Thursday, 29 March 2012

Creating meaning at work

A couple of days ago I watched a clip from 1972 where Viktor E. Frankl (Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the University of Vienna Medical School) spoke about the human search for meaning in life. He spent three years in concentration camps during the War World II, the time when he formulated many of his key ideas about this topic.

Indeed, search for meaning apply to work with people looking for work that is meaningful to them. 
We all have reasons to come to work and meanings that we give to it. Finding those meanings and nourish them is vital in order to engage.

In fact,  it is not enough to recognise people, to make them aware that their work counts and that it is appreciated. Also it is not enough to give them the chance to make progress if the progress itself is not considered of importance to them, if they cannot find any meaning in it.

Understanding those meanings, finding them out whatever they are for each individual is the first step to be followed by real action. It implies focusing on the individual rather than on the general mass. 

Those meanings indeed have a strong impact on the way people work, how engaged or disengaged they are. For that reason, leaders and people should work together to find out and define those meanings first, then to create scope for nourishing those meanings within the organisation and its goals. 

Storytelling could be very helpful within the engagement journey of employees in that respect. People could be helped with understanding not only the mission, vision and values of the organisation, but also helped with refashioning their own meanings within the boundaries of the business goals. 

Leaders and people could end with having both a better understanding of how they could make a real contribution to the organisation's future while at the same time achieve a personal sense of fulfilment at work.

This search for meaning at work would imply a shared and co-creational work between leaders and employees. 

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Engage Face-to-Face

Yesterday evening I read an article from Harvard Business Review and titled 'The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs'.

One point listed within the article is Engage face-to-face

"Despite being a denizen of the digital world, or maybe because he knew all too well its potential to be isolating, Jobs was a strong believer in face-to-face meetings. "There's a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by e-mail and iChat," he told me. "That's crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they're doing, you say 'Wow', and soon you're cooking up all sorts of ideas...Jobs hated formal presentations, but he loved freewheeling face-to-face meetings. He gathered his executive team every week to kick around ideas without a formal agenda, and he spent every Wednesday afternoon doing the same with his marketing and advertising team. Slide shows were banned. "I hate the way people use slide presentations instead of thinking," Jobs recalled. "People would confront a problem by creating a presentation. I wanted them to engage, to hash things out at the table, rather than show a bunch of slides. People who know what they're talking about don't need PowerPoint." 

Despite my idea that every business situation is specific and therefore leaders would still need to adjust their style, methods and tools to that particular moment, I do like the point listed above and agree with its vital importance. 
In some situations there is none substitute for quality conversations and face-to face dialogue.
At work with work experience staff I do like encouraging that. It brings in valuable contributions and ideas from the members and it is a powerful way for building trusty and stronger relationships. 
From my personal experience face-to-face conversations and dialogue can really lead to a more creative workplace, productive projects and bridges between people. However, to achieve this  meetings should be developed throughout real and sincere listening to people ideas and comments.

Face-to face conversations are also an opportunity to focus attention on the people we have in front of us and the way we interact during those conversations can even change the way people will interact in future. If in a meeting you feel treated like the most important person in the world you will remember that wonderful experience and you would be more likely to do the same with someone else in future. 

(Thank you to Charlie Nordblom who shared with me one of his experiences and made me reflect on this last point).  

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Engaging with Work Experience Staff

I have just finished to write my assignment for the Internal Communications Certificate at the PR Academy.  The title of my critique is "Engaging with work experience staff. Making the right choice of approach and method". 

By being supervisor of a small multicultural team of work experience staff from October 2011 I decided to use a different way of dealing with them. In fact, beside the traditional telling and selling approach I recognized the need for them to be more involved, cared, listened to, supported and valued. Plus, the need for them of giving their own personal contribution to the job by releasing their creativity, expertise and ideas. 

My assignment explains that. 

It has been very interesting for me to develop this critique since I could examine relevant employee engagement research and put it in the context of my job. 

I first identified and explored a variety of approaches and methods of employee engagement (including the John Smythe's Four approaches to engagement in the workplace), followed by an evaluation of the drivers (including the MacLeod and Clarke Four broad enablers for employee engagement and the Robinson et al. study on Feeling valued and involved) and then I explored the role of leadership in that respect (including theories by Drucker, Tannenbaum and Schmidt, Aidair, Peter Bosse...). 

The final part of the assignment discusses the practice of and challenge in engaging with work experience staff.

I enjoyed a lot both doing the research and apply the theory on the work place. I cannot predict the mark on the assignment but I am definitely very happy with the results achieved in the workplace. I developed sincere and authentic relationships with my staff. My personal style with them is to be a caring supervisor. 

They put a great deal of efforts and devote energy on to the job and have been extremely good at developing new projects that could prove to give value to the organisation. I am so proud of them.

To date, my personal view on employee engagement is that it is a process that needs to be nurtured continuously. The applications of some interventions will not enable managers to engage with their staff. I see engagement as a managerial discipline where many approaches and drivers would need to be applied.   

The context is also of extreme importance: every organisation is unique as well as their people and every business situation is particular and specific. This should be taken into consideration by leaders when engaging with their staff.