Saturday, 16 May 2015

La Vie de Joie!

During a graduation celebration at university some time ago (don't go there), I debated with a philosophy professor.  I contended that you could probably get someone to do almost any job that was legal, ethical and moral.  There were only two conditions.  The first is that the compensation must be enough.  And the second was that there was a time limit to the position.  I proposed that I could hold my nose at something I did not like as long as these criteria were met.  Looking back, I think that there were some early roles that may have fit this description.

My assumption was that the amount of money would overcome any kind of distaste that I held regarding the position.  Further, this money would buy me the happiness outside of the work environment that I forfeited while working.

In principle I think that this is true.  In reality it is the clearest sign of immaturity and naivety that I can imagine.  The lack of joy that exists in this type of work situation will suck the life out of you regardless of the justification that you propose and no amount of money is going to buy back that deficit.

What has this to do with leadership? 

In my economy, joy is one of the foundational characteristics that a leader must bring to the position each and every day.  If you cannot find joy in what you are doing, how are you going to effectively transfer that emotion to those whom you lead?

As a leader, your staff often look to you for inspiration. You won't be able to fake it with those who work with you on a daily basis.  What this means then is that to achieve your full potential as a leader you must work in a role to which you can bring your passion and express your joy.  To do otherwise is to deny your team the leadership that they need and to deny yourself the opportunity to excel.

Life is far too short to simply exist in a situation in which you cannot function with joy.  If it once existed and now does not, figure out why and get it fixed.  If it has always been absent, or the lost cannot be found, then re-evaluate your priorities and plan to get out of the losing proposition.  Everyone will benefit from your decision.

There is always life after...and it is never too late.!

Friday, 8 May 2015

That which binds us.

There is much in the news about the different expectations between 'generations'...  Baby boomer, Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z, Millennial.  Most of the commentaries focus on the differences between these groups, and to be sure, some significant issues are worthy of consideration.  But it strikes me that there are many more things in common that ought to grab our attention.  We spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on the negative and far to little time exploring that which binds us together.  And in my economy I would rather built up the positive and work away at the side issues as time allows.

So then, from an employment perspective, what are the key things upon which all generations can agree, that make for a productive workplace?  I submit to you that the fundamentals are these:

  1.  Opportunity: This encompasses various components.  For some it is the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities by being properly trained and equipped for the task at hand.  For others it is the opportunity for advancement.  And for others yet it is simply the opportunity to be employed. Regardless of how you want to define it, without opportunity there is little likelihood of engagement.  And the lack of engagement detracts from a productive environment. 
  2. Respect: This must be regarded as a right of all employees regardless of position.  Respect, in this context, is not a privilege to be earned.  In this I am speaking about the right to be free of harassment of any kind; free of discrimination; free of intimidation and fear.  The workplace must be, for all, a place of safety and freedom to excel.
  3. Recognition: Every person has the right to expect to be recognized for work well done.  Whether this is done at an annual review, an award ceremony or simply a 'shout out' that peers share, it is reasonable to have superior work acknowledged. Furthermore, each individual has the right to appropriate compensation for the task being performed.  There is no place for discrimination on any basis, period.
  4. Effective Leadership: Any person in any position should expect to have effective management and leadership.  To this end, the company should be involved in a  continuous improvement strategy that relates to the professional development of all individuals in any supervisory, management and/or leadership function.  At the very least, the goals and objectives of the work unit must be communicated to the employee in a manner which inspires the individual to make a meaningful contribution.
I believe that every generation would agree with these principles.  In combination, they are fair, reasonable and appropriate.  When the workplace reflects these principles in action, it does not matter which generation we are considering because all subscribe to a common set of values.  I am not dismissing the obvious differences such as communication techniques, cultural experiences and sensitivities, ambitions etc.  But I would argue that the commonalities of expectations outweigh the differences amongst the groups and that our focus on these commonalities will contribute more to the productive workplace than anything else.

As the leader, how effective have you been in creating an environment that meets the diverse needs of several generations.  Too many have simply thrown their hands in the air and their heads in the sand because they thought that it was too much work to bring these groups together as a team. But that is the essence of leadership...learning how to motivate.

Build on that which binds as these are common human values.  Only then take time to whittle away on the differences for they will become less of an issue if you have tackled the former properly.