Have you ever heard of The People Paradox? I hadn’t either, although I was well aware of Lord Acton’s famous quote that, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Well, apparently that’s not just a bon mot: power does corrupt. Certainly according to research cited in the HBR.
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.
Talking about love at work is a surprisingly daunting prospect. Whether that is by default or design, it seems the word love is seldom, if ever, used in a commercial or business context. It is, however, something that needs to change.
The words of the old song, “Love Makes the World Go Round” may be more metaphor than fact, but they nonetheless point to a fundamental truth: love is a substantial power. The energy of love is seen as a motivating force in nearly all philosophical and religious thinking. And, no matter how it gets distorted, its role in driving human behaviour also makes it a significant scientific subject, integral to shaping organisation design and development. Thus we definitely need to talk more about love in a work context.
Fortunately, that seems to be happening. Recently I have come across a number of examples, but possibly the most significant is Duncan Coombe’s “Can You Really Power an Organization with Love?” - in the prestigious Harvard Business Review, no less. He cites Sigmund Freud’s statement “love and work … work and love, that’s all there is” to rebut the idea that this universal good is inappropriate in the workplace. More significantly, he goes on to say that “love isn’t as absent from the workplace as one might think.”
You may accept that more readily if you think of love as being a power like gravity. Each and every one of us is affected by gravity and its effects are the same for everyone. So with love, which inevitably and universally, determines how we behave. Even in the workplace. And even when we don’t talk about it.
Coombe – perhaps most exciting of all – describes love as being like an operating system, supporting “the ‘apps’ of strategy, finance, etc.”, adding that, “When you have a great operating system, the apps work better, independently, and in relation to each other.” Clearly you will want to optimise your operating system. And, the likelihood is that, even if not consciously, you are endeavouring to do so.
If you doubt that, you only have to think about all your efforts to create employee engagement. After all, at its most fundamental, employee engagement boils down to getting your employees to love their work more. Understanding this will help you refocus your efforts and ensure that they bear greater fruit.
How? By recognizing that it is about more than just a person’s job. Employee engagement inherently aims to build a ‘love for work.’ This, by definition, creates a bias towards a focus on the individual role. But getting someone to ‘love their job’ is not the same thing as getting someone to ‘love their work.’
While the latter certainly incorporates the former, it goes so much further. Work is a more macro-perspective and deals with all the inter-relationships. It incorporates the whole enchilada of the organisation; its purpose, how it goes about fulfilling that purpose and how it creates an environment in which every individual employee is able to personally develop, grow and strive to fulfil their own personal potential while contributing to the optimization of the organisation.
Ultimately you could say it boils down to the authenticity of your employer brand that I described last week. Unless every individual is able to be authentic and integrate their hopes, wants and needs with those of the organisation – unless your people are able to love what they are doing and the environment in which they are doing it – you will never create an authentic organisation that operates at its fullest potential.
It doesn’t matter what words you use to describe it. But remember Kahlil Gibran’s words, “Work is love made visible.” In the end it is all about love. If you love your organisation, you have to love the people who work in it, and vice versa. That means recognising that ‘Every Individual Matters.’
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 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.
Where does your company rank in the echelons of “best employer” or “best company to work for”? After all the likelihood is that, even if it is not ranked, it will have taken, or considered taking, part in the evaluation. Ranking has become ubiquitous. We have league tables for schools, universities, hospitals and who knows what else. Perhaps the time has come to question whether we have taken this competitiveness too far, and to recognize the practice as counter-productive, insidious and invidious.
My regular blog last week was inspired by Part 1 of an article by Andy Rice from Black Box Consulting, entitled "Performance (Mis-)Management." I therefore feel it is rightfully incumbent upon me to follow up and also share Part 2 with you. This second part identifies 3 questions you need to ask yourself about the design of your performance measures.
I am happy to report that, although expressed in different words from those I used, the basic principles are the same as in the 3 questions I recommended. The article, however, does nothing to question the validity of rewarding performance as an effective management tool. I therefore think my points remain valid and I stand firmly behind them as something every organisational leader should at least be considering.
As someone who aims to be an effective organisational leader, do your ever wonder why you have a performance related pay/incentive remuneration scheme? Certainly, if you are one of the nearly 15 million people who have watched "The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us" that is a question you ought to have been asking yourself. Or is it something you haven’t dared asked yourself, simply because performance related pay is virtually ubiquitous? When nearly every organisation – regardless of type or nature of business – has such a scheme, you would be bucking the trend and possibly damaging your employer brand if you didn’t.
If that is the case there are still a number of criteria that you should be looking at to ensure that you have performance measures and remuneration and reward structures that optimise organisational performance. When it comes to effective performance measures and rewards you naturally need to ask yourself 3 questions.