The Happy Employee

Happiness in 3 facesEarlier this week a friend posted an article about “Is it your fault when you are unhappy?” The original blog post is actually from James Adonis, one of Australia’s best-known people-management thinkers.

James presented two opposite opinions:

  • “Your employer is not responsible for your happiness. You are.”
  • “It’s not difficult at all for leaders to create happy employees. The only reason it doesn’t happen is if you work for a tool.”

“So, who’s right? Are employees ultimately responsible for the joy they feel at work? Or do their bosses have a moral obligation to make it a priority?

That leaders have a financial obligation is already clear. There are many credible studies demonstrating the benefits associated with happy employees or, more significantly, engaged employees. These reports, for example, outline some of the empirical findings that indicate the positive outcomes include better customer service, higher productivity, enhanced sales and fewer safety accidents.”

James favours the first opinion and continues outlining 4 traits that distinguishes happy employees:

  • A desire to work for the simple joy that arises from doing a good job.
  • A positive attitude comprising enthusiasm and cheerfulness.
  • A conscientious work ethic of hard work and resourcefulness.
  • A proactive approach that seeks opportunities to make a contribution.

He further discusses Unhappiness as a result of “waiting” and concludes:

“So, cheers to the leaders who make it a personal mission to create a happy and engaging workplace. But an even more emphatic cheer is in order for the employees who do it themselves.”

My Opinion

I agree happiness is not something leaders can give to people. That is inherently impossible. It is up to you personally what and how you live your life. That’s why I start every day with a smile and enjoy a beautiful Monday.

Although that doesn’t mean leaders can sit back and relax, knowing it’s not their fault if employees are being unhappy. They do have a responsibility to provide 5 things:

  • make sure employees do meaningful work
  • communicate open, honestly and share information
  • ensure employees have autonomy within their responsibilities
  • foster innovation, teamwork, and be the chief road block remover
  • provide fair compensation and possibilities to grow

If they don’t, people who take responsibility for their happiness will leave and those who wait for happiness to come to them will stay.

To your question, Greg, I don’t think leaders have a moral obligation to create happiness. They work in the same organisation as their team. So, it comes down in my opinion to

  1. What does the organisation stand for, what’s the purpose? Can I identify with that as an individual.
  2. What are the values of the organisation and are they demonstarted by the senior managers? Do those match to a large degree with my personal values.
  3. Do I feel I can make a difference and add value?

If those three questions line up, I can see happiness and meaningful work coming up 🙂

Succeeding on Purpose

I didn’t go to TechEd in Auckland last week, but a friend of mine did. He pointed me to the recording of one of the keynotes, saying if you watch one, make it this one.

Succeeding on Purpose

Succeeding on Purpose

It’s a 1 hour recording and if you have the time, it is well spend. If not, here’s my 5 minute summary:

In this talk James A. Whitaker tells his personal 7 traits that everybody can use to succeed in life. The talk is limited to outline 4 of those and James makes sure he advertises his book about it.

(1) Ambition

This is the only trait that is not optional. Having an aspirational goal is a must. Set your goals higher. Even if you miss it you still end up higher than the mediocre goal you were sure to achieve.

(2) Specialisation

Specialising on something gives you an identity. It is an opportunity to master the topic. Although, make sure you choose something that matters. Be passionate about it. Then comes the important part: Make an elevator pitch in 2 forms, one to tell others “that’s what I do” and the other for yourself, “that’s why I do it”. And don’t forget – specialisation does only work for a limited time. You may need to change 2 or 3 times along the way.

(3) Story telling

James tells us 3 stories that matter. The first is about your role and your speciality (see above), the second is about your project and why it matters (this tells other what you do is interesting), and the third talks about you and what makes you special. The latter is probably the hardest part for me, there are plenty of folks who do similar stuff – how do I compare?

(4) Learning

“We are who we learn from” – The sentence didn’t first make too much sense to me. However, when James continues talking about mentors, yes many mentors, it starts to resonate. Having access to an expert in the field makes learning so much more fun. The trick is to find the right one for you.

(5) Mimic / Imitation

He is an advocate of imitating the chosen expert in that field. The advantage, you learn more – you learn the little things, the things people do unconsciously. Although beware, don’t become a carbon copy. Mimic multiple mentors and become the blend that is you.

(6) Innovation’s long nose >>> Derivation

Re-invent the wheel is the credo! But make it better so that it matters. He talks about clairvoyance and creativity in this context. Clairvoyance is about the knowledge you have about your industry and your ability to predict what’s happening next. This goes back to specialisation. Don’t specialise in ‘dead’ things, specialise in things that are going to matter. Some tips about a creativity are added, where he briefly talks about rituals (or habits) that stimulate creativity, distractions that gives your brain a rest, and being centered – a place or places where you feel comfortable and have the greatest ideas.

(7) Leadership

He left that hanging. I have to read the book!

A leadership lesson in whey

reputationYou can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do” – Henry Ford

Only if you live behind a rock you don’t know about the Fonterra milk powder scandal. I don’t want to analyse or discuss the potential or actual impact on the industry or New Zealand’s reputation with its international partners. There are sufficient of these in the media.

No, I want to look at the action or non-action between the incident itself that caused the contamination and the information of the public.

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Business growth = Fire your Managers!

Essence of SuccessThe idea stems from an article on Linkedin, written by Ilya Pozin. Essentially he says,

eliminating established hierarchy (that is multiple levels of top-down management) frees people from working for their boss to working for the company goals.

Ilya goes on and describes a set very practical approaches and steps. His achievement is a company

  • people loved working for
  • enjoyed reduced costs
  • increased customer satisfaction and
  • improved quality of work

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Learn to Defy

learn to defyIn my leisure time I’m reading Fantasy and SciFi. Lately I read “Soldier Son” by Robin Hobb. The story evolves around the growing up and education of one son. He is to become a soldier, too – and officer to be precise. From young age he learns to obey and tries hard to do everything right for his father. One day his father decides to give his son to a former enemy for further training. That man makes the son promise to obey his orders. That is hard for the son but he follows as being told. When he is faced with a life threatening situation he finally breaks the promise and makes a decision (other than to follow and obey) on his own. Later the father explains to the mother why he did this. He was concerned his son would never stand on his own feet and would not become a leader.

His words were, “you need to learn to follow orders before you can command others because you must understand the consequences to those who believe in your leadership. “

This is a powerful parable. The question is, is it right?

Just a few days ago I came across a job description for an executive role. There was nothing special about it, it talked about strategy, planning, and operational management. And the interesting part came in the skills and competency section:

“Ensures decisions – own and organisational ones – are being actioned without hesitation.”

This sounded like military to me. And I asked myself, at what stage is the following of orders right and necessary and when is it wrong and dangerous?

This is a good reminder to look at the ethics and values of an organisation. Its adherence to rules, regulations, the law and its moral culture. Doing the right thing is very important to me. A decision that implies action which will undermine the ethics and values should be questioned. One of my mentors told me, the first question you ask when you join a team “Will we cheat?”. This tells you a lot about the team and provides you with a clear idea what to expect.

Your comments are as always welcome.

 

Clusters – a maverick research

One of my favourite sessions at Gartner ITxpo was Dave Aron’s thought provoking presentation on

“Don’t hire people, hire clusters!”

I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was intrigued. The basic premise wasn’t new: the world of heros is coming to an end, agile teams are the high performers of the 21 century. So far, so good. Then Dave challenged the audience, asking who had experienced working in a high performance team and how long that team stayed together. Many were on board with the first part, but hardly any had a long lasting experience.

The argument for the cause of such teams breaking up was presented of our inability to manage talent effectively. We look at individuals, we appraise individuals, we hire individuals and then we expect them to fit into an existing team where the team members have minimal input in the hiring process.

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Gartner ITxpo Gold Coast

nexus of forcesDuring the past 4 days I attended the annual biggest Gartner conference ITxpo.

I haven’t been here for a number of years and was really looking forward to it. My program was not aligned to any of the pre-defined streams and had a good selection of mobile, big data, business intelligence, cloud and enterprise architecture with a sprinkle of leadership and management aspects.

Gartner always has multiple sessions in parallel and I find it difficult to choose at times. Nonetheless I was happy with my schedule that looked ram-packed with exciting stuff.

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