of satisfaction.  I liked that idea because it made happiness somehow less fleeting and transient.

Unflickering flame 7713397_sRicard claims “authentic happiness can only come from the long-term cultivation of wisdom, altruism and compassion.” (My emphasis) Reflecting on this brought back a childhood memory. As a young boy of about eight I heard my parents complain that the carpet was dirty. So I decided that I would surprise them and clean it. Thus the next day when they went off to work, I managed to roll it up, take it outside and wash it.  

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Dealing with Change: Present and Future Engagement

“Of course, no-one likes change” How often have you heard that? It is a statement that is so frequently made that you would think it is a universal truth. But is it? 

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