Category Archives: Leadership
We all have things to do. Some of us have lists and lists of things to do. But that doesn’t mean everything on the list should be done by us, ourselves, alone. Before you take any action, slow down, look at your to-do list, and consider the following process for handing-over work to other people…
STEP ONE: Figure out what is for you and what is not… Ask 3 questions
What must I do myself?
- These are the things that it would be wrong to give to anyone-else. This is your core functional and personal business. You can’t hand-over a personal medical check-up to someone else and you shouldn’t be handing over strategic decision making either.
What could I give to someone else?
- Strictly speaking, this is everything left over after the first question. But its worth asking again as it gets you thinking about why you could hand it over. Sure, I like the grass to be cut in nice straight lines and sure I enjoy making that report, but I certainly could ask someone else to do these things.
What should I give to someone else?
- Depending on your vision of work, your answers may vary. If you are the “Tim Ferris type” you might think that everything that could be handed-over should be handed-over. If you are feeling guilty about workload, you might feel that you should be doing it all yourself. This question is about the reasons why handing-over work could be the best thing for you, for others and for the organisation. Of all the things you could hand-over to others, what things should you give away so you can focus on bringing more value to the organisation? What jobs will give someone else the opportunity to grow and bring more value to the organisation?
Possibly, as you tried to answer these questions, you were thinking: “But there is no-one else!” and so the answers went as follows: Everything, nothing, not-applicable.
To really use this process, you need to forget all of this during step one and just move forward. Imagine a perfect world where you were surrounded with opportunities to hand-over work. Now go back and answer the questions!
STEP TWO: For whatever tasks you have decided should be handed-over to someone else, define the competence required for the job
Now you have listed tasks/jobs that you ought to give to someone else, answer the following 3 questions for each of them:
- What knowledge is required to do this job?
- What skills are required to do this job?
- What attitude is required to do this job?
This step is all about defining requirements for the job. There may be other requirements like time, resources, specific environmental requirements… but right now, we are trying to imagine what competence someone would display in doing the job. Don’t worry yet about who does or does not have this knowledge, skill or attitude. Just name it.
STEP THREE: Think about the right people for the work
This is usually the point where people say again “But there is no-one!”. And telling you again to “imagine a perfect world” is too much to handle. So let’s get realistic about people with the following 5 questions. Answer them as they appear. Don’t get stuck on asking whether those people want to do the work or not…
- Of the people who work for you, who could be good for this job and why?
- Of the people in your immediate surroundings, team or department, who could be good for this job and why?
- Of people in any part of your organisation, who could be good for this and why?
- Of anyone else you know outside the organisation, who could be good for this and why? (yes, ANYone!)
- Of anyone anywhere currently unknown (!?) who could be good for this and why?
Reading these questions, some people will find them ridiculous. But taking the time to ANSWER them often provides new insight. You might realise that this thing should never have been on your to-do list in the first place. Or that its time to recruit. Or that you have a bigger network than you thought. Or that your lower-level tasks can actually be awesome motivating work for someone else…
STEP FOUR: Take care before you take action
If by now you are ready to hand-over work to someone, just take a moment to define the risks associated with that:
- How could this all go wrong? How likely is it that it will go wrong?
- What will be the impact of this work not being done well?
Be careful with these questions. If you are into controlling everything or worried about letting people down, its very easy at this point to just think: “The risk is too high – I’d better do it myself”. But by now you should have realised that doing everything yourself is not the best solution ..or simply not possible.
STEP FIVE: Hand-over the work in the right way
Now it is time to actually give this work to someone else, take one last moment to consider the following 3 questions:
- When is the right time to hand-over this work?
- What support do you need to help you get the support you need?
- How will you communicate the job hand-over?
- How will you follow up on the work?
If you have followed the 5-steps and actually answered all the questions above, you might have realised a few things about yourself, the people you work with or your organisation. You might even be ready to hand-over some work.
“Who taught the termites civil engineering?” (Sugata Mitra reminds us how we are all wired to learn by themselves)
In a true lesson of what keynote speaking should be, Sugata Mitra has taken the stage at ATD2015 to talk to us about how our world has changed and what this means for education. A funny, charming, entrepreneurial raconteur what he has to say is possibly the most important lesson for people in the world of education. Really.
The history of education
It’s only been a hundred years since we lived without telephones, computers and rapid transport. And that was the world for 100s of 1000s years before. How that world operated defined how we develop people.
Before we lived in today’s technologically enabled world, people needed to obey, repeat and not be creative. They needed to be able to sit still to read and write on paper and they needed to be able to do arithmetic in their heads. They needed to be able to stand still and do the same thing over and over again according to the rules.
In that world, there was a system whose sole job was to produce those people: School. The role of the school was to create this vast empire of conformity, knowledge and industrial repetition by telling people what they needed to know and making sure they did it right.
That world is gone. One day, our grandchildren will ask us “Hey grandpa. What does ‘knowing’ mean?”
How do children really learn today?
Mitra told us about an experiment he ran in an Indian slum in the late 90s: Placing a simple internet-connected computer in a hole-a-wall 3-feet from the ground, he waited to see what happened.
Children arrived. They asked “What is it?” He replied “I don’t know” and left them to it, giving no support at all.
8 hours later, they had figured it out, were browsing and 8yr-olds were teaching 6yr-olds how to do it.
After more research and observation, Mitra concluded that unsupervised children anywhere in the undeveloped world given access to an Internet enabled computer will, without any training, in 9 months get to the same computer-literacy level as an office secretary in the West.
In short: Children don’t need teachers.
All they need is broadband, collaboration and encouragement!
There is nothing else I want to say about Mitra’s keynote content right now. Nothing could do it more justice than saying that the answer to the above photo question is a resounding “Yes”.
But as a father of 3 small children, I do feel obliged to say something more. If children can do all this (and they can!) what is a risk if we don’t let them? If we keep telling them the answers, where will they end up? If we keep testing them to standards we have invented for ourselves, how can we expect something new? If we stifle their innate creative drive to figure things out, follow their own path and invent their own answers, where will the joy be? How will they find their passions? How will they innovate?
And sure, if we do keep telling, testing, standardising and stifling, everything will be “safe” and I won’t have to worry about “where they end up”.
But maybe I should just let it go?
- “The Granny Cloud” for how standing back and saying “Wow, that’s great. How did you do it?” is all you need to stimulate learning
- Wired magazine’s article on Sugata Mitra’s work
- More information on the School in the Cloud
- Mitra’s TED Talk
Day 2 of the ATD2015 ICE is buzzing like 10,000 learning bees as delegates stream into the opening keynote session. Despite rumour that Mickey Mouse will be opening the conference, it’s Tony Bingham that takes the stage to introduce Andrea Jung for her talk. Former CEO of Avon, Jung was named one of the most powerful women in business by Forbes. She is here today to get us thinking about the 5 most important things leaders must remember in today’s global context..
The first thing Andrea Jung told us was about the importance of vision and values. She says that leaders have to ensure that vision and values are a real global language. Having spent the day yesterday with Jim Smith and Rick Lozano thinking (among other things) about personal mission, I am not so cynical about mission + values statements today. Often, as a employee, we see them as only words on a poster. But Jung believes that if we really mean it and really live it, it can make a real difference. I think it’s all about aligning the right people to the right passions and motivations and it starts at recruitment: Get the people in who really want to live this particular dream. Then help them to do it.
If the vision and values are sorted, then it’s all about influence. Jung says that leaders today are not about power. Cultivating motivation and engagement is key. And for this, you will need the competence of communication.
So, we have vision and values and we are influencing with communication. Now what? According to Jung, there are 2 special ingredients left: Innovation and women. As a board member at Apple, it’s no surprise to hear the word “innovation”, but what is the story with women?
According to Jung, women are still the great untapped potential. Despite 51% of the population being women, most leaders, lawyers and business people are still men. This needs to change. She does not advocate filling the board room exclusively with women, but she does make a call for change. Considering her last messages about “being nice and kind”, I would say that’s not a bad thing.
(But that could be a little sexist, right? 🙂 )
Following on the accidental theme of happiness in Orlando today, I wonder if The Universe is trying to tell me something.. Time to get happy? As a fan of Tal Ben-Shahar’s “Happier” and the unpronounceable Hungarian-American’s “Flow” I am intrigued to see what session SU31XD has to offer.
Dick Ruhe has taken the stage to tell us what the latest research on positive psychology can do for the workplace. (Tip number one: If anyone is looking unhappy, just slap ’em!)
Ruhe starts by noting that most organisations seems to have the happiness formula backwards. We tend to think: Work hard -> Get success -> Get happy. But actually, it’s the happiness we need first. When we can find ways to get happy, we will work better and get better results. And when we keep this in mind people produce better business results. According to Ruhe, there are 7 principles we need to bear in mind if we want intrinsic motivation and increased engagement…
The happiness advantage
Organisations need to know this: Happy people get better results and attrition goes down. Ruhe cites how the brain creates endorphins and people feel better. But he adds that studies of successful organisations show that happy people are more satisfied and tend to stick around.
Do you believe this?
The fulcrum and the lever
The lens through which we see the world (the fulcrum) doesn’t shape us. It’s the way we see things that shape us. Two people can see the same situation completely differently. And if we can do something with that (the lever) we can influence our happiness and our results. Ruhe says that will require effort from leaders. We need to look for and embed positive (happy) experiences and work towards getting more of that.
Are you doing this?
The Tetris Effect
These are the patterns we have for doing things in the organisations. After time, those patterns become habits and traditions and we continue to get more of the same things, over and over again. We need to see how the pieces are falling and what we can do about it to line things up better for happiness.
Are you doing this?
When people fail, falling-up is about how they focus and take action to move in a new direction to bounce back. The “on the other hand…” vibe. Ruhe mentioned a study where people were told to imagine they had walked into a bank which was being robbed and got shot in the arm. They were asked: We’re you lucky or unlucky? 70% said “unlucky”.
What would you say?
The brain perceives big movements and big changes as overwhelming, which limits forward progress. But if we can start off small and see results, the brain can record the “win” and maintain the belief that their efforts can have an impact.
Are you helping your people see their results?
The 20 second rule
This is all about doing something that easily will move us forward. The next concrete (easy) action. For example, if you are thinking “I need to run more”, you might start making a big plan with a SMART objective and some challenges in there. But when it comes to actually running, if it’s easier to turn on the television than go running, no change is going to happen. We need to make it possible in 20 seconds to take some easy action towards are goal. Whatever it is.
How can you move forward now?
Connecting with the people around us makes everyone more happy. Ruhe suggests that we take more time to do this, everyday.
Reading back my notes, some of the points seem so obvious, I wonder what I get from it. But if I’m honest, I know I can do better.
Thanks for reading
ATD2015 kicks off with my first concurrent session (SU100), with Rick Lozano. I met Rick in Dallas at the 2013 ICE for his session on bringing rock ‘n roll to training. What an energiser! This year, he is here to talk about how to get people rocking their jobs, excited to be there, lost in their work, unleashing creativity and potential…
Several years ago, Rick was asked by his boss “What are you passionate about?” Rick’s first answer rejected (“Eh, training”) the boss asked again “No, your real passion.” Rick’s answer was “music” and his boss told him to bring that into his work. And although Rick does play guitar in his free time, that’s not how he brought music to his training work. Read my 2013 ICE session notes to see what he does.
The story is relevant in 2015, because we are talking about someone who brings real engagement to the workplace, somone can tune into what really turns him on and get that working for him. As a freelance worker, I always feel like no one workplace will ever be able to give me that opportunity. I would have to create it myself. But according to Rick, there are 3 things the average company can focus on to help their people feel the same vibe:
Get every individual involved in engagement
According to Rick, the statistics are not good for employee engagement: Only 13% of workers surveyed in the USA say that they are engaged. And engagement is not about “satisfaction”. If you want satisfaction, you can put in a bunch of video games, slides, a gym and plenty of other fun stuff. But just having a cool place where you do your work isn’t enough to get people engaged.
What individuals want is to be trusted. To be proactive. To be able to bring their own individual secret sauce to work. Engagement is when people are emotionally connected and psychologically committed. And it is worth investing in as an organisation. You don’t want to lose the talent and you want the people who stay to bring bottom-line value.
One of the major engagement problems Rick sees is that we outsource the “engagement issue” to HR, running surveys and creating “engagement initiatives”. But engagement is everybody’s job:
- We need to let individuals make decisions and have a real impact on the company mission
- We need to give people feedback on the work they do and how it matters
- Engagement must be a part of every conversation with our managers, who must help us to find out what turns us on and how we are doing
Give permission to be creative
Lozano says that as a kids we were all creative. Given 2 rocks * and a little time we made games and stories. This beginners mind (or “no-mind of creativity“) holds a key to engagement: We try things, learn, grow and smile.
Give people time and permission to try new things and make mistakes, put them in new places and they might just get creative. Maybe even let them choose their own job titles (Please henceforth call me “The firestarter”).
* another mention of the word “rock” at ATD2015
Help people grow in the way they love
People want to grow, to master things. The buzz we get from getting better is massively engaging. We get lost in trying. Times flies.
As an organisation, we need to help people to grow like that. We need to let people focus on their strengths and passions. Repeat: To LET them. Whatever that means. Like Rick’s boss did. If we know what people love, we need to have the daring to say “bring that to work”.
Tolerance is supposed to be a good thing. The British stiff upper lip demands that we take a deep breath and don’t aggress those who don’t fit our standards. But this is not the same as true respect.
Today in training, we have discussed the different things that annoy us and how we deal with them. Participants have shared several examples of how people do unacceptable things, but they tolerate them. As if that’s a good thing.
But I only need to tolerate something I can’t tolerate! When someone is disrespectful, I can “teach him a lesson” or I can tolerate it. When someone exceeds the limits of what is acceptable, I can “put him in his place” or I can show tolerance.
But respect is different. Respect is true acceptance of the idea that I have my vision of things and you have yours. I have my beliefs and you have yours. I have my way of doing things and you have yours. None of them are “correct”, “better” or more “valuable”.
When I have respect for the vision, beliefs and behaviour of others, I have nothing to tolerate. I accept that everyone has the right to his own vision, beliefs and behaviour. Everything is “OK” and we can all agree to disagree.
Tolerance is SO last year.,,
Burnout is getting a lot of press in Belgium these days, given the new legislation stating that employers must do something about it. But what can they do? Isn’t burnout just another monkey trap that needs what Charlie Sheen would call a “blink to cure the brain”?
Having just subscribed for the Epsilon ForumPlus 2014 conference, my interest in burnout is rekindled (pun intended). I will be following 4 sessions on well-being at work, burnout and flow. I’m intrigued to see what speakers have to say about decreasing the risk of burnout in the workplace.
Recently, I was invited to complete a survey about burnout by a well-known actor in the Belgian HR sector. Questions like “Do you think there is more stress in the workplace today?” and “Do you think remote and mobile working increase stress in the workplace?” seemed odd to me. Maybe I missed the point, but isn’t stress something that is in people rather than the workplace? Or, as the American Institute of Stress says: “we create our own stress because of faulty perceptions you can learn to correct”.
Isn’t burnout just another monkey trap?
If you want to catch a monkey, but some food in a hole or a jar rooted to the floor. The monkey comes along to get the food and reaches in. When grabbing the food, the monkey forms a fist. And due to the size of its fist, the monkey cannot get its hand out of the jar again. The monkey will not let go of the food in the jar. He has trapped himself. The hunter waits for the monkey to die, or captures it.
Other blog posts have already talked about the analogy between the monkey trap and addiction. And if you think the monkey trap is just a myth, watch this video.
I’m just wondering: If burnout is like the monkey trap should we be blaming the forest, the jar or the food? Or should we be blaming the monkey? Should we be trying to change the organisation or conditions of work, putting a stop to flexi-time and homeworking and banning email after 6pm on a Friday? Of course, if the work conditions and employers are unlawful or simply unacceptable, that does need to be changed. But isn’t it more necessary to help our employees better understand why they seek to hold onto their “monkey food” through their burnout disposed behaviour and how to let go of it?
I’m not saying that this will be easy and I’m certainly not belittling burnout. I just don’t think that the organisational solution to stress and burnout reduction should be to take away anything that might cause harm to the people susceptible to burnout. It is easy to rehab when you are in rehab. But people will fall off the wagon when they are back in the real new world of work. Should employers change everything in the environment to suit dysfunctional employees (yes, I did just say that! Whoops!) ? Or should they help people to better deal with their own private monkey traps?
And while we are not on the subject: Is burnout a bad thing anyway? It costs companies money and productivity, and it’s no fun for the burnout “victim”, but it may also be a fantastic opportunity to replace an unhealthy flame with something more sustainable, satisfying and healthy for the employee. (More on that later)
So, what can the employer do?
My own expertise being limited to one person in a non-corporate environment and without a complete vision on the law, this short list of actions is no more than a first brainstorm for employers to consider:
- Be willing to help
- Look out for people who show unsustainable behaviour and attitudes towards work
- Create better dialogue better dialogue between employer/employee; make the “person of confidence” worth confiding in
- Educate those at risk on the impact of their behaviour and attitudes
- Help employees to find structure and limits in their approach to work
- If necessary, help employees to reorient towards more satisfying and fulfilling work
…hopefully, I will hear more ideas at the ForumPlus conference on the 6th November.
See you there?