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May 2012

Commit to Commitment

“Passion does not trigger commitment. Commitment triggers passion.”

Those words by Roy H Williams recently caught my attention. I have found myself thinking about them periodically ever since and asking myself whether or not I agree with them. You see they seem so counter-intuitive.

As a result I have been mulling over them even though I hate the word passion.  After all my dictionary defines passion as “strong and barely controllable emotion ... an intense enthusiasm for something.” This is not really something you want to see in the workplace – especially when you factor in its further meaning of “an outburst of anger”!

Yet I am sure, like me, you want to see enthusiasm and energy in the workplace. For me, employee engagement is synonymous with enthusiasm. And that is why Williams' words have haunted me. If you replace “passion” with “enthusiasm” the sequence suddenly becomes more important, doesn’t it?  You need to know that you are going about things the right way.

The good news, though, is that it actually makes your life easier and not more difficult. There are two reasons for this.

  1. Your people are already committed when they become an employee. After all nobody wants to do a bad job. So you have the commitment already, and so you only need to focus on the enthusiasm bit. And of course you are already trying to do that through your inspirational leadership and employee engagement initiatives. Well, you are, aren’t you?
  2. The process is actually a virtuous cycle. Thus the commitment triggers greater enthusiasm, which in turn triggers greater commitment.

SpiralsOf course this latter point means the sequence is actually academic. It just makes it more important you ensure that you don’t do anything to undermine your employees' commitment. Because if you do, you turn the virtual cycle into a downward spiral of disengagement, disillusion and despair.

So, if you didn’t understand it fully before, now you know why employee engagement is such a hot issue and your most important priority as a manager and business leader. So what are you doing to retain and sustain your employee commitment that engenders it?

Happiness, engagement and work-life integrity

What makes you happy?

Whatever it is it is personal and unique to you. Yet according to my friend Alex Kjerulf, The Chief Happiness Officer at Woohoo Inc., happiness stems from 2 things – results and relationships. And, if you take it to the essence you cannot argue against that. It is the things that you do and the people that you do them with, and for, that make you happy.

SatisfiedI was reminded of this when I received notice of his latest blog, which included a recording of him being interviewed by David Zinger, founder and host of The Employee Engagement Network, and I listened to the two of them discussing the relationship between happiness at work and employee engagement. I thoroughly recommend that you invest the time (22 minutes) to listen to this (or read the transcript.) It has some ‘real gold’ nuggets.

I found it a wonderful reminder of why I formed Zealise to begin with. You see the principle for me is the conviction that “nobody wants to do a bad job!” Of course that is simply a different way of saying performance is just as important to the individual as it is to their manager. In fact, in light of Alex's insight, it may be even more important! Either way, a key goal for me was enabling people to feel more fulfilled in their work, and I set out to find a way to achieve this.

I did this with my model of employee ownership. This, however, actually addresses the second cause of happiness. That is because, by creating a sense of belonging, it does more than anything to create a binding relationship between employee and organisation. Using David’s simple definition of engagement as “connection”, ownership creates – or at least facilitates – this in a way that nothing else can. It makes work more of a relationship in itself, rather than an obligation.

Yet by breaking down the ‘you versus me’ barrier of industrial relations that has historically eroded organisational performance, ownership also inspires improved personal performance as the individual does more to maximise their contribution. It means you are now working more directly for yourself and hence, by extension, for those you love. All this embeds better performance and so addresses the results aspect as well, helping make people happier. It simultaneously makes work a (more) vital part of life. This engenders greater work-life integrity, enhancing that effect and providing a more effective solution to the work-life balance conundrum that is currently pre-occupying the HR profession.

What do you think? Do you want to join Alex, David and me and help make the workplace a happier, more engaged and more productive place?

SOS: Save Our Society By Sustaining Organisational Success

Boy, does the news make depressing listening/viewing/reading! No matter what your source it all seems to be all doom and gloom. And now, with the chaos in Greece and the possible collapse of Euro, it seems that the world order as we know it is in danger of collapsing.

Of course the situation is serious and I don’t mean to belittle it. However, it is also indicative of the extent to which we have allowed governments and politicians to dominate our lives. Consequently, we now find ourselves looking to them to come up with a magic solution that will put all to rights and save the day. However, you have to ask if we are looking in the right place?

After all, politicians and governments are spenders not producers. And while they might have been able to stimulate economic growth in the past by borrowing to spend, that well is dry. Present national debt levels simply make spending our way to prosperity impossible. Consequently it is up to us in commerce and industry to respond to the SOS and save the day.

To begin to do so, however, we need to demonstrate a better understanding of economics than we have shown to date. And not least by recalling the lessons of Henry Ford. Remember, he incurred the wrath of businessmen of his day by doubling the wages of his employees and reducing the time they worked. Yet, he still appears to be unique for, even today, the normal reaction to adverse market conditions is to lay people off. Of course making people redundant appears to be commercially justified, but economically all it does is transfer the costs of labour to society as a whole. In Europe at least, that means transferring the burden to the state and so compounds the problems of government and leaves government less able to find other avenues of spending which might stimulate the economy.

So how do you avoid this? Well for starters you can begin to look at employment in a different light. Through universal employee ownership you can make your employees co-owners of the business and automatically create an environment in which they have a vested long-term stake in its success. This will give you the additional capability and resources to find alternative solutions to your commercial problems, without any of the negative economic consequences. Furthermore it will also ensure that:-

  • The overall economic situation will never deteriorate to the extent that they otherwise would;
  • The downturn will be shorter-lived; and
  • The business will be better placed to enjoy the recovery when the situation does improve.

More than that though, it will also create a shared vision and unity of purpose that will enable you to improve performance and hence your bottom line significantly and ensure the long-term success and sustainability of your business.

So instead of sending an SOS to politicians and government and looking to them to save the day, you need only look to yourself. You have the ability to not only sustain organisational success but, in doing so, to help save our society. What do you think? Are you willing to give it a try? You can be the hero!