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December 2011

Are you inspiring happiness and joy?

“Sometimes we forget that life and work are supposed to bring happiness and joy into our lives.”

Fireburst 000015699101XSmallWhen I read those words earlier this week I was reminded of why I formed Zealise and started out on this road.

Work and life are not separate. So if you want a life of happiness and joy you have to find work that creates happiness and joy. You have to stop seeing work as an unfortunate necessity of life and something that conspires against happiness and joy.

And if you are a manager you owe it to your people to create work that brings them happiness and joy. That is what it is all about. That is how you step up from being a mere manager to being a leader.

Of course it helps when you see you organisation as the vehicle for providing goods or services that meet a want. When you have that you get a clear vision and sense of purpose. And as your understanding of that deepens so you start to recognise the mutual inter-dependence of people and the light dawns that your organisation is essentially a source of happiness and joy, powered by what you and your people give.

This creates the demand for a shared vision and a collective responsibility. Success is up to each and every member of the organisation.

The big question then becomes, “To what extent do you fulfil your role?”

Only you can answer that question. And now seems like an appropriate time of the year for you to be asking it - even though It is not a seasonal requrement or a one-off.  But, as you enjoy the holidays, perhaps you can get into the true spirit of the season and start asking yourself. Hopefully as you do you will see the way to ensure that the New Year is a happy, successful and prosperous one.

I certainly hope so and wish it for you. 

Innovation: Cause or Effect?

“Adapt or Die” It may be a popular expression but, in a world of constant change, innovation is essential to survival. And that applies just as much to your organisation as it does in nature. It is not just busuness - even the public sector is no longer exempt.

So how do you ensure innovation?
“Innovation happens when passionate and interested people are encouraged to share ideas with a shared vision and ambition to create the very best.” 

InnovationAbsolutely! Of course this may not be the only occasion when innovation can occur – the old adage that “Necessity is the mother of invention,” springs immediately to mind – but from an organisational perspective I don’t think you could deny this.  Especially when you know that it comes from Vance Kearney, Oracle UK’s HR director and one of the country’s leading HR luminaries!  (Source: Jon Ingham blog 14 December 2011) 

Even more encouraging is his follow-on statement, “Working together ambitiously and passionately is what drives innovation and HR can assist by making the case … at the senior management level.” This suggests that the profession is recognising the implications of taking a more strategic role in business. But is it ready to be held accountable for facilitating an environment of greater innovation?

Unfortunately, you need engaged employees to have passionate and interested people. And employee engagement surveys show low levels of employee engagement. Consequently, you need to recognise just how important employee engagement is if you want to inspire innovation. Especially in this current, unprecedented, gloomy economic climate.

Yet it is not HR’s responsibility to define corporate culture. It is senior management’s. And the irony is that you do not need an employee engagement survey to tell you how engaged your employees are. If you lack innovation, by definition, you don’t have employee engagement. So if innovation is the key to survival, you should rephrase the opening sentence to “Innovate or die!” But you need to recognise that your staring point is employee engagement. And that you need to take action now. Any delay could prove fatal.     

A picture of employee engagement and how to create it.

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” How often have you heard that hoary old classic?

Well, I experienced it first hand this past week. Only for me it was more like a Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus experience.

I am sure you must have had similar experiences. More than just the physical equivalent of a cartoon light-bulb suddenly appearing above your head, it is the revelation of something that you know in the very depths of your being; something so innate that you feel you have always known it. Yet somehow you have never voiced it. And, while the whole experience is incredibly uplifting – it also leaves you feeling rather numb with a sense of your own inadequacy.

Certainly that was how I felt. It was so simple that I just couldn’t understand why I hadn’t seen it before. My first thought was inevitably “Of course!” However, that was closely followed by a second, more self-recriminatory thought, “Damn it, why didn’t I see that before? Why didn’t I see that for myself? Why has it taken me so long?”

Of course there is some consolation in the hope that I may not be the only one, so let me hasten to share the inspiration and reveal the picture that caused me to feel like this.

Schuitema Model of Empowerment

The diagram comes from the website of Schuitema Human Excellence Group. I found the site after hearing about Etsko Schuitema from a relative and following up. Needless to say I am very grateful that I did, for this is the perfect picture of how to create employee engagement. But what excites me most is the centre – the part where the three circles overlap. While this could so easily have been depicted simply as employee engagement, Schuitema redefines this by depicting it as “unconditional benevolent intent” which he clarifies as “being here to give.” He sees this as the ultimate of self-expression and yet, because it is “unconditional” he implies that it is unselfish – i.e. it is not done for personal gain but is natural and voluntary. I love that because it is what I call self-fulfilment – the point where the individual starts to fulfil his/her potential. Thus you could say this depicts the ultimate employee empowerment.

And that is why I find it so invigorating. It also depicts my vision.

My whole approach of valuing people and accounting for them as human assets, offering universal, non-equity, employee ownership and so maximising employee engagement, is intended to be the ultimate empowerment mechanism. It is a catalyst to embed personal excellence, leadership excellence and team excellence into the organisational DNA. You could possibly argue that it removes the unconditional element that Schuitema describes, although I would dispute that. After all, isn’t self-fulfilment the same as giving life your all? At the end of the day we only have one life and it is incumbent on us all to optimise that life; and anything that helps us to do so has to be counted as a blessing.

Of course, it is even more of a blessing when it creates a win-win for the organisation as a whole. And the really exciting thing and the real encouragement here is that Schuitema’s client list and articles prove that this is not just a good theory but a practical approach to business transformation. You don’t just have to take my word for it.