Sunday, 29 April 2012

simplysummit 26th april '12

On Thursday 26th April I attended the Simply-Summit event 2012. It was held at Prospero House in London where great speakers gave very interesting talks about internal communication. 

I 'simply' loved it since my passion for knowing more and more about the subject could be happily satisfied.

Among the speakers there were:

- Marc Wright, editor of the Gower Handbook of Internal Communication and Chairmain of the simplygroup (I look forward to reading The Gower Handbook of Internal Communication! In fact I won it as a prize! On 27th April I was informed that my name was pulled out of the hat following the previous day's free draw at the Simply Summit. I was so happy when I read that email, I could not receive a better present! It was in my list of next books to read!)

- John Smythe, partner of Engage for Change and author of The CEO: Chief Engagement Officer (book that I do recommend as you might already known from my profile).

Eaun Semple, author of Organizations Don't Tweet, People Do. In Eaun words about social media I found so much of myself and of the way I use it. He was able to make sense of the complex world of social networking and I look forward to reading his book too! 

- Ian Andersen, external communications adviser to the European Commission's interpretation department. He described the use of social media to ensure the training of the next generation of interpreters. On that day I was sitting close to him and I enjoyed his company. We spoke about languages and I shared with him my new challenge of learning Portuguese!

- Christoph Ruedt, Internal Communications Specialist at UBS. He spoke about a recent global information security campaign and technology-related communication initiatives run at UBS.

- Jeppe Glahn, Director of Corporate Communications at Novozymes. He spoke about moving communication into the heart of the business.

- Mark Comerford, professional of digital media who gave a lively presentation about the changing nature of the on-line world and need for sharing, collaborating, building networking of knowledge.

-Steve Crescenzo and Jim Ylisela, experts of employee communications who showed how to deliver effective communications by avoiding some specific mistakes.- Julie Bellham and Keith Porter from Standard Chartered. They shared some of their successes as well as failures when revolutionising the way that the Bank used to communicate with staff. An open and honest presentation of the challenges faced by internal communicators. 

All day I wrote down a lot of notes from the words of the speakers. It is now so interesting to read them, make some thinking and try to understand more and more. 

Below are some of the notes that I took:

- "We engage ourselves in an environment that liberates ourselves"
- "It's about an attitude of mind of empowering people..opening up the decision making process..from an autocratic to a distributed leadership"
- "Do not try to change the world but let's start from taking pieces on which to work"
- "The role of communicator is the one of advisor by challenging the pattern, negotiating with the elite about where others can contribute to add value, understanding the demographics of the workforce, crafting engagement capability into training and development" (John Smythe)


- "The way people have voice is via social media"
-"Individuals use it to leave a trace, to build up a path that matter to them, to write themselves into existence, to give themselves a space to think..there is a sort of psychotherapy in this..people have to find their own reasons to be out there")
-"Let's get technology out of the way and get part of these conversations"
-"The price of pomposity..pomposity does not work on-line..real leaders have followers..conversations can only take place between equals"
- "Managing the mess..The nature of these tools is 'dirty' while management is tidied up..you need help to understand social media and navigate with people sensibly..to do that you have to take an initiative approach and get your hands dirty..step up, do it and get confidence"
- "A new business literature"
- "You have to make decisions and take the information that is useful at that particular time" (Euan Semple)

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Employee Feedback: Breakfast Session - Part Two

If you had read the last post that I entered on Wednesday 18th April most probably you would have expected to see the one that I am writing now. If that should not be the case, what I am going to do below is to describe the second part of the breakfast session that I attended yesterday morning and focused on Employee Feedback.

Speaker Derek Brown, Director of Verinit, started his talk by saying that "employees hold the key of customer experience". Therefore, loyalty from the employees side is a key factor to provide quality customer experience. How can companies track the level of loyalty of their employees. Derek Brown listed a series of on-line technologies devoted to measure loyalty: Employee Satisfaction Survey, Exit Survey, Pulse Survey and Style.
What are the benefits of using those surveys? In the speaker's view such surveys provide insight back to the leaders and give 360 degree engagement feed-back "..to get a consistent picture of an employee and their interactions with the team".

However, some perplexities about the use of such technologies arose during the interesting 'knowledge exchange' part of the event. In fact, there was someone who said: "You do not really need surveys...you can see every day their engagement level by the way they come to the office...You need to be a motivating manager to get that feed-back without surveys". Clearly, she was talking about the importance of the informal feed-back.
Others spoke about the barriers created by data and numbers. How can you communicate those numbers and make them appear important? How can you put data together? How do you filter it? There were those who thought those data are not worth using but just a waste of money.

Yet, who is responsible for that? There seemed to be a sort of agreement that employee engagement feed-back should be put into the managers' goals. You have to have engagement from the top! 'A challenge' someone said. However, to be more actionable 'its ownership should be of everyone'. Involve your people, ask your people the questions they would like to be asked.

Finally, another interesting point emerged about the need of individualising surveys. Do survey that are particular to that particular group. Gerry Brown said that, even the large organisations can have the ability to work on individualised surveys by creating small teams working on different internal stakeholders inside their organisations. That would be very important in order to identify issues that are unique to those group of employees.


Indeed, employee feedback leaves so many challenges to those who work and are interested on it. Yet, it so fascinating and interesting this challenge!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Employee Feedback: Breakfast session

This morning I attended an interesting breakfast event on Employee Feedback that was run by Directors Club in association with Verint. It was titled "Employee Feedback: Opening a treasure chest of customer insight".

Below are some notes that I took during the seminar. Interest in meeting the customers' needs by any employees of any business as well as driving professionalism is a matter of culture and employee engagement. A relevant part within the employee engagement agenda is played by the Employee Feedback.

Speaker Gerry Brown (Managing Director EMEA, Strativity) presented his views by saying that feedback must be part of the daily business life (FREQUENTLY APPLIED); it is responsibility of all employees (therefore, it must be EASILY UNDERSTOOD); it must be relevant, tracked and actionable (DO NOT ASK IF YOU CAN'T ACT). 

It is relevant in the speaker's view to have a "clearly defined service driven CULTURE based on CONSENSUAL but yet EVOLVING CORE FAMILY VALUES". The presenter gave some examples of companies that proved to be good in that respect. Among them Zappos, Metro bank, Emirates, Four Seasons, Marks Spencer and Virgin Atlantic.

Gerry Brown ended his presentation by leaving some challenging questions/ideas to managers:
- Take an honest look at the core company values. Do they really drive service result?
- When was your last survey done?
- See how many ideas you have implemented
- Implement an internal/external feedback early warning system
- Do survey on employee survey

The event did not finish with Gerry Brown' talk. In fact, after him another speaker took his turn followed by a knowledge exchange discussion. The topic was challenged, issues arose.. More details will follow soon...Now I give you time to think on what you have just read.

"There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about" (Oscar Wilde).

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The use of engaging language

The interest in the use of engaging language - tone of voice, words, writing for the reader - has been getting more and more importance within the organisations in recent times. 

Businesses have started to realise that in order to reach their employees it is neither useful nor effective just to bombard them with a vast quantity of information all day long. 

The way the language is used by organisations to engage with their people matters and it is hard work to get it right: clear, effective and engaging employee communication is an important business issue. 

"The greatest problem with communication is the illusion it has been accomplished" (George Bernard Shaw)

Nowadays, an involving approach within the workplace has been having more attention than in the past when an autocratic approach was very frequently put in place. However, it is still not easy for everyone to understand the importance of the use of an engaging language rather than a controlling one. 

People like to feel good about themselves, they do not like to feel wrong as well as do not like to take orders. In some situations, the use of engaging words rather than controlling ones could make a big difference. 

For example, rather than say "Send it" it could be said "Please send it", rather than "You should" it could be said "It would help if you".

A few days ago a read a piece of article on The Creative Post that highlighted the importance of the use of the right words to engage with employees. It was described how Toyota were able to involve their people and get new ideas from them with the use of the right words for that situation: 'A few years back, Toyota asked employees for ideas on how they could become more productive. They received few suggestions. They reworded the question to: "How can you make your job easier?" They were inundated with ideas. Even tiny changes can lead to unpredictable, cataclysmic results.'  

"Tell me and I'll forget;
Show me and I'll remember;
Involve me and I'll understand" (Confucious)

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Proxemic and Psychological Eggs

Since today is Easter I would like to focus this post on the topic of ‘eggs’ (not the chocolate ones, I am afraid)! 

The concepts that I am going to discuss below come from a lesson I was given during my MA in Business Communications in Italy. The course was about marketing and relationships and that lesson was about mediation and negotiation in professional contexts.

Have you ever heard of 'proxemic egg'? It is a metaphorical bubble that surrounds each of us. Inside it we do not like the presence of other people unless we give them our permission to get in. The bubble size is variable depending on a number of factors: the kind of relationship with the person, the type of environment, the gender, the size and also cultural elements.

The constant is that when someone comes over the limit we have set for him/her, we can have two reactions: either escape or aggression.

While the proxemics egg is a metaphor relating to the physical space, we can also speak about the existence of a 'psychological egg'. The image of the egg helps to understand how each of us keeps people, things and ideas at a certain distance from the nucleus (where the more emotional investment is kept). The closer a person gets to our psychological egg's center without our implicit permission the more intense is the reaction.

We can all remember seeing someone take it in a way that seemed totally out of proportion, for a joke that after all was not too bad. However, if we can get out of the equation ‘This person is either mad or bad for having such a reaction” - which is often found in these circumstances, we might be able to see that the argument was simply placed in the affective nucleo of the subject.

To be able to handle relationships with people without breaking their proxemic and psychological eggs (which in turn would lead to a broken relationship) demands attention, understanding of others, tenderness, strength, mastery of the body, clarity and timing.

These are all essential elements not only in our private lives but also in our everyday professional lives when mediation, negotiation, avoidance of conflicts at work are vital for the success of the organization and its team spirit.

Everyone has different proxemics and psychological eggs and we need to understand the differences.

Think of managing a team and having all the members’ eggs in your hands. What is necessary to do for the good success of the team is to build trust, confidence, understanding, to strive to quickly interpret the emotional state and mental and physical balance of the other people and the group as a whole.






Saturday, 7 April 2012

Turning Tables

The idea of this post stems from the song titled 'Turning Tables' by Adele. Yesterday evening I watched her performance held some months ago at the Royal Albert Hall and recorded on BBC iPlayer. 

Why writing about a love song within a blog about employee engagement? 
While Adele must have had a romantic scenario in mind at the time this beautiful song was created I believe that the concept of the song can refer to all kinds of human relationship. In this post I am going to interpret the song with regards to relationships at work. 

First of all, let's listen the song and read the text:

"Close enough to start a war
All that I have is on the floor
God only knows what we're fighting for

I can't keep up with your turning tablesI can't keep up with your turning tablesSo I won't let you close enough to hurt meNo, I won't ask you, you to just desert meI can't give you, what you think you give meSo I won't let you close enough to hurt meNo, I won't ask you, you to just desert meI can't give you, what you think you give meTo turning tablesUnder haunted skies I see you, oohWhere love is lost, your ghost is foundI braved a hundred storms to leave youAs hard as you try, no I will never be knocked down
I can't keep up with your turning tablesUnder your thumb, I can't breathe
So I won't let you close enough to hurt me, noI won't ask you, you to just desert meI can't give you, what you think you give meIt's time to say goodbye to turning tablesTurning tables
Next time I'll be braverI'll be my own saviorWhen the thunder calls for meNext time I'll be braverI'll be my own saviorStanding on my own two feet
I won't let you close enough to hurt me, noI won't ask you, you to just desert meI can't give you, what you think you give meIt's time to say goodbye to turning tablesTo turning tablesTurning tables, yeahTurning ohh.."
Under haunted skies I see you, oohWhere love is lost, your ghost is foundI braved a hundred storms to leave youAs hard as you try, no I will never be knocked downI can't keep up with your turning tablesUnder your thumb, I can't breathe
So I won't let you close enough to hurt me, noI won't ask you, you to just desert meI can't give you, what you think you give meIt's time to say goodbye to turning tablesTurning tables
Next time I'll be braverI'll be my own saviorWhen the thunder calls for meNext time I'll be braverI'll be my own saviorStanding on my own two feet
I won't let you close enough to hurt me, noI won't ask you, you to just desert meI can't give you, what you think you give meIt's time to say goodbye to turning tablesTo turning tablesTurning tables, yeahTurning ohh.."
I can't keep up with your turning tablesUnder your thumb, I can't breatheSo I won't let you close enough to hurt me, noI won't ask you, you to just desert meI can't give you, what you think you give meIt's time to say goodbye to turning tablesTurning tables
Next time I'll be braverI'll be my own saviorWhen the thunder calls for meNext time I'll be braverI'll be my own saviorStanding on my own two feet
I won't let you close enough to hurt me, noI won't ask you, you to just desert meI can't give you, what you think you give meIt's time to say goodbye to turning tablesTo turning tablesTurning tables, yeahTurning ohh.."
So I won't let you close enough to hurt me, noI won't ask you, you to just desert meI can't give you, what you think you give meIt's time to say goodbye to turning tablesTurning tablesNext time I'll be braverI'll be my own saviorWhen the thunder calls for meNext time I'll be braverI'll be my own saviorStanding on my own two feet
I won't let you close enough to hurt me, noI won't ask you, you to just desert meI can't give you, what you think you give meIt's time to say goodbye to turning tablesTo turning tablesTurning tables, yeahTurning ohh.."
Next time I'll be braverI'll be my own saviorWhen the thunder calls for meNext time I'll be braverI'll be my own saviorStanding on my own two feetI won't let you close enough to hurt me, noI won't ask you, you to just desert meI can't give you, what you think you give meIt's time to say goodbye to turning tablesTo turning tablesTurning tables, yeahTurning ohh.."
I won't let you close enough to hurt me, noI won't ask you, you to just desert meI can't give you, what you think you give meIt's time to say goodbye to turning tablesTo turning tablesTurning tables, yeahTurning ohh.."


All that I say, you always say more
Under your thumb, I can't breathe
It's time to say goodbye to turning tables

The song is about getting out of a relationship where one constantly puts the other down. Within a rather manipulative relationship one person used the power to take control  as well as a communication style in which things turned always in his own favour. As a consequence the second person had no say, felt not to be listened to, to be right and appreciated. "Close enough to start a war", "All that I say, you always say more".
However, that relationship could not go on that way forever with the 'victim' unhappy, smothered and finally tired of that situation. "Under your thumb, I can't breath", "Time to say goodbye to turning tables". 
The next steps will see the victim making the decision to leave, become braver, stand in her own two feet. "I'll be braver", "I'll be my own savior", "Standing on my own two feet".

Which lessons can be learnt from Adele's song with regards to relationships at work? 

That people do not like feeling to be controlled, manipulated and undervalued. People ask for open dialogue, trust and appreciation. "Employees need to feel good about themselves" (The Happy Manifesto, Stewart H., 2012) otherwise their level of morale and engagement will be undermined. They might be able to stand an autocratic or manipulative approach from their managers for a period of time but that will not last forever. That approach kills human spirit, causes defensiveness and  withdrawal. If the importance of valuing people, trusting them, listening to them and giving them the opportunity to have a say is not recognised workplaces might end up with losing their members and their potential.
Anything that can be done to understand what make people feel positive will help with building trust and bridges. That is the sort of relationship that any workplace should seek for if success and good results want to be achieved. "Managers should retain their power by making the effort of understanding everyone they meet, they should master the ability to achieve a neutral situation" (The Hands-Off Manager, Chandler S. & Black D., 2007).

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Happiness at work

Recently I have become more and more interested in the concept of happiness at work by seeing some sort of correlation with engagement. In this journey towards happiness I came across to 'The Happy at Work Manifesto' by Alexander Kjerulf

This document encourages everyone to be proactive and do something to create happiness in the workplace. Happiness is a shared responsibility and an absolute necessity for any organisation that wants to be successful.

Below are the twenty-five points listed in The Happy at Work Manifesto: 

1. I choose to be happy at work. I refuse to work at any job that does not make me happy. It’s that simple. I want to wake up in the morning and look forward to work. I want to speak proudly to others of the work I do and the people I work with. I will look forward equally to Monday morning and Friday afternoon. Making that choice won’t magically make me happy—but it is where I must start.

2. I can be happy at work. Actually, anyone can. Provided they choose to be.

3. My happiness at work is my responsibility. While my boss, my co-workers, my employees and my workplace all affect my happiness at work, the ultimate responsibility for it is mine and mine alone.

4. Knowing what makes me happy or unhappy at work is my responsibility. Knowing what makes me happy at work is the first step to getting it. And if I don’t know—who will?

5. Letting others know what makes me happy or unhappy at work is my responsibility. It’s not up to my boss, my co-workers, my employees or my workplace to experiment to read my mind and find out what it takes to make me happy at work. It’s up to me to tell them.

6. Something will happen when I do something. As long as I sit on my butt and wait for my boss, my co-workers, my employees or my workplace to do something to make me happy, nothing will happen.

7. I know that my happiness at work affects my happiness outside of work. A bad day at work is hard to shake when I get home. But a great day at work gives me energy for a great afternoon and evening at home. A great work week is the best springboard for a great weekend.

8. I know that happiness at work affects my health. Being unhappy or stressed at work can make sick, depressed and even kill me. Conversely, being happy at work makes me healthier and stronger mentally and physically.

9. I may end up spending most of my waking hours at work - I want to make those hours count. I may be spending more time at work than I will on my family, my friends and my hobbies combined. I want those hours to be fun and pleasant. And I want them to contribute to something meaningful.

10. It’s OK to have a bad day at work. I can’t be happy at work all day, every day. It’s always OK to have a bad day at work. A bad week, month or year is not OK.

11. I do my best work when I’m happy. When I’m happy I’m engaged, motivated, committed, more creative, less risk-averse, more service-minded and more productive.

12. There’s no such thing as too much happiness. No matter how happy I am, a little more never hurts.

13. I recognize that happiness at work also comes from the time I don’t spend at work. Holidays, weekends, days and other time away from work give me time to reflect and relax. It gives me new input and ideas. A life spent almost exclusively at work is less likely to make me happy.

14. I recognize that happiness at work is different for everyone. One person’s dream job is another’s living hell. the things that make me happy at work may be a terrible experience for many other people.

15. Happiness at work is something I create now. Not next month, next quarter or next year. I’m happy now...or never.

16. I recognise that happiness at work doesn’t come from the absence of bad things in the workplace. All workplaces can have unpleasant people, too much work, demanding customers, stress, red tape and other idiosyncracies and annoyances. though we strive to minimize these, I won’t wait to be happy at work until all of these have been eliminated. If I did wait, I would never be happy.

17. Happiness at work is infectious - I will be a carrier. Happy people make others happy. that’s how I want to affect others. Unhappiness at work is also contagious—but it’s no fun to pass on that particular virus.

18. The best way to make myself happy at work is by making others happy at work. It makes no sense to only try and make myself happy. Because happiness is contagious, I would quickly lose my happiness if I were the only happy one.

19. I will take time to do this. Making myself and others happy at work takes time. this is time well spent. because being happy makes me more productive. I (happily) take that time.

20. I will fix my job or quit. If there’s no way I can become happy in my current job, I’ll quit. Yes, this is scary. But what about going to work every day feeling demotivated, cynical, stressed and helpless? Is that really any less scary?

21. Happiness at work ain’t rocket science. The things that are necessary to make me happy at work are really simple and can easily be brought into almost any workplace. Recognition. A positive attitude. Learning and growing. Sharing decisions. Openness.

22. I give first. If I feel that others never appreciate me, I will start by appreciating them. If others never listen, I will listen to them. I will set a good example, and give first.

23. I recognise that a higher salary will not make me happy at work. There’s nothing wrong with getting paid a lot of money. I just don’t expect it to make me happy at work.

24. I recognise that power, status symbols, a corner office or even access to the corporate jet won’t make me happy at work. It feels good at first, sure, but the thrill quickly fades and it can never make up for a bad job.

25. Happiness at work comes from the things you and I do here and now. I will get others involved and I will start now.


Since I want to be happy at work and work in a happy workplace I will follow these principles! BECAUSE THE FUTURE BELONGS TO THE HAPPY!

Monday, 2 April 2012

What aspect of leadership means you the most?

Recently I have taken part in a poll posted on Linked In and titled "What aspect of leadership means you the most?".

Participants could choose one of the following four answers:
1. Defining a motivating vision
2. Building great teams
3. Driving financial results
4. Creating innovating strategies.

The poll ended on 1st April 2012 and the results have been given today.

In total there have been 1187 votes and 88 comments.
57% of the votes (676 participants) have been for 'Building great teams', 23% of the votes (268 participants) have been for 'Defining a motivating vision', 14% of the votes (167 participants) have been for 'Creating innovative strategies' and the remaining 6% of votes (76 participants) have been for 'Driving financial results'.

I personally voted for 'Defining a motivating vision'.

Indeed,  when I voted about one month ago, I thought that all of the four options were meaningful to leadership and none of them should be undervalued. 
However, with an eye always kept on employee engagement I saw providing a strong vision and share it with the team, as one of the most important aspect of leadership. The other three aspects, in my opinion, come after having provided the organisation with a vision capable of expressing the purpose of the organisation and how an individual contributes to that purpose. With a motivating vision that involves employees on a strategic and emotional level, leaders can be able to create great and strong teams capable of bringing creativity and innovation within the organisation and finally driving business financial results.