A marketing campaign from Heineken during the 20th century (sounds a long time ago!), ‘refreshes the parts that other beers cannot reach,’ has always been stuck in my head and I would like to use an iteration of this to review where we are today, and where I think we are going both at work and in society at large.
We refresh our humanity and bring the best to our organisations and ourselves, I would assert, by operating as whole human beings, something that is still far too rare in my opinion.
Indeed so many of us have operated as ‘less than’ our whole selves, likely due to our thinking and the stories that we tell ourselves that often go unchecked.
This situation is further amplified when we take into account the extra thought-created barriers and layering of history that have been built up over time that now impacts minorities systemically and which must be broken down. I believe that designing our organisations around our human beings, every one of them, is a key antidote to taking down the systemic challenges of our time.
This article is, in part, clarity for me personally that the journey towards creating a new, inclusive system that serves all, making the existing system obsolete, is my lifes work and I will move towards that at home, at work and in society at large, by:
a) utilising my blend of deep commerciality, with over 20 years of international sales & relationship building
b) over 5 years of deep practitioner experience working on and with progressive people, culture and leadership development
- Root cause focus over symptoms focus
I want to start by advising that it is time to have the hard conversations that are so regularly avoided in the workplace.
For generations we have chucked billions at change management programmes (with 70% of them failing!), billions at leadership development (we still have only 1 in 3 people fully engaged at work according to Gallup for well over a decade) and billions at M&A activity to fuel growth as organic growth alone has not been enough (yet how often are people at the coalface doing the job asked their view how to improve, innovate or ideate?)
Q – Does any of the above resonate with you or the clients that you serve?
Q – What could work look like if we focus on the root causes/opportunities at work and not just on symptoms?
Through my own lived experience, recent events and by observing people, organisations and cultures over the past 5 years, individuals and organisations that will thrive as we go forward will be mindful and intentional around the following:
My 5 key trends to unleash people-powered performance for the betterment of all
- Connection to self and others
For generations, emotions and feelings have been suppressed, at home, in school, and in the workplace and you do not need to be a trained psychologist to understand the impact of that, just look at most political leaders today and many organisational boards today. The ego and self-serving interest run deep.
As someone, myself that was bullied repeatedly aged 12 & 13, physically & mentally, and then later in the workplace, lacking the emotional maturity to sit in, feel, process and let go of those emotions became a 25 year battle with my own mind and a range of dysfunctions that were associated with that along the way.
I truly believe that developing emotional maturity and intelligence and I would add spiritual/soul intelligence, will be super-powers as we continue to navigate rapid, iterative change.
The good news is that this intelligence already sits within us, we just need to be intentional about looking inside of ourselves for signals and insight, and not relying on only the outside world for the same.
My podcast with Bart Scholtissen on Ep 84 of the Value through Vulnerability podcast boosted by Humans First spoke to this beautifully.
By doing the inner work, acknowledging both the good and the no so good experiences of our life’s journey, however we define that, we can develop new, healthier beliefs and ways of being.
Q – Are you clear as to what you value most?
Q – Do you feel comfortable expressing emotion, at work, and/or at home? Why?
Q – What could your relationships look and feel like, at home and at work, if you were able to reduce the layers of armour that you carry around?
- Growing your business through intentionally growing and including your people
Q – Would you like to add €6m in sales and €1.5m of margin over a 3 year period from people are ALREADY paying salaries to?
I co-led one such change, the legacy of which is still strong and embedded 2 years later today.
The growth of your organisation cannot rely on M&A alone, organic growth is key to sustainability and indeed regeneration of your people and the markets that you serve.
Therefore designing your organisational structures such that they allow room for your people to truly thrive, individually and collectively, is key.
Q – What percentage of the people that you recruit people are experts/at the top of their learning curve on joining you?
Using my unique blend of deep commerciality and deep people and culture understanding, I offer strategy sessions to help you co-create the structures and practices that you need to help unleash the potential and discretionary effort of your people, people you are already paying salaries to.
- Change as ‘business as usual’ (BAU)
I am currently writing a book called Change Is An Inside Job, you can follow the journey here if curious, and through that, I have razor-sharp clarity that change is a constant and that is also one thing that the recent pandemic has proved.
So why is it that every system that currently exists is built on ‘perceived’ certainty and assurance?
– The financial markets
– Goals & objectives
– Financial budgets
– Performance reviews
– Job descriptions
The list goes on. Yes, some will say Taylorism and other management philosophies underpin this, but change has always been a constant, it is now amplified due to technology and the speed and availability of information.
For example, some organisations spend up to 4 months of each year planning, or guessing, what the next year’s numbers will look like despite having zero control over what will happen tomorrow. Is that you? Why, as in really why do you do this?
Q – Why not just insert the numbers that you need for the market and give your people 4 months of their lives back?
Another example is that some organisations have such rigid job descriptions of the job that needs to be done that they squeeze every ounce of creativity and innovation out of a human to make sure that the ‘job gets done.’
Q – What could you do to design work so that the core job to be done is only 20-30% of the requirement, leaving 70-80% of the role to be crafted and shaped to fit the individual, thereby unleashing a more whole, innovation and higher-performing version of themselves?
Our people have the innate ability to change, to iterate, to innovate and we are ALREADY paying them salaries in many cases.
Q – What could you do today to start to unleash more of those innate gifts by embracing change as business as usual?
To help you navigate rapid, iterative change I have developed a virtual collaboration workshop that can support rapid synthesis, catalysing and operationalising of insight from your people.
One example that I led recently involved an international team of 29 people who together ‘hacked’ 502 data points and which resulted in over 40 co-created ideas how to work more effectively across two decentralised teams, and all of this within less than 6 hours, over 2 days.
- Inclusion by design, not as an add-on
Even before the recent amplification of the race conversation, which I have learned so much more about I must add due to recent events, I have been in regular contact with many people that work in the diversity & inclusion space and the overwhelming feedback that I hear from humans with a range of different skin tones, is that we will not see a systemic change until we view and intentionally design organisations to be inclusive.
That is a root-cause intervention, compared with the often symptomatic box-ticking exercise despite the best efforts of many in the space, and here is my beef with an (over)reliance on ‘evidence.’
We have the scientific-based evidence that celebrating differences and embracing more diversity and inclusion is better for business, but little is changing! Why? I believe a lack of connection to self for many senior leaders, fear of loss of power and self-serving, and not a servant-leader mindset.
One black peer advising that ‘D&I is dead’ in relation to the fact that D&I budgets get cut at the time when they are most needed.
Q – If you are currently cutting your D&I budget and you state that people are your greatest asset on your website, may I invite you to reflect upon this?
One brilliant reflection from one of my friends was that “you know the importance of a topic to an organisation by the amount of budget that it gets!”
Q – If you are a leader within an organisation, what practices or beliefs are stopping minorities and/or people of colour accessing the opportunities that others have access to?
Q – What conversations or workshops could you run to better understand the lived experience of the diverse people that work within your organisation, from all backgrounds?
The curious thing about the D&I conversation is that we are all innately included on a human level, yet parental, educational, and societal systems then layer up thinking over time such that we start to see ourselves as separate and more or less than.
We have, I sense, a huge opportunity to move this conversation forward right now but we:
a) Need to lean into the conversation around which practices and beliefs are discriminatory and that needs all of us involved with white people leading
b) We need to see and embrace inclusion as not only a human right, but good business sense
- Listening prioritised over talking
During a recent HumansFirst EMEA call one of our peers shared that “due to the pandemic, I am now seeing and sensing like never before as I am operating at 40-50% speed and not running at 90-100%.”
This resonates so much with me personally, such that I am reflecting on decisions about long-haul flights, the necessity for business travel, friendships, and more.
Think about the ‘average’ meeting that you attended pre-pandemic? I am pretty sure that the majority were talk-fests where the 2 or 3 dominant voices said everything, half of it irrelevant or of minimal value add, yet you lost 2 hours of your life that you will not get back.
Oh, that happens 4 times per week too!
Q – What would meetings look like if you reimagined them today? Virtual? In-person? Re-designed to ensure that everyone is heard?
Deep, generative listening as my friend and Thinking Environment expert Jane Adshead-Grant teaches, holds within it a truly transformational power, yet it takes, again, intentionality to adopt such a way of being, especially within the workplace.
Q – How do you think you would feel and what insight may emerge if you were able to speak your mind, free from judgment or interruption, for an extended period of time?
There is so much wisdom, insight, and innovation that sits within every single person, yet we need to prize slowing down and listening over speeding up and talking.
Q – Could you run a listening experiment within one of your teams over a short period of time the share that experience with the rest of the company?
P³ EcoSystem of people-powered performance
I have developed the P³ EcoSystem of people-powered performance as a human-centred frame to help intentionally design your business and organisation around your people, thereby realising improved outcomes for all, with accompanying support offered by both myself and my affiliate network as required.
This approach is grounded in experiential learning, not in best practice, evidence, or being right.
You and your people will co-create the evidence and insight that you need as you iterate, so this is about getting used to and embracing change as business as usual.
Again I approach this through a blended lens of deep commerciality AND deep culture, people and organisational understanding.
Aequip is a technology start-up that is developing a mobile-first double feedback and listening loop that will help ensure that every voice is heard across and within an organisational system.
This is particularly important and an intentional focus of the team to serve SME and enterprise organisations that operate with a mix of deskless and de-centralised workers, multi-site operations, and those that are deemed to be an essential service.
I am grateful to be part of the strategic advisory team to Aequip and you will see from my 5 predictions above, the Aequip approach and technology is an incredibly well-aligned fit to what I envision the now and future of work to look like and feel like and I would invite you to learn more about them by:
– Visiting their website at www.aequip.co.uk
Now really is the time to truly, finally, treat your people as your most important asset and I would welcome any feedback, challenges, or additional thoughts that you may have on reading this article.
Indeed, how refreshing it would be for many more organisations to unleash and reach the humanity of more of their people. I would raise a glass to that.
I hope to hear from you soon and do let me know if you are curious to chat further.