Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Attributes of a Truly Great Place to Work

More than 100 studies have now found that the most engaged employees — those who report they're fully invested in their jobs and committed to their employers — are significantly more productive, drive higher customer satisfaction and outperform those who are less engaged.
But only 20 per cent of employees around the world report that they're fully engaged at work.

It's a disconnect that serves no one well. So what's the solution? Where is the win-win for employers and employees?
Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project, has identified a set of attributes of a truly great place to work. How many of these attributes exist in our own companies?
  1. Pay employees a fair wage and give them a stake in the company's success, in the form of profit sharing, or stock options, or bonuses tied to performance. If the company does well, all employees should share in the success, in meaningful ways.
  2. Design working environments that are safe, comfortable and appealing to work in. In offices, include a range of physical spaces that allow for privacy, collaboration, and simply hanging out.
  3. Provide healthy, high quality food, at the lowest possible prices.
  4. Create places for employees to rest and renew during the course of the working day and encourage them to take intermittent breaks. Ideally, leaders would permit afternoon naps, which fuel higher productivity in the several hours that follow.
  5. Offer a well equipped gym and other facilities that encourage employees to move physically and stay fit. Provide incentives for employees to use the facilities, including during the work day as a source of renewal.
  6. Define clear and specific expectations for what success looks like in any given job. Then, treat employees as adults by giving them as much autonomy as possible to choose when they work, where they do their work, and how best to get it accomplished.
  7. Institute two-way performance reviews, so that employees not only receive regular feedback about how they're doing, in ways that support their growth, but are also given the opportunity to provide feedback to their supervisors, anonymously if they so choose, to avoid recrimination.
  8. Hold leaders and managers accountable for treating all employees with respect and care, all of the time, and encourage them to regularly recognize those they supervise for the positive contributions they make.
  9. Create policies that encourage employees to set aside time to focus without interruption on their most important priorities, including long-term projects and more strategic and creative thinking.
  10. Provide employees with ongoing opportunities and incentives to learn, develop and grow, both in establishing new job-specific hard skills, as well as softer skills that serve them well as individuals, and as managers and leaders.
  11. Stand for something beyond simply increasing profits. Create products or provide services or serve causes that clearly add value in the world, making it possible for employees to derive a sense of meaning from their work, and to feel good about the companies for which they work.

How does your company measure up? What's the impact on your performance? Which needs would your company have to meet for you to be more fully engaged?

Crispin White is a Partner at interim management agency Talentfield

Monday, March 30, 2015

Choose Your Attitude

The other day I was reminded of a time I was listening to my kids bickering. My youngest had run up to me and announced that her brother was making her upset. Difficult as it may be for a 4 year old to understand, I told her that she was choosing to be upset and she could respond in a different way! It may have confused her, but at least it stopped the bickering for a while.

It is so true that anything is possible if you have the mindset and attitudes that support your success. Many people spend a lot of time looking at the negatives in their lives – how they hate their jobs, their smoking or don’t want to be overweight. By conditioning yourself to concentrate on what you do want, positive results can be achieved – and quickly. What you hear and tell yourself on a consistent basis has an effect on your thinking and wellbeing – marketing people know this to be true and use it often to motivate people to buy. Similarly, people who praise you will build your confidence. Many of my coaching clients who are lacking in confidence have consistently been surrounded by negative talk – from others and then their own inner dialogue. This affects the world they are in and permeates into their mindset, becoming a negative belief that they then hold as true.

What you say is what you get! Often what we say to ourselves dictates our results in life. The good news is that we can make some choices to help us become more focused and bust our old beliefs. We need to raise our awareness of what we are telling ourselves – what stories we are running in our minds and like any new behaviour, we need to consciously make choices and control our inner voice, until it is replaced unconsciously with a positive voice. Here are some tips:
  • We can control our feelings through physiology – just by altering our posture. It is well known that exercise makes you feel happier and reduces the effects of stress – when we are down we reflect this in our body so check your posture and become aware!
  • Take pleasure in whatever you are doing, whether it is ironing or booking a holiday. For most people the latter holds more excitement and anticipation, however if you adopt the attitude of “I’m going to do a job and I’m going to do it well”, then choose to smile and allow yourself some satisfaction around it – isn’t it great to see that pile of freshly ironed clothes?
  • Write a list of what you do really well and make choices to repeat them in different situations
  • Learn to praise yourself for a job well done. Choose to praise yourself at least 10 times a day. When you catch yourself criticising your actions, stop and turn it around – ask yourself what you can take from the actions to become even more effective next time. Start noticing when you do things well and congratulate yourself for it. Sometimes it helps to congratulate yourself out loud – go on, do it, it works!
  • Make small, conscious changes in your behaviour to break a cycle. For instance, turn your mindset from “I don’t contribute at meetings” to just making a small observation or agreement or even a nod at the next meeting you are at – it’s all contribution, you don’t need to plan to contribute in a big way, you may be waiting for a perfect opportunity to chip in, that may not come and at the end of the meeting you will reinforce your belief that you don’t contribute. So small steps make big differences!
The really good news is that research at the University of Texas has found that having a positive attitude to life can delay the aging process – and that people with an upbeat view on life are less likely than pessimists to show signs of frailty.
I am reminded of Victor Frankl, the internationally renowned psychiatrist who endured years of horror at the hands of the Nazis, who lived to 92.
"We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one's predicament into a human achievement." 
Victor Frankl’s quote was a bit too much for my daughter – but she did go and tell her brother that she had chosen to cry – and it was his fault!  Still some more coaching to be done there.

Don't be a Tosser

I have just returned from a holiday in the French Alps and, as a result, have had the pleasure of driving more than 1,000 miles across France and Switzerland.  I say ‘pleasure’ because that is what it is.  The roads are well maintained, the service stations (or Aires) are clean with good coffee machines and you can cover huge distances relatively quickly.  But the thing that impresses me most of all is the lack of litter.
Contrast that with the journey this side of the Channel to and from the ferry port at Dover.  Setting aside the much higher levels of congestion, as that is simply a function of the level of economic activity and population relative to the size of our country, road works on at least some part of the journey are almost constant and there is hardly a square meter of verge that doesn’t have at least one item of litter on it.
After returning home some volunteers in the village I live in had organised a litter pick on the roads into and out of the village.  In just a couple of hours ten people collected 58 sacks of rubbish – larger cans, fast food containers, cigarette packets, old tyres.  All of this despite the fact that the same verges were cleared of litter only twelve months earlier.
What is it about the British that makes us such a messy lot.  Clearly the French and Swiss manage to resist the temptation to through unwanted items out of the car window.  And in my experience so do the Germans, Belgians, Italians.  Even in America, the ‘land of excess’, roadside litter is nowhere near the problem it is in Britain.
But finally people are starting to fight back.  A number of Town and County Councils across the UK have launched ‘Don’t be a Tosser’ campaigns - the latest being in Northamptonshire. 
The wording of the campaign may seem a little strong, but the truth is that to call people ‘litterlouts’ or ‘litterbugs’ trivialises the act.  Did you know that research suggests that litter in the streets near your home can reduce its value by as much as 12%, that he Highways Agency cleans up more than 180,000 sacks of litter from motorways and A roads every year, that fly-tipping on land owned by Network Rail costs £2.3 million a year to clean and that local authorities in England spend close to a billion pounds a year picking up litter.
That billion pounds is money that could come off your tax bill.  Or alternatively it could be put to better use.  For example, a billion pounds would fund 38,633 social care workers, pay the running costs of 4,400 libraries, or pay for 33,200 additional nurses.
With the looming election there is a possibility you may bump into a prospective parliamentary candidate during the next few weeks.  If so, ask them what they intend to do to reduce littering in your area.