Warning! Working differently can seriously improve the environment (and well-being)

In Cardiff and everywhere, there has been a lot of talk lately about clean air and reducing carbon emissions and indeed, in Wales, the Government has declared a climate emergency which suggests they are finally taking this seriously and we are going to see some critical action.

As ever with this conversation, the ideas and actions for tackling carbon emissions tend to be focused on getting people to switch their mode of travel from the car to cleaner, greener forms of transport such as electric cars, bike or train.

What I notice though is that those responsible for solving this problem rarely seem to ask themselves the very important question: ‘What if people didn’t need to travel?’

We are so entrenched in an industrial model that work is still seen as a place we go rather than something we do and so rarely given the consideration it deserves as one of the tools in the box when it comes to tackling climate change.

As someone with a long history of promoting flexible working, I can see a lot of opportunities not only for the environment but for individuals and employers too. So why are we not talking more about this and how working differently can reduce carbon emissions whilst also increasing community cohesion and overall well-being?

It’s a bold claim but I believe that it’s because so many managers are scared to let people get on with it and unable to tell if they are actually working if they can’t see someone at a desk in front of them. Too many organisations manage people on the basis of time and presence in the office. Just think what we could achieve if that switched to trust and outcomes instead?

Part of the issue is the number of limiting beliefs around different ways of working so here are some common myths and realities that will hopefully help to open up some new ways of thinking about how we can reduce the need to travel for work purposes, reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality.

Myth: When we talk about working differently, we mean people working from home on a permanent basis.

Reality: Working in an office and working from home are just two options in a broad spectrum and also not mutually exclusive. People could maybe work one day a week in their local community which could be at home or in a community hub or café or anywhere they feel inspired. This would reduce the need to travel and increase feelings of connections in the community.

Myth: If people are at home, they will have more distractions.

Reality: When people are working from home, they might put the washing out or get the dinner started and that is actually ok. When they are in work, they might be talking about what happened last night on Coronation Street or making everyone a cup of tea which is also ok. Regardless of whatever household tasks get done when at home, most people would say that working remotely is great for getting on with work projects because there are fewer distractions.

Myth: Working remotely has a negative impact on well-being.

Reality: If you work alone, at home, all day, every day, this can have a negative impact on well-being for some people. However, working from home sometimes can be beneficial because people can concentrate on a piece of work and save time travelling to the office which they can then spend getting jobs done or playing with their children. This can have a positive impact on well-being.

Myth: Supporting remote working requires expensive video conferencing platforms to allow people to remain connected.

Reality: We are better connected than ever before so utilisation of the wide range of free channels available to us means that teams can remain connected regardless of location.

Myth: Managers are automatically equipped to cope with any working arrangement.

Reality: Technology has transformed what is possible in the workplace, allowing people to work whenever and wherever is best to get the job done. Ensuring staff performance when managing remote workers is something that many feel less confident about so training should be built in to organisational development programmes to ensure managers have the necessary skills to cope with all situations.

 

Do you think working differently has the potential to help reduce carbon emissions? Do you have thoughts on how we can build confidence and skills to manage different ways of working? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

If you like this article, you might like to read this one too: Want greater staff retention, less sickness absence and increased productivity? Join the results based revolution and unleash the power within.

 

 

 

 

 

Giveaway: Drive – the surprising truth about what motivates us

This month, we are giving away a copy of Daniel Pink’s New York Times top 10 bestseller ‘Drive: The surprising truth about what motivate us’ and here’s the reason why…



A couple of years ago, as part of a management course, I attended a workshop that explored how we can keep people motivated.  Keen to get the best out of my teams, I was listening intently, excited at the prospect of learning new ways to engage people and enhance performance.  As the tutor explained Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, he outlined the different levels of need which need to be fulfilled for an individual to achieve the central goal of ‘self-actualisation’ or ‘full realisation of potential’.

This was great but I already knew about Maslow and was hoping to be able to build on this knowledge and take something new from the session.  Having an awareness of modern theories in this area, I was puzzled to hear the tutor say that there haven’t been any motivational thinkers since Maslow in the 1960’s and 70’s.

After the tutor had finished presenting, he moved around the room to speak to the different groups.  When he reached our group, I raised my thoughts with him:

‘You mentioned that there haven’t been any motivation theories since Maslow but I actually do know of one’.

‘Ah yes’ he said ‘are you talking about Daniel Pink?’

I confirmed that I was indeed speaking of Daniel Pink and his theory set out in the book ‘Drive’.  To my surprise, the tutor responded:

‘Yes, we’re not allowed to teach that’.

Thankfully for me, I’d read Pink’s theory already and put the ideas into practice to great effect so I was dismayed to realise that others were being prevented from exploring Pink’s theory.

At a later event I went to where we were discussing well-being, the conversation turned to staff and motivation.  It was clear that there remains a view that people ‘just’ go to work for money and that’s all they are looking for.  I don’t believe this is the case and whilst money is important – of course, we all want to have nice things and a comfortable lifestyle where we can spend our days experiencing joy and not worry – money alone does not provide job satisfaction and fulfilment.  Drive explores this idea in more detail, considering why people go to work and how Managers can capitalise on that to encourage optimum performance.

It wouldn’t be fair for me to spoil the book for you so if you, like me, did not cover Daniel Pink in your management course but want to know how to help people in your team to reach their potential, I suggest you retweet or share on social media and subscribe to this blog before 27th October to be in with a chance to win your own copy and see what difference it could make.

 

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Help people find their ‘flow’ and make every day feel like Friday

Have you seen the new Lucozade ad?  The energy drink brand has decided to shake its image as a hangover cure and look for a new audience amongst busy professionals.  The campaign, titled ‘find your flow’, features normal people in everyday situations performing beyond their best thanks to Lucozade.

“Flow. The unmistakeable feeling of unstoppable. Of no problem that can’t be solved. Of no-one else can do it better. That whatever the day throws at you, you simply take it in your stride because you’ve found your rhythm. You’re on top form.” (Lucozade 2015, Find your flow)

The ad company responsible, Grey London, have taken inspiration from psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who created the concept of ‘flow’ after extensive research on the topic.  It’s the feeling of being completely ‘into’ what you are doing.  Of being wholly absorbed in a task or activity and of losing yourself in a moment.

Csikszentmihalyi describes ‘flow’ asbeing completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” 

That’s what I want to feel when I’m at work and what I want my team to feel also.  I’d like them to love what they do so much that they can immerse themselves in their tasks and spend most of their time ‘in the zone’.

Why should we aim to help individuals find their ‘flow’ in the workplace?

I’m really conscious that people spend a lot of time at work.  Over a lifetime, it’s around 90,000 hours if we work full-time from leaving school to retirement.  This is time that many people would rather spend doing something else such as sitting in the garden, playing with the children or walking the dog.

It’s an ambitious aim but I want the people in my teams to enjoy what they do almost as much so they are focused on delivering great things for the organisation rather than wishing they were somewhere else.  My view is that if I can help them find their ‘flow’ at work, I can help them to maximise their contribution to the organisation and enhance their overall life satisfaction.

How do we create an environment that supports individuals to find their flow’?

Based on 10 factors which are known to accompany the feeling of ‘flow’ here are 8 things that leaders should seek to provide in the workplace to allow employees to immerse themselves in their activities:

1)      Set clear goals that are challenging but achievable

2)      Allow people to concentrate on their goals and focus their attention

3)      Ensure their work is rewarding and ensure recognition of their efforts

4)      Create an environment where they feel secure and not self-conscious

5)      Give feedback

6)      Ensure tasks are achievable and suitable for the individual’s level of skill whilst providing a healthy challenge

7)      Allow ownership of a task or responsibility

8)      Minimise any distractions that will prevent the individual from focusing on the activity

 

Do you agree that helping people to find their ‘flow’ is an important goal?  Have you tried to create this kind of environment in your workplace?  Let us know your experiences by posting in the comments below.

 

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Photo credit: Pixabay

 

How Managers can use positive psychology to help individuals smash their goals and reach their potential

Positive psychology is an area of behavioural science which focuses on individual strengths and explores how these can be used to help people build fulfilling lives. For a long time, the study of psychology has examined techniques for fixing what’s wrong with people in an attempt to make it better. Positive psychology concentrates on what’s right and seeks to build on that in a way that enhances life satisfaction and fulfilment. 

How can we use positive psychology to ensure wellbeing and satisfaction in the workplace?

How often do Managers give feedback on people’s work by focusing on what’s wrong and needs to be improved or what they think could be better? The problem with this approach is that it’s very subjective for a start – what one Manager thinks is amazing, another could see as not good enough – and it also zooms in on failure & shortcomings.  Individuals easily become unmotivated and disengaged if all they ever hear is what they are not doing right.

Positive psychology requires that we turn this on its head to focus on the good things and how they can be improved even further. For me, it requires that we identify what that individual does really well and what skills or expertise they bring to the team and how that can be maximised to enhance organisational performance.

A popular formula within this school of thought is know as ‘the golden ratio’, developed by Barbara Fredrickson who believed that in order to thrive, we must have three positive emotions for every negative. That means the balance of feedback when speaking to staff should be three positives for every negative. When energy is concentrated on the good, the not so good is less noticeable and easier to handle with out impacting levels of satisfaction and motivation.

Managing people in this way makes them feel great. When they feel this way, they will work harder, be more loyal, have greater respect for Management and perform at their best for the benefit of the organisation. Doesn’t this sound worthwhile?

So why do so many Managers still insist on highlighting weakness and telling people what they should do better?

Personally, I think there is a link here with hierarchy and the inherent need to reinforce power. To hold power in a hierarchical system, you need to create a dynamic where you know more than others and the way to achieve this is to tell them how they should be better. 

As a Manager, I see my role as one of supporting others in the team. My aim is to help those individuals to be the best they can be and make sure they can use their strengths to contribute to the organisation’s overall objectives. That for me is the starting point; I am equal to the others and my role is to support, facilitate and coordinate so that the team as a whole delivers for the business.

Imagine this conversation in your monthly 1-1’s: ‘Wow Sam! You have done fantastic work this month, you must be really proud of your achievements! What are you goals for the coming period and how can I support you to smash them?’.
Do you have conversations like that with your team? If not, could you try and see what difference it makes? Let us know your thoughts and findings by posting in the comments below.


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Leading a resilient nation for future generations

Last week, I attended an event led by Cardiff Business School which explored how procurement can be used as a tool to tackle poverty. With a background in equalities, I have been promoting this kind of approach for a while as a way to increase social value by ensuring public funds are used as a lever for change so it was exciting to have a whole day talking about how we might do that.

One of the main topics of discussion in Wales right now is the Well-being of Future Generations Act which came into force earlier this year. The Act legislates for sustainable development and sets out seven well-being goals that public bodies have to work towards.

During the day, we discussed the goal for A Resilient Wales and how we might achieve this nationally. The discussion was informed by a presentation on resilience in manufacturing and covered resilience in its broadest sense.  As we explored the challenges, it became obvious to me that there is a fundamental requirement for strong leadership which facilitates the development of resilience in organisations, communities and individuals.

Firstly, to achieve resilience, leaders have to mark it out as a priority. We can all continue delivering in a way that is unsustainable, providing services for the here and now without protecting our resources (human and financial) to continue into the future. Or, we can take a moment to think about what we’re doing and whether we are doing it in the best way, not just for now but for the long term. In order to make this happen, we need our leaders to take a stand and consider how we can stop doing more for less and instead focus on ensuring we can stand up to the pressures of reduced budgets and increased expectations to ensure we maintain economic, social, cultural and environmental well-being.

Once we have committed to achieving resilience, I would argue that the first step in reaching the goal, is building resilience amongst our people. Delivering national well-being requires energy and commitment from our officers in the public service. Richard Branson was in the news not long ago for saying that the customer comes second and staff come first. His rationale being that if you look after your employees, they will look after the customer. This kind of philosophy is one that I believe is in keeping with the objectives of well-being and sustainable development in Wales. If we are thinking about the long term and the impact on future generations, then surely what we need to do is consider the way we are working and address that for the long term so that the people who will deliver national well-being have the energy, passion and drive to do so.

 

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Mastering motivation

A few weeks ago, I was at a conference and found myself engaged in a debate around what motivates people at work.

The colleague I was talking to was from a large public sector organisation and seemed to be a Theory X thinker, assuming that people would rather be anywhere than in the office and only go to work for money.

My perspective is that whilst people ultimately work because they have bills to pay (who wouldn’t prefer to be on the beach or in the garden), once that basic need is met, money ceases to be the main motivator. In this sense, Theory Y is where I sit as I assume that people want to work and manage my people with this in mind.

Most of my thinking has developed from a concept set out in Daniel Pink’s book called ‘Drive’. This book is so recent that it was not covered in a recent management course I attended. We were told in the session that ‘there hasn’t really been any theory developed on motivation since Maslow’.

But some of us know different.

Pink starts off with an argument that book that generations coming through today are not motivated by money. He believes that the model of performance related pay where people are set targets which are rewarded with bonuses is out of date and actually those joining the workplace over the last couple of decades are driven more by values than money. With this in mind, according to Pink, the first thing employers have to get right is to ‘pay enough to take money off the table’.

Once the basic financial need has been met, we can move away from Maslow’s basic needs of food and shelter and move towards the top of the hierarchy to achieve esteem and self-actualisation.

So to bring it back to Pink’s ideas, achieving motivation requires leaders to allow our employees to achieve the following three things:

Autonomy – Mastery – Purpose

Basically, to motivate people we need to trust them to do things their own way, setting the direction and letting them get on with it. This is AUTONOMY.

We need to give them the space and support them where necessary, allowing them to get really good at what they do. This means that they are able to learn and improve until they achieve MASTERY.

And we need to be clear about why they are doing what we have asked them to do so that they know what they are doing is for a good reason. This means they understand their PURPOSE.

Applying this to the way my team works completely changed my focus and delivered some fantastic results. Of course it didn’t mean I left them on their own completely, it just changed the way we worked together. Instead of telling people what to do and how to do it, this approach requires leaders to set the direction and support individuals to achieve. It requires managers to ask more questions and find out where you can add expertise to improve the outcome. What you will find is that the team checks in with you more because they want to get things right. It’s definitely worth adopting because the rewards of empowering people are immense.

Go on try it! I dare you…

If you want to hear it from the man himself, check out this TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation?language=en

Or you can buy the book here:

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