Wednesday 21 January 2009

The Manage-A-Smile Manifesto

So here it is: The Manifesto. My previous blog entry explained why I decide I needed one. It isn’t something I want to do, but I’m pretty sure it’s something I need to do. Anyway, it’s done now, and there’s no turning back.

I haven’t decided how to show the manifesto yet. Since I couldn’t design my way out of a toddlers drawing class, I think I’ll leave it to our super-duper design team to pretty it up. I think it’s the words and whether they make a difference that counts, but in truth, it’s a sales pitch and it needs to look the part.

I’m going to explain the five key principles now. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t perfect, we’ll change it if we need to. Just getting the idea started and having some debate about it is enough to make it worth while. So, here it is:

We only employ people who have the ability to do their job and ask for help if they need it. We don't tell people how to do their jobs.

If we employ people who aren't up to the task then we’re just putting an unfair pressure on everyone else. Equally, if we employ people that won’t ask for help, then they’ll never learn and that creates problems too. If we employ the right people, then we have to trust them to do their jobs. They’ll ask for help if they need it – no micro-managing!

We get the best from people by making sure they are doing things they believe in. We don't ask or bribe people to do work that they don't want to do.

Nobody does their best work if they’re doing something that they don’t agree with, even if you pay them or offer other incentives. If you can’t find anyone to believe in the work then you’ll have to do it yourself or, better still, don’t do it.

We improve by getting the people doing the work to talk to the ones affected by it. We don't set arbitrary targets to try to improve performance.

Targets are a poor approximation for real performance. They are far too simple, and they can lead to bad decisions. Get people talking to each other instead. Ok, so you can’t put it in a spreadsheet and add it up, but you’ll get better results and fewer issues. Also, don’t forget that it’s often people inside the company that are affected by work being done, don’t just focus on customers.

We care about keeping ourselves and our colleagues happy. We don't spread unhappiness around our colleagues and the office. 

You won’t get the best from people who don’t respect each other as people. Equally, people are too keen to project their bad mood or problems around the office – they like people to know how hard their jobs are. Nip this in the bud, get people to understand the value of spreading happiness instead. We all know that problems happen, but getting stressed about it and passing that stress onto the guy next to you isn’t going to help.

We invest time and money to make sure these things happen. We don't put short-term profits before our investment in people.

Even if you recruit for free, you spend a lot of money employing people, training them, and giving them experience. Get used to it… they’re your most valuable asset – they are the company. Don’t scrimp on them or they’ll scrimp on you.


  1. All sounds like really positive stuff. Only thing I would say in realtion to

    "We care about keeping ourselves and our colleagues happy. We don't spread unhappiness around our colleagues and the office"

    Is this I believe would be very hard to implement. The spreading of hapiness approach is great as a concept and you would need everyone to have complete "buy in" to use a cliche term.

    Unfortunately we are all human and a lot of traits within "some" not all personalities will include the bad mood projection and negativity.

    Just intrigued as how you can create this culture and essentially have some control over it. I guess it has to come from the top down and a lead by example approach.

    I don't think there is any denying we all want to work in a company with a great atmosphere where there is a happy vibe. It is achieving that across multiple personalities I think is the challenge. Some leopards don't change their spots or might not be ready for change.

    I think it should be embraced as a good thing I just hope other would too

  2. Hi there, thanks for your positive words. I really believe that the main obstacle to the happiness goal is learned behaviour. People pick up negative echo behaviour through places they have worked and it spreads around them. The key I think is to try to find a trick to stop the spread and get each person to learn and apply the trick whenever they see it.

    At the moment, I'm trying this: If I hear someone project something negative then I ask them to say three things positive afterwards. It could be about a client, a colleague or a product. If they have committed to trying to improve then they'll give it a go and find good things to say. If they aren't willing then you've flagged up a rejector, and need to work hard to find out why they don't want to work together with other people to make their place of work better. I reckon you'll often find another underlying cause of the unhappiness and then that needs to be addressed.

    Good luck.

  3. Keeping the theme of investments (in people)...

    As one (I assume) would wish their investments would grow, as well as produce a return - would perhaps an apt inclusion for the manifesto be a provision for recognizing demonstrated talent, achievement & potential in people & openly seeking ways these traits could be best placed in forwarding their & the companies position? Even beyond the boundaries of initial job roles?

    I'd suggest career progression & momentum, alongside this recognition, would be key to many peoples happiness, as even with the most passionate belief in what they are doing, remaining stationery for too long would make maintaining their smile a tough task

  4. Hi, thanks for your comments. I'm not sure whether it's just me, but there were a heck of a lot of long words in there!

    I think I understand what you're trying ot say, that people should be grown and not left static, but I wonder whether that's the view of someone who wants to grow. I mean, maybe there are people that don't. People could be happy where they are. Maybe they want a few years of low pressure, comfort, and that'll make them happy.

    My point is, the manifesto deals with core themes. If people focus on understanding whether they are happy and believe in what they are doing, then they should be pretty quick to tell their manager if they feel like a change. When that happens, the commitment to invest should kick in, and new opportunities should be found.

    I have avoided too much detail and management speak, because I love simple philosophies. They're easy to explain and easy to follow. So for now, I'll stay clear of too much detail and hope the principles lead to the right choices for everyone.

  5. Loving the Manifesto Mysterlar!

    Hope all's gorgeous where you are.

    I once had a friend kindly bring in a 'balloon animal making' kit to a brain surgery ward - he made about 6 squeally balloon animals before someone kindly asked him to stop causing more pain to the poor patients.

    I know you've gone all shy of targets but how about adding in a point that, as you believe in your people, they should be responsible for their part of the business plan and publish what they believe they're going to achieve this quarter that supports the bigger plan? Then they are publicly and personally accountable and more likely to not only deliver, but to enjoy doing so.

  6. Hi Vicky and thanks. I've had a few suggestions about making the manifesto more prescriptive. However, my goals with the manifesto are to make some broad general principles which, if applied, will lead everyone to making decisions that benefit themselves, their colleagues and their company. In this instance, the principle is to get people doing work they believe in, and to make them accountable to the people they affect. Combining those things, I believe, achieves more than targets will, and ensures that nobody is encouraged to behave in a way that is beneficial to a target whilst being detrimental to the whole.

    Of course, it means that everyone takes responsibility to understand how they are affected and how they measure it. That can mean numbers - but donesn't have to.

  7. for someone who has mild arthritis in her hands, i found having to make balloon animals a rather cruel 'team building' exercise... not only was i the only one who didnt manage to make an animal in time, but no one helped me when i made it clear i was struggling. this is just absolute b*llshit for a minimum wage job that has b*gger all to do with balloons... never again

  8. Hi there, thanks for your comment, I really appreciate the feedback.

    I've been thinking about high staff turnover and minimum wage teams recently. I'll confess I've never managed one, so my thoughts are only theory, but I agree that my manifesto would need amending. My idea would be to take the manifesto, and rather than applying it to individuals, the goal would be to apply it (or something similar) to the environment. The manager would need to concentrate on creating an environment that embodied their management philosophy, so that any new intake would immediately feel it without being told.

    Equally, it would mean that you wouldn't focus on the individuals as much; rather you would focus on the group as a whole and the place of work. It’s unlikely I'll be managing a team like this, but I'd love to try it.

    As for your experience, I'm afraid it shows a manager blindly following a theory without understanding it. You're right to feel frustrated, and demotivated by your experience. I hope at least your manager has the sense to receive feedback. But I doubt it.