Tag Archives | Excellent organisations

BREAKING THE SILO-MENTALITY – 4 ESSENTIALS FOR CROSS-FUNCTIONAL WORKING

When we have lots to do, never-ending tasks on our lists, it seems easier to just get on with it and stay in our own silo. But if you stop and reflect on it for a moment, you will realise that a lot of the obstacles you encounter in your work are caused by ‘them’ – the people in other teams or departments. ‘They’ don’t respond quickly enough; ‘they’ don’t understand how important something is; ‘they’ are not easy to get hold of; ‘they’ are asking for something urgently that you haven’t got on your priority list – because of course, ‘they’ are also working in their own silos!

Most of us cannot effectively do our work by staying in our silo, because the majority of projects these days involve a network of different roles in the organisation, so working cross-functionally is built in. Unfortunately the habit of working together cross-functionally isn’t.

Instead of resisting the cross-functionality, it genuinely makes our life easier if we work with it. It’s not difficult and it saves us time and energy in the longer term, if we choose to come out of our silo and work collaboratively and co-operatively with all those involved.

 

4 ESSENTIALS OF WORKING CROSS-FUNCTIONALLY

  1. Building your cross-functional relationships

The first essential is to build your cross-functional relationships. Get to know the people whose work interconnects with yours. Find out what matters to them, what their obstacles to progress are, what makes life easier for them. A bit of time spent having quality conversations with them is well worth it, because it means that now you know them as more than just one of ‘them’; they’re a human being, they’re John not that ‘guy in accounts’.

  1. Planning what needs to be done together

The second essential is to plan with them the work you need to do between you. Again, time spent talking about how you can respond to each other, taking account of each other’s workloads, can save time and energy chasing each other up.

  1. Having an agreement of how you’re going to work together

The third essential is to have an agreement of how you’d like to work together. So few people when working with new people actually tell them how they like to be worked with. Do you like it direct and to the point? Or do you like someone to give you a general pointer in the right direction? Do you like to do things last minute or are you someone who likes to do things before deadlines are looming? All these are useful bits of information if you’re to work together effectively.

  1. Got a problem? Talk it through!

The fourth essential is to have a conversation when a problem arises – and I mean talk and listen, not exchange emails! Problems can often be resolved on the spot if you voice them early enough, before they become too big to deal with. Even the biggest problems are more quickly solved when two heads are working on it rather than one and it’s easier to come up with ways to avoid it happening in the future.

 

An organisation is a living system of inter-connected parts. It is only successful if those parts work smoothly together. And we are the embodiment of those inter-connected parts. The simple fact is that the more we come out of our silos and start to view others’ perspective, the more effective we will become. If we actively improve the way we connect with others whom we help and who help us to make the whole thing work, our work life will get a whole lot easier.

Over the years at Meta we’ve developed some really effective ways to break down the barriers between departments, and help people to get beyond their silo mentality. There is no doubt that it is essential in today’s slimmed down organisations to be working cross-functionally, in order to be more productive and effective – so if you’d like help getting your organisation to work more cross-functionally, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch, we’d love to help.

Have a great month everyone,

In peace,
Jo & Di xxx

Comments are closed

IF YOU WANT TO FEEL VALUED – VALUE OTHERS

Feeling valued for the work you do is a foundation for wanting to give of your best. We all respond to being recognised for what we have done, what we contribute.

Yet for many of us, feeling valued is a rare commodity. What tends to get noticed is what we haven’t done or any mistakes we make. After all, if the boss asks us to go and see him or her, few of us are likely to think that they want to acknowledge our good work – we are more likely to worry about what they might say we have done wrong.

So how do we increase the likelihood of being valued for our work and our attitude? We would suggest that you start to value others more: those colleagues you can depend on to do what they said they’d do; that manager who trusts you to just get on with your work without interfering; that person who always makes you smile with their cheerful attitude; that more experienced team member who will explain something to you that you haven’t come across before; the one who speaks up in a meeting, voicing something you were thinking but didn’t want to say.

There are hundreds of everyday examples where someone else makes some form of positive difference to your day. By overtly recognising it, and thanking them for how they’ve contributed to making your day go better, you not only help to make them feel valued, you also are setting an example of valuing others that becomes infectious. By drawing attention to what someone does that is right, you are encouraging them to notice the same thing with others, including you!

I remember being asked by a senior manager to undertake some executive coaching with two of his team. He told me that they were great people to have in the team, and he wanted to encourage them to develop further because they would both be senior managers one day.

When I started to work with them, I realised that they had no idea he thought they were good at their job. In fact, both of them thought they were being coached because there was something lacking in their work or performance – It was a perfect example of not telling people that you saw them as valued members of the team.

I asked them how they felt about him as a manager and they both said that he was a really good manager, and they liked working with him. I suggested that they found an opportunity to tell him that they valued the way he managed them and had learnt a lot from hm. At their next coaching sessions, they both said that they had done what I suggested, and that he had been both surprised and pleased when they had said it. Moreover, he had told them both that he in turn appreciated the way they worked, and that was why they were being given the coaching – a great turn-around for both sides.

So why not try it out yourself? Go and find three people you work with today and tell them what they do that makes a difference to you. Why not make showing someone else that you value and appreciate them one of the daily things to do on your to-do list? There’s a great sense of well being to be had when you genuinely thank someone or let them know that they’ve made a difference to you. And interestingly, just by that subtle act of gratitude, you’ll be spreading that feeling of well being around your team and organisation too.

Have a wonderful month everyone!
In peace,
Di & Jo xx

Comments are closed

ROLE MODELLING IN LEADERSHIP

When we are young, we are greatly influenced by our role models. As children, we learn to mimic our parents at a very young age and, in later years, whilst our role models may change, we continue to learn from those we admire. These will include our heroes, whether fictional or real, and those at school who may be brighter, better at sports than we are, or those who are the most popular.

Whilst our tastes may change, as we grow older, the desire to learn from and emulate others does not diminish. At work, we try and understand what makes people successful and recognise the behaviours of the most influential.   Our own leadership styles are more likely to reflect what we have picked up from others than what we may have learnt from our own experiences.

Before we notice, others are watching us closely and seeing what works and what they like. And if what we do does not seem to match what we say, we build suspicion, distrust and potentially lose others’ commitment to our leadership.

So I would like you to think about the behaviours that you demonstrate at work. Do these reflect the ways of working that you are trying to encourage or are there inconsistencies? For example, are you trying to encourage others to have a better work/life balance, but are the first to arrive and the last to leave? Or are you trying to improve team working within your department, whilst being openly proud of your independence and autonomy of decision-making?

We are often unaware of these inconsistencies between what we say and what we do, but they are glaringly apparent to others. So, ask yourself some key questions:

  1. What are the behaviours and ways of working that you are trying to promote within your team or department?
  2. How consistent are your own actions in demonstrating these changes?
  3. What improvements or changes in your leadership style do you need to make to ensure that there is greater consistency?

Finally, why not take the opportunity to explain to others the changes you are planning to make? This will demonstrate your commitment, show them that you believe in adapting your own style and so encourage them to take similar actions themselves. And isn’t that what being a good role model is all about?

At Meta we love helping leaders and leadership teams to be the  role model and create the culture in which everyone thrives. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help why not download our Leadership brochure from the link below:

Meta Leaders&Leadership Team development

 

Comments are closed

COLLABORATION WORKS!

What are you good at? Most of us have some aspects of our work that we find easy and satisfying, that we do with some enthusiasm. Imagine if, most of the time, that is what was asked of you. If we really worked collaboratively, that is how it would look.

The word collaboration means working together to achieve an end goal. The implication of this is that we each bring our particular strengths to the task, so that we can achieve it more easily and effectively. We use this principle when we have different teams to design something, to implement the design, to test that it works properly, etc., but we often forget a vital element of collaboration: that they work together on it. If the end product is to be as intended, then all of them need to be involved in every stage of the process.

I’m sure you can think of your own examples of where this clearly hasn’t happened: the user guide written in language that the layman doesn’t understand; the chair that looks beautiful but is uncomfortable to sit on; the monitoring process that takes longer than the task it is monitoring.

How do we enhance collaboration?

Collaboration is a mind-set. It is about clarifying what we really want to achieve right at the start of something, and then identifying what each of us can contribute to make that happen. It requires that we let go of the drive to prove ourselves to be ‘the one’, and instead use what we’re good at to make something happen well. What we bring may be a technical skill or it may be a personal quality: how would we manage without the one who lightens the mood, the one who encourages everyone else, the quiet one who spots the way through the discussion to useful action!

Collaboration begins with seeing everyone else involved as a potential ally in achieving an effective outcome. For this to happen, we need two main areas to be built on:

  1. Building relationships in the team as a whole
  2. The ways we communicate with one another

If we don’t really know the other people in the team, then we won’t know what they can contribute, other than their technical skills, and we won’t build the trust that underlies collaboration, and enables us to know who to call on for help, or what they can bring.

And we need to communicate effectively with others, to build and reinforce relationships, and to maintain the feeling of working together. Emails being sent across the office simply don’t cut it!

It is natural to us to collaborate. We are a living model of how to do that well: our bodies are a brilliant example of collaboration, each part contributing to the whole by working together and communicating with each other to maintain the balance required for our health. We could learn from ourselves, and achieve miracles if we chose to!

Comments are closed

ARE YOU GOOD AT CUSTOMER SERVICE?

During August I’ve been doing some work in Glasgow, and staying in the Citizen M hotel. Their staff are called ambassadors and the customer service is way beyond the call of duty. Of course, I was curious about what prompted the level of friendliness and helpfulness they demonstrated, and asked the questions.

So, the answers were consistent, and showed that it’s not hard! Firstly, they are recruited as ambassadors, which means that their job is to make guests feel welcome and looked after, rather than do reception, or bar work, or any other specific role. They are selected for their personal qualities of a positive attitude, a friendly disposition, being prepared to help each other out and work as a real team, and flexibility in the roles they play depending on what’s needed to serve the guests.

They are led by example, with management demonstrating those qualities with guests and with their team, encouraging the team to give of their best, and trusting them to take the small actions that can make such a difference to the guests at their own discretion.

And it is delightful to be in a hotel where all the staff greet you, respond positively to any queries or requests, and enjoy their work.

Two particular aspects stand out for me: the way their role is defined and the way the team is managed.

The role is defined as caring for their customers. It is not implicit in the role; it is explicitly what is important. So they don’t just check in the guests when they arrive, they greet the guests and help them to check in if that is what the customers want. They don’t just serve drinks, they assess how that person asking for a drink is, and respond with conversation, speed, whatever feels right for that person. Their first thought is for the customer, not just getting the transaction with the customer done.

And the manager is not someone in a back office who appears when there is a problem. They are out there helping out when it’s required, and demonstrating the behaviours they want to inculcate. They notice and overtly value the customer service their team gives, and encourage them to take the initiative.

I saw a lovely example of this one evening. There was a big event on downstairs, and a couple of ambassadors who were in the bar area upstairs came down and told the manager that they were quite quiet up there, so they’d agreed that two of them would come down and help out those who were looking after the event. They could have just taken advantage of the quiet time, and the manager could have told them that he had enough staff in the event. Instead he said, ‘Great idea! Thank you’ and they took an extra dose of positive energy into the event space.

Everyone’s a winner with this approach to customer service. The customers are happy and want to go back. The staff are happy in their work because they feel valued for what they do and trusted to do a good job. The organisation is happy because happy customers and staff means more business.

Wouldn’t it make sense to apply these principles whenever we are serving customers?

 

Comments are closed

OFFICE POLITICS

With the general election coming up, the last few weeks have been a vivid reminder of why office politics has such a negative connotation: we have been subjected to empty rhetoric, empty promises, back-stabbing, meaningless jargon, false presentation of ‘facts’, popularity contests, and false personas intended to impress us. We have few examples in our governmental politics to inspire us to apply real politics when it comes to our workplace.

Yet the word politics comes from the Greek and Latin words meaning ‘affecting all the citizens of the state’ – it is neutral not negative, and simply means that what you do or say or legislate has an effect on the members of the whole group.

Since our politicians don’t generally seem ready to consider the possibility of setting us an example of how to make that effect positive and inspiring, maybe it’s time for us in our organisations to set them the example!

We all do engage in office politics whether we are conscious of it or not. We all have an impact on others in the group, through our behaviour and actions. These may be the small everyday impacts: being in a good or bad mood, and affecting others with its effect; or it may be the decisions we make as leaders: introducing a shared service because it will cost less, at least in the short-term.

We all have the power to change the connotation of office politics by choosing to behave in ways that demonstrate a genuine intention of having a positive impact on those around us.

POSITIVE OFFICE POLITICS

Firstly, let’s demonstrate the values that are supposed to be underlying our behaviour at work: words like trust, respect, ethics, transparency, fairness, come to mind. Most organisations would claim that they intend to apply these values, so let’s take them at their word. It doesn’t require a lot of thinking through: just consider how you would like to be treated by others and apply it to the way you treat those around you. This on its own will change the way we impact on others to the good, and will set a differed tone to office politics.

Then let’s just add a couple of simple questions to our preparations when we are about to act or make a decision. The questions are: ‘Who will this have an impact on?’ And ‘How can I ensure that the impact is as positive as possible?’ I know that sometimes we have to make difficult decisions, but that doesn’t mean that we should just ignore their impact. It is always possible to alleviate the negative impact in some way, if only by being honest about it, and helping them to cope with it – isn’t that what we would want someone else to do for us? And don’t forget that we may have seen a benefit to someone of a decision we make that they don’t get immediately, so we need to explain that as well.

Finally, let’s stop trying to prove ourselves or compete with others. If we all behaved in ways that have a positive impact, then we all benefit, because others will be behaving like that with you. Wouldn’t it be lovely if you succeeded by being someone who treated others well, and being yourself instead of by putting energy into trying to outwit and outdo others?

This simple change applies whether you are considering a restructure or just whether to send an email. Each time your actions or behaviour involves others; you are playing politics, so play it well. Isn’t it time we had some positive example of office politics where the common good was to the fore?

Comments are closed

MEASURING THE ‘UNMEASURABLE’

I am fascinated by the ‘unmeasurable’.

Not being easy to measure has become an accepted excuse for not paying much attention to.  Yet, in any conversation with individuals, they ‘assess’ their work-life, home-life, social-life, primarily on the unmeasurables: it is how it feels, and how they feel within the system that determines whether they are positive or negative about it, passionate or apathetic.

So, although we call this the ‘soft stuff’, the unmeasurable, we use it as our own primary form of assessment!!  The obvious conclusion is that we are perfectly capable of measuring these things; it is just a different form of measurement from the hard measures.

We have been told, over the years, that our feelings are an inaccurate and subjective form of assessment, swayed by all sorts of personal biases.  This is true, in scientific terms.  Yet our feelings are undeniably what lead us into passionate commitment to and into withdrawal from, situations, relationships and life in general!

Since organisations are a living system, essentially composed of human beings, it seems only logical to assess them on the basis of the ‘feel’ of the place as an important part of the assessment of their potential effectiveness.  And although feelings may be subjective and inaccurate, on an individual basis, there is nonetheless a general consensus – which means feeling together – about what an organisation is like to work for, which suggests to me that we can establish some clear measures, some obvious distinctions.  It requires that we ask people in organisations some different questions, so that we can identify what makes them want to give of their best and provide the oil in the machinery that enables it to work effectively.

It has become standard practice to measure performance in organisations. However, the principle of assessing our progress has become somewhat perverted by the use of the word measurement or, even worse, metrics.  The implication of these words is that they measure things which are specific, factual and objectively provable.  This has led to a tendency to measure what can be easily demonstrated rather than to measure what matters.  This then leads to a culture of doing things to meet targets or objectives rather than doing them in the right way.  Examples abound of how this leads to good results against the measure, but an overall decline in the service or long-term outcomes: reduced costs in purchasing, but poorer quality in the product; reduced waiting times for hospital appointments for those with minor problems, but limited availability of treatment for serious problems; most trains on time, but some cancelled so that delay targets are met, etc.

THE ARGUMENT FOR METRICS

Despite the evidence that metrics alone don’t enhance the performance of people, except in a limited way, they persist in being the most common form of measurement in organisations. Why is this?

Firstly, there is an underlying belief that people are not to be trusted, and need driving on and checking, to make sure they achieve. This produces targets, numbers, as a form of control.

Secondly, the scientific approach has led us to a belief that any measures must be objective, factual: ‘ The numbers don’t lie’.

Thirdly, being a people-oriented organisation, or being a profitable organisation were historically seen as alternatives, not a combination. We divided organisations into profit or non-profit, and saw those non-profit organisations as inefficient and ‘soft’. In fact, many of those in the public sector have been pushed to be more business-like, not in addition to their caring, but to the detriment of it.

COMMON SENSE MEASUREMENT

In fact, there are very few of us who use metrics to assess our own progress when we are reflecting on it. We measure our own progress by our emotional state, our relationships with others, our ability to deal with problems that come up, and the belief that we are developing. For me this is clearly demonstrated in eulogies when we die: most emphasise these aspects of us, not how much money we made or how efficient we were at clearing our in-boxes!

Similarly as customers we assess organisations by how responsive they are to us, how well we are treated as customers, and what it feels like to have contact with them. When we work there, we assess them primarily on the basis of the atmosphere, the way people work together, the level to which we feel valued as an employee, and the approach the leadership team takes to achieving the results they want.

Results matter – if the organisation is failing to achieve results, our service or product is at risk, and our jobs! They are just far from being the only measures, or even the most important. In fact, enlightened leaders realise that the results are a by-product of achieving the other categories of outcomes, not the drivers.

SO HOW DO WE MEASURE EFFECTIVELY?

The argument that measures for the full range of outcomes are subjective not factual still exists. Yet despite some different perceptions, subjective assessments tend to give a consensus of opinion, and the different perceptions serve to highlight particular aspects of good or bad practice. We use these forms of measurement – it’s time we formally recognised their importance.

WHY DON’T WE USE THEM MORE EFFECTIVELY?

One of the problems with these measures is not that they don’t exist; it is that they are not given the same weight as the results. This is because we view the numbers as being both objective and prevalent. So if an organisation’s results are not as good as in the last quarter, the common reaction is to cut staff numbers and/or staff development, both of which result in a reduction of people’s loyalty and enthusiasm, not an increase!

Even if the results stay at a reasonable level, many organisations do not know what to do to make a difference if their staff and customer surveys reflect dissatisfaction with the organisation. They tend to treat the symptoms of dissatisfaction, not the causes: complaints about waiting times on phones leads to an increase of pressure on call centre staff to answer phones more quickly by cutting short the conversations they have with customers; staff saying their managers don’t listen to them leads to compulsory 1:1’s with staff every fortnight. Reactions like these do not lead to better results in surveys: customers then complain about not being listened to; staff still complain about their managers not listening.

If we want to turn our vision for our organisation into reality, we need to clearly measure the things that make the difference, that we want as outcomes, rather than just the results. This is not difficult, it is common-sense. It just requires us to recognise the measures we all actually use to assess our individual progress, other people, and organisations we work in and have contact with as customers.

Isn’t it time we measured the right things instead of the easy things, and moved our organisations to a new level of effectiveness?

Comments are closed

DARING TO LEAD

Right now I’m going to ask all you managers out there that read this to do something completely counter cultural. I’m going to ask you to break out of the current conformity within business and do something different.

It’s time to rebel.

It’s time to break out of the tight constraints that current business practice has you tied up in.

It’s time to release yourself from the shackles of management and step up into a leading role.

It’s time.. To dare to lead.

Right now there are many things that are wrong with business. One of the fundamental issues is that everyone is managing and no one is leading. It’s a provocative statement but in my opinion it is true, there are too many managers and not enough leaders.

So what is the difference?

Well leaders are like directors (in a film/play). Their role is to be able to have a perspective on what is going on. They are the ones with the oversight, who ensures that all the parts are working together to produce the best possible result.

Excellent directors (like leaders) play two main roles visionary and facilitator. They are always looking for how the parts could work together even better to produce even more innovative results – the visionary part – and they do everything they can to make it easy for their people to give of their best – the facilitator part.  Notice we say facilitator rather than manager. Sure its important for a leader to be able to manage in fact you cannot be a leader without being an excellent manager, however when you step up into leadership you become a facilitator not a manager.

So what’s going wrong?

Right now business is busy being busy. It hasn’t time (or budget) to develop people as they are promoted. There isn’t the time to ‘show someone the ropes’ or handover properly to the new manager, and so although the person promoted has the raw talent and skills to do the role they are not given the time to develop their managerial skills to such a level as to fit the new higher position. With constant restructuring in most organisations since the recession this means that many people are now doing the role that pre-recession was done by a minimum of two people. This means that there are many ‘leadership teams’ who just do not have the leadership skills required to lead rather than manage. This means that there is an effective ‘shrinking’ of the management structure, directors feeling they have to ‘step in’ to manage things that really they shouldn’t be managing!

If you’re a manager you probably already feel that your directors/senior managers do this too much. How does this make you feel as a manager? Well it tends to make you feel disempowered. Why bother when the likelihood is that your boss will step in and change it or interfere anyway?

On the flip side I hear over and over again from people we know who are directors that their leadership teams are not ‘stepping up to the mark’ that they feel they have to intervene and are fed up with having to do so.

So if both sides don’t like what’s going on, maybe its something that needs to be looked at? Maybe its something that needs to be paid attention to, a fundamental problem that needs to be resolved.

There is a simple solution. And it’s so simple that I really can’t understand why no one is doing it.

How about investing a short amount of time (and money) into developing your leadership teams’ leadership skills? How about getting back to having a ‘handover period’ (of a few months) when someone who has been promoted gets to grow into their role rather than just being expected to run from day one? There was a genuine reason for doing this, it meant that it could be identified what extra skills/development they needed in order to effectively do the role and meant that their senior manager could get back to what they did best, leading!

So what can you do? You, the manager, the leader within your organisation?

Well, you can either wait for someone to encourage or tell you to lead..  (Good luck with that one; you may be waiting a very long time!!) OR you can just DARE TO LEAD.

Whatever level you are within your organisation if you have line management responsibilities, then you have an opportunity to lead.

Yes I know that your organisation’s leaders may well be caught in managing too much, but if you don’t take action and step up into leading then who will?

It feels that right now everyone is waiting for everyone else to do something. Waiting for a miracle to happen when suddenly everything changes. It’s not going to happen unless someone starts to do something different. So how about YOU do something different?

How about you buck the trend and start to lead rather than manage? How about you become the director of the film of the story of your life at work? How about you start to create a new version of how work is for you. One where you empower yourself (And empowerment can only EVER come from you first!) to start leading your staff in the way that you would like to be lead?

You see we KNOW how to lead, we just don’t believe that we can in the places we work. We don’t believe we have the power or the authority to. And yet if we are not in control of our own behaviours/ways of being then who is?

Isn’t it time we took our own power back?
Isn’t it time that we decided to embody how we want leaders in our workplace to be?

If we don’t do it? Then who will?

Its time for a change and change starts with you first. So if you want to change the way that your organisation is lead, start by leading yourself. Start being the model for how it could be. You’ll soon get results and they’ll be visible (if you shout about them), you could be the example that others can follow and when enough people are daring to lead then it influences up. If people start being leaders we can change the world of business and if we change the world of business we can truly change the world.

Go on.. I dare you.

Dare to lead this month, treat it as an experiment and see what happens!

And if you need help or want some advice on how best to lead, how to take that step up into leadership, then we here at Meta are at your service. We have a vast library of research and a wealth of experience on the subject of putting leadership into action.

So please do call on us, we’d be happy to help you, why? Because our mission is to change the way we do business for good and if we can help you, then we’re doing what we’re here to do!

Much love to you all,

Jo xxx

Comments are closed

BEING DEAD IS BAD FOR BUSINESS

Consider this your wake up call.

Yes, I’m talking to you.. the person reading this. If you’re working right now, the likelihood is that you’re working TOO HARD.

“What? ‘TOO HARD? What’s that Jo?”
Well it’s when you work yourself into the ground, for no real good reason. Its when you work really hard and don’t feel like you’ve achieved anything. And its when you’re working faster and harder but less effectively.

You see many of you right now are tired. Tired of work, tired even of life. Why? Because you are all working TOO HARD.

Working hard is fine, WHEN you get results. But when you are working apparently for no good reason, it gets soul destroying after a while. Every day you work hard and all your bosses can pick up on is what you didn’t do or got slightly wrong, rather than the shedloads that you did do. Either that or they then ask you to do more.

Business right now has reverted back to its own etymological meaning: no longer is it a place where we get things done, it’s a place where we are busy, being busy! (etymology – Business: a place where we are busy)

You see when the financial crash happened we were all happy to step up, chip in, do that bit more to ensure the survival of the businesses that we worked for.

“Of course I’ll work that extra hour to get the project done,” you’d say, “Yes, its OK I’ll take a pay freeze if it means that the business stays in business.”

“Yes, I’ll work longer hours if it means that I keep my job.”

Why did we do that? Because the vast majority of staff are essentially good people who want to do the best they can in their jobs. They are not ‘shirkers’ who avoid work, the majority of people want to do a good job and will do what it takes to get the job done well, even if that means staying after hours or putting the business first over their personal lives.

So what did businesses do during the recession?

They streamlined, they restructured, they stripped themselves back to the bare bones so that they could reduce costs and keep their losses to a minimum. Sound business sense you might say, and indeed it is. However the new structures relied on the remaining staff working flat out, often doing the jobs that were previously done by two or three people.

That kind of workload is perhaps sustainable for a little while, 6 months, a year – we can all understand the need to do that for a short while. But it’s been 6 years now, and people are just worn out, dog tired, knackered.

You see as soon as businesses moved back into profit, rather than re-investing in their staff (the people that helped keep the business afloat through their tireless working in the recession years), they carried on reducing costs and streamlining their businesses, so that their shareholders/owners could recoup their capital from the profits that started to come through before giving anything back to their staff. The result? Those that were left staffing the by now anorexic organisational structure had to carry even more of a burden. They were loading their staff up like pack horses, and rewarding them not with a carrot but a stick.

“Well if you can do that, you can do this for me too.”

“I don’t want to hear the reasons why you can’t do it, I want to hear that you will do it and when it will be done by.”

“How about you step up into a interim senior manager role? We can’t pay you any more, but you’ll the have the experience and it’ll be good for your career.”

“It’s just one more project in your portfolio, I don’t see what the problem is.”

AND to top all that off, no pay rises (or minimal ones) or bonuses, for the majority of staff – the organisational machine was an insatiable beast, hungry for more, in less time, for less money, with just as good a quality, to create more profit for the business.

Now why am I saying all this?

Because it is WRONG.

Someone needs to say it. So I’m saying it. How business is being run right now is just plain wrong.

It’s not the way to treat people that have helped you out of difficult times, and it’s not the way to do good business. It’s not sustainable, and people are becoming ‘resources’ not real human beings and are being treated like animals.

“WOOOAH!” I hear you cry! “Jo, that’s a bit emotive isn’t it?”

Yes it is, but isn’t it time that we put a stop to bad business practices? Isn’t it time that we at least had a frank discussion about what’s really going on?

On the television every couple of months we hear that the economy is now nearly at the level that it was pre-financial crash. Now I don’t know about you, but that just makes me angry. To hear that ‘the good times’ are here again, is just ridiculous, because I don’t know of ANYONE right now who is in a better position than they were before the financial crash. Never mind that, I don’t know of ANYONE who feels GOOD right now, full stop!

So if the economy is really that good (and let’s bear in mind that the economy figures do come from the office of statistics – a governmental department), where has the money gone from the profits in business? It certainly hasn’t filtered down to most managers and leaders that we know. Isn’t it time that businesses began to pay back their employees for the selfless work they have been doing over the last 6 years?

It’s not happening at the moment, and the likelihood is, that sadly, its probably not going to happen. In fact most managers/staff that we know are working longer hours and working harder than they ever have.

So what to do?
Well, when we are stressed and overworked, we tend to narrow our focus, it tends to become about ‘me and my to-do list’. We don’t think about the wider picture or the grander vision, we just have to get through today and ensure that our boss is happy and that my to-do list just gets a bit shorter. We haven’t got the time or the energy to do much else. Work becomes all-consuming, its demands mean it ends up being a tide of work that never quite goes back out again. We let it slip in to our personal lives, we don’t push back, we just let the tide come in more and more and more. The result is that now most people will work when they get home in the evenings, and most people will work at least to clear emails on the weekend.

The problem is, that we don’t know how to say no anymore. And as a result work has become the main time consumer in our lives.

“Well Jo, its always been like that, it’s just how it is.”

Actually it’s not always been like this. Yes we worked hard, but we also worked in a way that was more natural. I was watching a documentary on the first world war recently and the government ministers would clock off at around 4pm to ensure they got home for dinner! Even factory workers had shifts that are probably a lot shorter than the ones that we have now!

You see bio-chemically we are not designed to work these sorts of hours consistently. The amount of sustained stress that our bodies are currently facing is greater than probably ever in our histories. We just don’t know what effect those stress hormones have on our bodies when sustained for so long, however one thing is for sure, it’s making us very sick.

Right now everyone reading this will know of at least one person who is off sick with stress. Everyone reading this will know of at least one person who is seriously ill as a result of overworking/stress. I’ve been working at Meta for 13 years now and during that time I have seen a tremendous increase in the amount of stress related illnesses and I’m seeing a worrying trend of people that we know and love getting serious, life threatening illnesses as a result of their work.

So I want to tell you something, something that I’d like you and any  organisational leader that reads this to hear. This is something that needs to be said and it needs to be read out at every staff meeting and every board meeting and every shareholders meeting: to remind those that are at the very top that their staff are not just a ‘resource’, they are human beings, human beings that are reaching their limits of capacity and in many cases are already beyond them.

“BEING DEAD IS BAD FOR BUSINESS” 

It may seem shocking for you to read. But I know personally of at least 10 people from the Meta Family who have had life threatening conditions brought on by work related stress in the last 5 years.

So i’ts time for you, the reader of this update, to do something about what is happening to you. You may not be able to change your organisation, but you can change how you treat you. You are tired, you are worn out most likely, so it’s time to begin to look after yourself again. If your work is demanding more and more of you and you cannot see that stopping, then consider your health, consider your family. Being dead is not only bad for business its also bad for families, loved ones and bad for you!

You may think that I am over reacting, but I am not. I am seeing too many people that I love getting seriously ill and it’s time we said something very loud and clear about it. At Meta we stand for a different way of working, a way that is more natural, sustainable and less stressful, where MORE gets done because we are working more effectively, with the natural ebb and flow of our own working patterns, where organisational structures are not based on reducing costs but what will be the most effective to get the work done and where people are thanked for their hard work and rewarded properly for the time and effort they put in.

It’s time that businesses started thanking their staff for frankly saving their skins these last few years. Shareholders, think for a minute, haven’t you earned enough? Isn’t it time to reward your staff for bringing you and your organisation back from the brink to profitability? Directors/Chief executives, isn’t it time that you started thanking your staff for all the hard work they put in and started looking at how to work effectively rather than just harder and faster? Managers/team leaders, make sure that you are looking after yourselves, so that you can find the time to notice, thank and develop your staff and treat them in the way that you would like to be treated.

So what I am saying is this:
It’s time to start looking after you, time to revisit all those tools you’ve learnt from Meta over the years that are to do with self-management and filling your fuel tank. Most of you are now running beyond empty and you really need to take time to refuel and recharge. When you are fuelled up, when you feel that you are in a better more resourceful state, THEN it is easier for you to start standing up for yourself and for your staff. You will start to believe in yourself again, and perhaps you will start to put in some boundaries to stop the tide of work overwhelming you and taking up your precious personal time with your family.

When someone writes your epitaph, you won’t want them to write “He was a bloody hard worker.” Or “She gave her all to that company.”

So let’s put work back into perspective. It’s not the be all and end all. Yes it pays the bills, but it’s not worth killing yourself over and it’s not worth losing quality time with your loved ones either.

Remember the mantra:

‘BEING DEAD IS BAD FOR BUSINESS” – (and it’s even worse for you..)

Got it?? 

If there’s one thing you take away from this update, it’s to look after yourself better and to make sure you begin to create time for you and your family/loved ones. It’s time to re-balance, time to re-focus on what really matters. I’ll leave you with this thought..

How would you like to be remembered?
As a hard worker?

Didn’t think so..

Time for a change, don’t you think?

And you don’t have to do this alone by the way!
Oh no, if you’re reading this you are part of the Meta Family, so if you don’t KNOW how to get the balance back, if you don’t know how to get out of the place you’re in, if you’d like some help or advice, a rant buddy or just a friendly ear, then both me and Di are ALWAYS available to you. Just give us a call or arrange a catch up over a cuppa. We’d love to hear from you, and we’d love to help if we can.

Much love to you all,

Jo xxx

Comments { 0 }

WHAT HAPPENED TO COMPANIES?

We have noticed that almost all organisations these days are called businesses, even those which are essentially services, such as the NHS. In the process of preparing a new book, I have explored the meaning of the different words we use to describe workplaces. This prompted me to look up the word ‘company’, and remind myself that originally it meant somewhere where people broke bread together.

Oh dear! Lots of people don’t even break bread together at home, let alone at work!

The very concept of breaking bread together brings up such a positive image: people eating together, talking together, knowing each other, discussing things that matter in a calm and pleasant atmosphere. Can you imagine what a difference it would make to what goes on at work, if that was part of the daily rituals there?

Instead we have businesses, where people are all too busy doing their never-ending to-do lists to be able to raise their heads and smile at each other, let alone eat together! It is such a loss to our personal well-being and that of the places we work in. Without the simple human contact, we lose touch with what it is all really about – making a positive difference, creating something together that we can be proud of, making enough profit or spare to be able to keep going, delighting our customers – some of those things that are obvious when we have time to stop and reflect..

So this month, why not decide to change from the busy daily rituals, at least once in a while:

  • Smile and say hello to your companions in the company
  • Eat with some of them once in a while
  • Discuss what really matters to the long-term survival of your company, rather than just how you will meet this month’s targets

This not pie in the sky, so to speak! It is humans who make up the major component of a business, and being human is the most important thing they bring to that company – if this were not true, everything would by now be done by computers! So bring your humanness to work this month, and enjoy the fact that you work with other humans – give your business a little bit of company!

 

Comments { 0 }