Happiness at work

Why Employee Engagement Efforts Aren’t More Effective

In his book, “Leaders Eat Last,” Simon Sinek expounds on how the human species has been biologically programmed for survival. He describes the chemical stimulants that the body produces under different circumstances. He identifies 6 different chemical reactions and the situations in which they are produced. These are, briefly, as follows:

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Evolution, Not Revolution, Powers Innovation and Change

Change_000004016383XSmallHaving long championed the idea of organisations as organisms – as living entities rather than as machines – I have lately become increasingly aware that this is the key to eliminating hierarchy and burying command and control. It also demands a fresh approach to change and is essential for the innovation so vital for commercial – and economic – success. Because organisms only change through evolutionary process.

In fact, if you accept revolutionary change to be any non-evolutionary change, historically, most effective change has happened through evolution rather than revolution. Even the agricultural and industrial revolutions were more evolutionary changes than revolutionary. Most revolutions that can be identified as occurring at a specific time – e.g. the French and Russian Revolutions – could be said to be revolts against a very unsatisfactory status quo rather than specific efforts to introduce pre-designed, and tested, new models. 

Consequently it seems logical that embracing change as an evolutionary process will enhance change management initiatives and help any organisation survive and thrive in our fast-changing world. It is, therefore, encouraging to find so many others are thinking along the same lines.

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The Paradox of Change

“It takes a lot of learning to keep something stuck.” That was what Nora Bateson said at a recent development session I attended. Only a single sentence – one of literally thousands in a mind-stretching day. Yet it stood out and continues to haunt me days afterwards. Why?

Perhaps because it opens passages of possibilities. What is stuck? What is learning? Why would learning prevent release? It certainly hints at an unrecognised paradox. How can learning keep you stuck when we all know that learning is the solution: the way to move beyond most sticking points? Those were some of the avenues that my mind started to wonder down. The paradox path is particularly rewarding.

Etymologically the term “stuck” implies a stasis: a situation in which movement has ground to a halt or in which thinking has reached an impasse. Often, however, it is used more loosely to describe a lack of progress; where things continue in the same manner they always have. Either would be a state where Einstein would say you need to change your consciousness in order to change your experience.

This is particularly significant when it comes to organisational change, for to shift the thinking of the organisation you have to change the thinking of the people who work in it. It is possibly the failure to recognise this that leads to the failure of the large majority of change initiatives. Too often we see organisations as machines and the people in them as cogs and so consider change as a mechanical process: an attitude typified by the term ‘business process re-engineering’ to frame efforts to design change and “unstick” an organisation.  As a result we issue instructions and simply expect change to follow.

By definition, people are all that can change an organisation and the way it operates. And people are biological animals. Consequently you would accomplish organisational change far more readily if you look upon your organisation as an organism rather than a machine. After all, Mother Nature doesn’t have a whole army of change agents and business process engineers on call to project manage progress. Life is perpetuated by a permanent capability to adapt. It is called ‘evolution’.

Adaptability 10631670_sIn her formal talk, Nora showed a slide with two trees. The same species and apparently only a few feet apart, they had grown differently and had very different branches, heights and shapes. This illustrated how they had each interacted differently with their environment, adapting to their respective situations, and the different needs their relative positions had demanded. Organisations should be just as adaptable to their environments. After all, change is just as much of a constant in business as it is in life.

For me this example highlighted the paradox of our approach to change. We regard it is unnatural rather than natural. As a result, instead of letting organisational change just evolve, shaped only by life and our overarching purpose, we try to impose it.  And when we do that we significantly constrain our efforts and ultimately jeopardise our prospects of success.

As human beings we are distinguished by our superior intelligence and our ability to apply it. This places us above any other life-form. It means we have to be just as capable as a tree – if not more so – of adapting to our environment. So not putting this to ability to use in organisations is wilfully stupid and wasteful. We need to use every ounce of intelligence available to ensure an organisation responds to ever-changing conditions and adapts and thrives. This means every individual matters and we need to ensure that every individual is in that position.

Leonardo da Vinci said “All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.” If you accept the logical premise that knowledge is accumulated learning, then our learning has to be founded on our perceptions. This means:    

  • It is our learning to date that keeps us stuck.
  • We need to learn more to move beyond our current situation.
  • To learn more we have to change our perceptions.

For any organisation it is therefore axiomatic that the more people are involved, and the better they communicate, the more perceptions will change and the quicker the organisation will adapt. The following diagram, which I have used before illustrates this point and underpins the argument for a biological or organic approach.

The Learning Cycle

It has become fashionable to talk about the need for unlearning as the way to get unstuck and move ahead. And this is certainly one way to look at things. This, however, tends to diminish what people have already learned and the foundation on which they need to build. It may be better to simply recognise what is inhibiting movement. The “filters” can help here.  They graphically depict the barriers to learning that can keep people stuck.

Purpose, context and relationships push people to move beyond the constraints historic learning can impose. This enables them to progress and thrive. And our organisations should provide these essential ingredients. It is a reciprocal need, for our organisations need people who are sensitive enough to what is happening around them to change their perceptions in order to progress, develop and grow. Releasing control and letting people respond in the appropriate way to what they see is the only way to create a learning organisation, where evolutionary change prevails and ensures its ability to survive, adapt and grow.


If you like what you have read contact me today for a free 30 minute conversation about how my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model can provide the catalyst to help you create an organisational culture of ‘Love at Work’ : one where everyone cares and the business becomes our business, so embracing change and transforming – and sustaining – organisational performance.


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” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.

The Power of Purpose

It has been an extraordinary week. It is as though the whole world has aligned with my endeavours. New light has radiantly illuminated my inner convictions while the echoes of my expression have reverberated through everything I have heard. This powerful cornucopia of sight and sound has fired the furnace that has recharged my purpose, reinvigorated my hopes and re-energised my actions. Let me share the details in the hope that you will experience the same thing. 

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Why you should care!

It didn’t look special or anything out of the ordinary. Just another piece of internal mail. But it turned out to be very different.

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Leadership: Do Our Leaders Really Know What It Is?

Leadership not Management 123rf_25893740_sYou would think most people recognise the difference between management and leadership. After all they are two entirely separate things. Yet I find myself questioning whether they do. Even worse, I wonder if it is our organisational leaders themselves who are most guilty of confusing the two.

This line of thinking was precipitated by reading the results of the Borderless "2016 Survey on Leadership Development."  As I did I found myself substituting “leadership” for “liberty” in Madame Roland’s lament for liberty en-route to the guillotine; “Oh Liberty! What crimes are committed in your name?” And the link is perhaps not as far-fetched as it may seem.

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Love at Work: A Practical Recipe

“Work is love made visible.” What do those words of Kahlil Gibran’s say to you? I see them both as a constant source of inspiration - and a massive challenge!

They are an inspiration because, as Eric Gill so clearly put it, “That state is a state of slavery in which a man does what he likes to do in his spare time and in his working time that which is required of him.” When we don’t love what we are doing work is drudgery, and, because of the innate human desire to develop and grow and be useful, thus a form of slavery. Yet this is only a limited, single-faceted perspective. It addresses the personal side or what you might call our ‘love for work.’

Now look in the mirror and ask yourself “How much love do I have for my work?” If you are one of the majority of disengaged people the likelihood is that your answer is, “Not much!” And therein lies the challenge – turning that around.

That, however, is only the beginning. What about the workplace? You cannot love your work if you don’t love the environment and/or the people you are working with. And you cannot love them if you don’t feel loved yourself. That is what ‘love at work’ implies in its fullest sense and is where the real challenge comes in.

So let me give you an insight as to how you could meet, and beat, that challenge. The following diagram presents a practical recipe for creating an environment which will build, secure and sustain love at work.

Love at Work

It looks at things from both the individual and organisational perspective. Both need to have a sense of purpose in order to give meaning to their actions. When the purpose of both individual and organisation align you get greater engagement resulting in blue-chip people or, borrowing the term from the ratings industry, what I call a “Triple A Employee.” This creates a mutual satisfaction that enhances the individual’s sense of self-worth and their value to the organisation. In turn this inspires them to pursue their personal growth and development but as this is within the organisational context it maintains and sustains their personal fit within the organisation, enabling the organisation to better meet its changing environment whilst simultaneously helping them fulfill their own purpose. Thus you cement partnership between individual and organisation to create a mutually beneficial virtuous cycle.

The arrows, however, go both ways. This depicts the fact that each element not only leads to the next, but also flows back to the preceding one, acting as a reinforcement that strengthens both its power and the power of the whole cycle. For example personal growth also enhances the individual’s value which in turn makes them more of a ‘Triple A Employee.’

So there you have it; a recipe for creating ‘love at work’ that ensures the synergistic partnership of employer and employee and their sustainable mutual success.


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


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” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.

Good versus Bad Bosses – Why Retention is the Wrong Measure

You might be surprised. I was. I had come to accept the idea that people quit their jobs primarily because of bad bosses. Yet, according to a recent report in Harvard Business Review, this appears questionable. As a result I found myself wondering why I had been lulled into such lazy conformity.  

We all intuitively know that there are any number of reasons why people switch jobs, varying from such things as more money or a promotion (better status), to a new location or simply an easier commute offering more family time. This is simply evidence of that. That is why I am not sure I agree with my friend Alex Kjerulf when he says it is too soon to draw the conclusion that “leadership does not get retention.”

That is not to say that leadership is not a factor in retention. Certainly the fact that you do not like or get on with your boss will make a decision to leave more likely, but whether it is a primary motivator or not is debatable. Let me explain.  

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Love at Work

You might see the unpunctuated phrase love at work as a simple statement. Or as a question.  Or you might perhaps see it as an exclamation or even a headline in a salacious newspaper or magazine. I cannot predict how you will interpret it, but I hope that, whatever your reaction, it intrigued you enough to keep reading.

Loving work 15388474_sIn actual fact it is an answer!  The answer not so much to a question as to a challenge. It arose from a catch-up conversation with Traci Fenton at Worldblu. After I had explained my ‘Every Individual Matters Model to her, she responded, “I get it but others might not. You need to find a way to explain it more simply: in only a few words that will give them something they can understand, remember and share with others.” I was stunned but it certainly gave me plenty to think about.

Afterwards, as I struggled, I thought about Traci’s own proposition “Freedom at Work,” and our mutual friend, Alex Kjerulf’s, “Happiness at Work” and came up with “Love at Work.” After some initial concerns that it might be ‘too abstract’ or ‘too much’ or ‘too unbusiness-like’ and a complete failure to come up with anything else, I remembered Kahlil Gibran’s inspired and inspiring statement “Work is love made visible” and I became far more comfortable with it. Even better, it fits perfectly with my vision.

As I realised this, I also recognised that the time had come for me to publish my vision and stop seeing it as a personal purpose statement for my own eyes only, to help me shape my own path. So here goes.

I have a vision!

I see a day when all people of all nations will rise up and live their life to their fullest potential.

I see a time when people will no longer allow work to be a four-letter word, something to balance with life, but instead will value it as a vital, integral part of their life.

I see a world where work is not a bind but an opportunity for every person to celebrate the uniqueness of their being and the means to express who they are.

I see each and every person recognising their work as their contribution to humankind; making it a focal point of their lives, striving to maximise what they give and, in the process, optimising who they are.

I see that, as they recognise work as part of life and not an adjunct to it, people will regard their work as their business and do everything in their power to make it a successful business that blesses all it serves, as well as themselves.

I see people treating work as part and parcel of what they have to do, not out of compulsion, but deep desire to be the best they can possibly be; in order that, when their time is up, they can look back with pride.

And I envisage workplaces that recognise people for who they are; that sustain, nurture, encourage and enable them to be their best.

I see workplaces that cease to manage people as a resource and instead improve efficiency by encouraging, enabling and endorsing self-management. I see workplaces that acknowledge people for the assets they are; that give people back their independence and pride; and that bask in the better results this brings.

I see workplaces where command is dead and control is a collective responsibility rather than an imposition: where organisations pursue purpose rather than profits at any price.

I see workplaces operating as teams, where people do not compete, but support one another for the common good; of individual, of organisation and of the wider world.  

I see this new outlook bringing a new enthusiasm and creating a zeal that makes all a joy. I see reduced conflict and greater co-operation that makes the world a better place and that enhances its chances of survival.

I see you helping to make it happen!

(© Bay Jordan with acknowledgement to Martin Luther King)

Heart and mind 15817143_sThere you have it. Perhaps not such an unbusiness-like proposition but rather an extremely business-like one. What do you think?  


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.


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” and, more recently, The Democracy Delusion: How to Restore True Democracy and Stop Being Duped.

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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