Wednesday 27 May 2009

What are job lovers?

"There are all kinds of love in this world, but never the same love twice".

When F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote those words I very much doubt he was thinking about people loving their work. However, I've noticed that "love" has become a two tiered word these days, and now as well as the top tier of the love between two people, you also get a second tier of a love for things, for objects and also for experiences.

How often do you hear people say "I love my job" or "I love where I work". When I hear people say that (I'm going to call them "job lovers") I get a warm fuzzy feeling inside, but what do they mean?

I'm certain I'll never get a fully agreed definition of the word "love" here, so we'll go with my interpretation for now. That is, the second tier of "love" in the sense of "I love my work" or "I love my new phone", is to like something so much that you actively tell other people how much you like it. Not just when you're asked, but proactively go out there and start conversations about it, enthuse to others about it, become an advocate of it.

To have people at work who love their jobs is an amazing feeling. They are naturally more proactive, they will push harder, go further, and feel more connected than other people. You can't tell people to love their jobs, it happens because you've employed someone in something they enjoy, and then given them a structure to work within that fits their character. Oh and you also need a sprinkle of luck.

The only problem with people who love their jobs is that they, like two people in love, can be more sensitive to failure or change. If you fail an employee like this then it may have a much more significant effect on their performance, and you may find that they go from your best employee to your worst almost over night. What's the saying; "Hell hath no fury like a lover scorned"? Well, a team has nothing as demotivated as a job lover treated badly.

So, should you stop people becoming job lovers? Of course not! If you don't get a huge thrill from working with and around job lovers then you yourself are in the wrong job. If you don't want to spend your time helping to create job lovers then you've settled for second best from your teams. It won't always be easy, and the love will be strained from time to time, but take the risk, enjoy the feeling, and make sure that you're the biggest job lover of all.

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Enjoy it!

Are you smiling right now? Were you smiling a minute ago? Going to smile in the next hour? I hope so.

I've spent the last few months writing about the different experiences I've had changing from a metrics manager to a people manager. I've explained what I think you should do... what I think you shouldn't do. I don't imagine I've got it all right, but it felt right at the time, and I definitely feel I'm improving as a manager and my teams are improving as a result. However, I did forget to mention one little point; enjoy it!

The great thing about treating people as human beings rather than numbers, is that it feels good. Treating and being treated as a person, an individual, with opinions, ideas and a future, feels right. Ok, sometimes we have to try a few different techniques to connect. Sometimes there is such a history of poor treatment that it takes a long time to restore trust. But ultimately, if your working relationships are good, and you treat people well, it will feel right, and you will feel happier.

Not sure? Well imagine turing up at a waiting room and being told to take a number and sit down. It doesn't feel great to be treated like that, and yet if you arrived in the same waiting room and were greeted by a smiling face who asked your name, how you were, and told you roughly how long the wait might be, you'd feel better; happier, right? Well the ridiculous thing is that it's not just you who'd feel happier, the receptionist would too.

We're force fed lots of images every day about what will make us happier, but you may have noticed that the ad men no longer resort to showing pictures of their products, they show images of people connecting, sharing, kissing, laughing. They sell their products by selling the idea that you will have great experiences with other people if you buy their widget cream. Unlucky for them then that you can get all of that for free, right in your place of work. No widget cream required

If you're not sure what I'm on about then strike out today and do something caring for a colleague or team member and see how you feel. For eveyone else, enjoy smiling today.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Instruct or inspire?

A couple of weeks ago some of our team were up at an event where they were fortunate enough to hear Will McInnes speak about social media. The people watching the speech had different backgrounds and roles but each one found the talk inspirational and were motivated to do something new as a result. This got me thinking about the process of management, and whether I had missed something important.

The bog standard management process is to get a task, assign it to an individual, train them on how to do it, and then monitor how they get on. I hope that my manifesto has encouraged a bit more dialogue in management than that, but essentially, the goals are the same. We try to ensure that the individual understands what they are doing, and I also try to ensure that they believe in what they are doing. This is quite an instructive method of management. It's about passing on knowledge (and motive) from the manager to the individual.

A draw back in using this management approach is that it doesn't have any method for getting tasks coming the other way. That is, it doesn't provide a framework within which we work to get the individual proposing new tasks and asking for new responsibilities. When I heard the reaction from Will's talk, it occurred to me that my manifesto was missing an important dimension; inspiration.

What is inspiration? I think that inspiration is like a pipe cleaner for the brain. I think our minds get blocked up sometimes and the blockages prevent us from achieving what we're capable of. The blockages can come from apathy, repetition, boredom or even just lack of interest. If we are inspired by something or someone, it's like the blockage is removed, and our energy and thoughts can flow again.

Inspiration is different from motivation. Motivation is the force that is applied to the individual to get them to do something. We often try to generate this force by using salaries, commission, bonuses, promotions, and other incentives. Some people even use punishments. Different motivations can have different levels of effect, or force. However, it's hard to keep this force applied. Hard to ensure that the force remains the same strength over time. For example, look at the motivational effects of a pay rise and how short that motivation lasts for.

The ideal situation is where the individual is producing this motivational force themselves. When this happens we see individuals not only reaching their goals, but going beyond them, pushing forward new ideas, thinking outside the immediate problem into new areas and solutions. When this happens, we get a little managerial magic, and our teams start making us look better than we are. It's no surprise that this would be popular, but the question is how to create this force, and I believe that inspiration is the ideal way of doing it.

The hard part in all of this of course is how to inspire people. I don't believe that it's essential to get inspiration from others in your field, I think we can all be inspired by many things. Imagine the incredible story of survival told in the film "Touching the void". That story is an inspiration to everyone about courage and determination, and I think it can have an effect on people in the work place too. The problem with this remote, detatched inspiration is that it can fade from our thoughts. If we can create inspiration within the work place, then it can provide a constant source for individuals to motivate themselves. Look around your office and ask yourselves whether you have people that could inspire. How could you harness that ability and then communicate it across your company? Why aren't you doing it already?

At our place, communication has been allowed to fall behind. We have an opportunity now to create a few inpirational speakers who can communicate our products, services and culture across the company and out to a wider audience. My primary focus when this happens will be to point this inwards and to re-kindle the fires of enthusiasm across the business. I've already been inspired by people at work and it's given me the boost I needed to progress. If we can generate the same effect in every person, then who knows what wonders we can achieve.

So instruct or inspire? Well, I doubt good management will ever move away from the need to instruct your teams. However, we can multiply the results if we also inspire our teams, and if we succeed in doing this at our place, then this will be a very good year. So, instruct and inspire.

Thursday 7 May 2009

Management philosophy carnival (May '09 edition)

Hello to one and all, and welcome to the latest blog carnival at ManageASmile. Today's carnival is a little different as I only have two posts for you. Why? Well mostly because the main post is so good, that I don't think you'll want to digest anything else after you've read it. It's also five pages long. The second post is a little snackette for anyone too busy to take time right now for the main meal. Enjoy.

"In a sense, management theory is what happens to philosophers when you pay them too much." This is just such a great post that you'd be crazy not to read it (in my humble opinion). It's a long one, but the pay-off is a three point management philosphy... no skipping to the end!

Ok, so you don't have time for five pages? Get a quick fix food for thought here on why promotion might not be all you hoped for: