3 Steps for Creating Meaning

What can we do to make work a place people want to be?

Too often we look at work as a place we go to, and where we can be found from Monday to  Friday for eight to nine hours a day.  This perspective, although true for the workplace in times gone by, is no longer valid or useful today.

Work or Vocation

Amy Wrzesniewski of Harvard Business School carried out a study of cleaning staff in a hospital. She was surprised at how people the viewed the same job differently. Some saw it as way to provide a pay check to pay the bills, while others considered their work to be a true calling. The difference lay in whether or not a worker had strayed from their formal job description and become involved in meaningful interactions and relationships with patients and visitors. Those who had done this found greater meaning in their work.

As one of the workers explained to Wrzesniewski, “I do everything I can to promote the healing of patients. Part of that is about creating clean and sterile spaces in which they can recover, but it also extends to anything else I can possibly do to facilitate healing.” When these workers identified with being a part of the overall care team, it completely transformed their work and identity.

Transactional or Transformational Staff

The two approaches above highlight the differences in the relationship your organization can have with your staff.

  • Transactional – here the focus is on being paid to do the work. Typically you have employees who show up to punch a time clock and who give only a fraction of their energy and effort to the organization’s mission.
  • Transformational – here the focus between the employee and the organization is on the relationship. The employees see meaning in what they do, and the employees go over and beyond what they need to do as they see what they do as contributing to something that is greater than just what they do.

Work for More Than a Living

Gallup conducted research on this topic. When workers across the United States were asked whether their lives were better off because of the organization they worked for, a mere 12 percent claimed that their lives were significantly better. The vast majority of employees felt their company was a detriment to their overall health and well-being.

Transactional relationships make it easy for companies to work someone to the point of burnout, knowing they can hire the next person in line. Everything from organizational hierarchies to compensation structures sends a simple message: you are replaceable.

Organizations need to move from a transactional approach to a transformational approach. We want engaged staff. The reality is this: what’s good for an employee is in the organization’s best interest as well. If you show up for work fully charged, it increases your engagement and leads to better interactions with your colleagues and customers. This is good for your peers, the people you serve, and the long-term interests of the organization.

A 2013 study of more than 12,000 workers worldwide found that employees who derive meaning and understand the importance of their work are more than three times as likely to stay with an organization. Author Tony Schwartz described how this one element has “the highest single impact of any variable” in a study that looked at many elements of a great workplace. Meaningful work was also associated with 1.7 times higher levels of overall job satisfaction. All of this delivers valuable benefits to the organization including the bottom-line.

So What Can You Do

Make your work, and that of your colleagues and report, a purpose – not a place. Help them understand what the greater purpose of the organization is, how they contribute to it, and how they can determine their progress in doing so.  You need to repeat this message continually, and you know they have begun to get it when they can articulate it for themselves.  Make the message clear, consistent and concise in language that they can both understand and relate to. Look to catch people doing the right things, and publicise their success. Most of all be prepared to let go so that they can work in a way that can transform themselves and your organization in successfully serving your customers.

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Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

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Having Meaning & Profit

How meaning and progress drives engagement, the bottom-line and results.

Meaning is something you create, not something that is. Meaning is a powerful tool as it can help you from dwelling on factors and conditions that are beyond your control; and you can create a little meaning for yourself, and others, every day. This helps to give people better focus and a sense of control as they work on what they can influence. Meaning is central not just to your personal purpose and existence but also to that of your organization.

Meaning is also important as it increases the level of individual and collective engagement, and this has been proven to contribute directly to the bottom-line as well as providing other benefits. Meaning occurs not just in what you do, but in the progress you make in what you do. As such it is small wins that generates meaningful progress. Research from Harvard Business School’s Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer concluded: “Of all the events that engage people at work, the single most important — by far — is simply making progress in meaningful work.”

Meaning also provides intrinsic motivation and elevates your thinking above yourself and your own monetary needs. “Helping people focus on the meaning and impact of their work, rather than on, say, the financial returns it will bring, may be the best way to improve not only the quality of their work but also — counterintuitive though it may seem — their financial success” (Wrzesniewski).

Andrew’s 3 Steps for Creating Meaning

One of the most important elements of building a great career and life is attaching what you do each day to a broader mission. Until you understand how your efforts contribute to the world, you are simply going through the motions each day. Use these three steps for yourself, and your team, to create meaning by:

  1. Start by asking why your current job or role even exists. In most cases, jobs are created because they help another person, make a process more efficient, or produce something people need.
  2. Once you have identified how your efforts create a better life for others, consider what you could do to deliver a better product to the people you serve. This is the type of daily impact you can have in your interactions with your friends, family, colleagues, and customers. But it takes effort to determine exactly how your interactions charge the environment around you every day. Start by attaching meaning to small interchanges. Over time, you will be able to connect the dots between your efforts and a larger purpose.
  3. Identify one or two key actions that you can take, every day, which will help you to create the daily impact you are looking for.

Work on this for yourself, share it with your team and colleagues and get them to share theirs with you in turn. Work with each other to keep yourselves on track so that you can make these actions into new positive habits.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

 

How to Handle Stress

A simple lesson for managing your stress. 

I’d like to share a short story I came across a long time ago. While it is short, the story is full of insights, learning, and wisdom.

“A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?” Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz. 

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” 

She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.” It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down!?

So what can we learn from this?

Stress is dependent on two things. Firstly, how you frame the situation you are in will inform how you might experience it. Secondly, how you actually experience is a matter of your choice. So if you don’t like the results you are getting, then change your choice.  Looking to change the results you are getting without changing what you are doing, without taking action, is pointless. Change requires action, change without action is just wishful thinking.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

3 Factors for Fast Prioritization

The three factors by which to prioritize quickly and easily.

People, when listing their top issues, often include time management as the cause of many of the problems.  This is not an issue.

Put plainly, the issue of time management is a fallacy.  We all have 24 hours a day, 168 hours a week and 61,320 hours a year.  No more, no less.  The underlying problem for what people call ‘time management’ is the ability to prioritise and making choices.  If something is important to you, then you may choose to do something about it – conversely, you may not.  Importance does not equate to action – how many times have you procrastinated over something even if it was of importance?

You need to establish your priorities, for that you need to have clear criteria so that you can properly assess between your options.  One way that I use is to apply 3 criteria:

  • Seriousness – how important is the matter that you are evaluating (1=Low, 5=Average, 10=High);
  • Urgency – how quickly does this matter need to be attended to; is there a window of opportunity that it needs to be addressed in (1=Low, 5=Average, 10=High);
  • Growth – if you do nothing then will the matter get worse, stay the same or improve (1=Improve, 5=Stay the Same, 10=Worsen)

Score each item for each of the 3 criteria out of 10.  Multiply the 3 numbers – this will give you a value which you can compare with that of the items being evaluated so that you can initially establish the relative priorities of all the items.

Once you have established your priorities you then choose which ones to address or not.  It is your choice, no-one else’s.  So step up, make your choice and be honest with yourself – you have made your choice, so take responsibility for it.  If you choose to work late and miss your child’s first concert then be prepared to take the consequences, whatever they may be.

Time management is not the problem – the real problem is you setting your priorities and making your choices.  Only you can determine them, so let’s be honest and not blame an imaginary problem of time management.

What do you feel?  How do you prioritise and make your choices?  Share your ideas, insights and experience!  Share the knowledge, share the wealth.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

The 1 Thing Most People Want from Their Boss

How you can improve employee commitment and engagement by demonstrating respect?

A recent Forbes article revealed that 65% percent of people would rather have a different boss than a raise!

Take that in for a moment; people would trade money for a better boss. Furthermore, a recent study by Harvard Business Review of 20,000 employees around the world found that the most important things managers want from their managers is respect.

So as a leader how do you demonstrate and provide respect to your people?

Here are a number of things you can do:

  • Goals – be clear on what you want them to do and achieve. What are their goals and how do they contribute to a greater purpose? Make sure you are clear on how this fits into what you are looking to achieve.
  • Learning – help your staff understand what they need to learn, and why, so they can perform to the best of their ability.  You also need to ensure that they have the necessary access to the skills development and support in developing the necessary capabilities and capacity.
  • Communication – help them to communicate with you. In doing this make sure your people are not only able to communicate with you, but that you create an environment where they can take the initiative and responsibility for communicating and engaging with you.
  • Empathy – help people to understand where you are coming from, and actively listen to understand where they are coming from. In doing so help them to understand what your priorities and why they are important. Look to help them align them with the goals of your business.
  • Relationships – respect is based on knowing and understanding each other. Help people to understand how they ‘fit’ into the team and contribute. Help them to answer for themselves the question “How can I help?” This allows you and them to develop the necessary insights, advice, and understanding on how you can both work together most effectively.
  • Feedback – you need to provide timely and regular feedback to others as to how they are performing and how they can improve.
  • Reflection – take time out to reflect and think about how you are working with others, and how they may perceive you as a result.

You may be the boss, but everything with your people runs along a two-way street. Being a boss does not give you respect, you have to earn it. These tips will help you to develop the respect that you need to have to operate with the active support and endorsement of your people.

So what are the benefits of this? Well, no other leader behavior had a bigger effect on employees. Being treated with respect is more important to employees than recognition and appreciation, communicating an inspiring vision, providing useful feedback — even opportunities for learning, growth, and development.

Those that get respect from their leaders reported 56% better health and well-being, 1.72 times more trust and safety, 89% greater enjoyment and satisfaction with their jobs, 92% greater focus and prioritization, and 1.26 times more meaning and significance. Those that feel respected by their leaders were also 1.1 times more likely

So, in improving how your people perceive they are treated with respect, how are you going to do this and what are you going to do first? Now is the perfect time to start!

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

3 Steps to Overcome Your Obstacles

“Bad companies are destroyed by the crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them”  – Andy Grove, co-founder of Intel

I know the commonly accepted thinking is that to be more successful you need to address and leverage your strengths, not your weaknesses. I have even written an article on this previously. But I would like to share with you a complementary but slightly different perspective.

The thinking is that if your focus on improving your strengths you can raise the level of your performance to a higher level; whereas if you look to improve your weakness you are likely only to raise it to an acceptable level of performance, not a higher level of performance. The reason for this is that this particular area, your weakness, is not particularly well aligned with your capabilities (if it was it would be a strength) and so it is harder for you to maintain an improved level of performance, and you are likely to slip back to a lower level. With strengths, because your capabilities are aligned with them, you are able to sustain this improvement in performance.

The thinking here is not to ignore your weaknesses, but by being aware of what they are (and being honest with yourself about them), you can work with others whose strengths complement and compensate for your weaknesses (and similarly you do the same for them).

However, great individuals, like great companies, can find a way to transform weakness into a strength. So how do they do this?

“Within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition…”

Great people and great leaders see the obstacles that they face – whether they are external or internal to them – for what they are, and have the ingenuity and will to tackle them effectively. Your obstacles may be mental, physical, emotional or perceived – but you can tackle these weaknesses and make them strengths.  You do this by taking the perspective of “I can make this good” – whatever the obstacle may be. This is not being naively optimistic, but rather seeing the obstacle as a new opportunity to progress or go in a better direction.

3 Steps in Overcoming Obstacles

Overcoming obstacle is a discipline and a process. The process is simple, but it is not easy, and it consists of three steps:

1. Perception – how do you look at your specific problems or obstacles? What is your attitude or approach?  How you perceive, frame and approach an obstacle will determine how likely you are to overcome it.

2. Action – how dedicated are you to taking action? (because with no action there is no change or progress). And what creativity can you bring along in addressing the obstacle that will turn them into opportunities?

3. Will – do you have the on-going inner strength and desire to continue with this process, even if you experience adverse conditions or poor results?

Use this process to help you embrace your obstacles and weaknesses, and in doing so you can turn them into strengths. And when you have strengths then you can leverage them to great effect.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

How to Become More Objective

How to build your ability to be objective.

A common mistake made by managers is to equate what they think with what they know. But there is a world of difference, let me explain.

At the core of this is being able to differentiate between the objective and the subjective perspective of the matter to hand. Take the phrase, “This happened and it is bad”.  This consists of two impressions. The first – “This happened” – is objective; the second – “it is bad” – is subjective.

The difference between the two is what you see (objective) and what you perceive (subjective). The former is simply is what is there, the latter is how you interpret it. The former is strong in helping you address the problems or opportunities, the latter is weak.

As managers and leaders we need first to understand the reality of the situation as it is. Not as we think it might be. You cannot get to grips with what you need to do, or how you are going to deal with a situation, if you cannot understand it properly. So be objective, this requires you to remove the “you” – the subjective part – from the process of consideration. This is not hard to do – just think of a time when you have given advice to a friend or colleague. When you do this the problem is clear and the solution is obvious as we are not encumbered with all the ‘baggage’ that our friend or colleague has when looking at it.  It is case of being able to see the wood for the trees, and only then do you start to think about possible solutions.

Four Steps for Being Objective

There are four steps you can take and use with any problem or opportunity you need to consider or evaluate. These are:

1. Look at the problem/opportunity and pretend it is not happening to you. Ask yourself, “If this was happening to my friend, what would I tell him/her?”

2. Assume the problem/opportunity is not important.  This makes it easier for you to know what to do.

3. Think of the ways that someone (not you) could solve this problem/opportunity.  This is about gaining clarity (e.g. “What would Richard Branson do?”)

4. Repeat the process.  Doing this will help you to develop your “objectivity muscle” and to help you see things for what they are.

Doing this on a regular basis helps you to develop your objective vision and make it strong, rather than depending on your myopic subjective vision.

So what are you waiting for to get started?  Try this for yourself. Don’t forget, if you find this hard, then you can always phone a friend and ask them – they will be objective for you!

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.