Can you remeber a time when you were highly productive and gained enourmous satisfaction from work, when you had seemingly limitless amounts of energy? Well if you’ve ever been there, what you were experiencing is called flow.
Mihàly Csìkszentmihàlyi, the psychologist studied thousands of people, and observed that people who were working at their full potential were experiencing what he called “flow”.
So how do you generate that feeling in others? How do you create a work environment that enables people to work at their full potential.
McKinsey suggests a few ways in this article . The article pinpoints the conditions that made this level of performance possible:
- The first thing is role clarity: People know know what is expected of them and the resources needed to get the job done.
- The second factor is the quality of interactions: Trust, respect, creative conflict, a sense of humour and teamwork.
- Finally there is vision: People get in the flow when there are high stakes, a challenge, and doing something that matters, will make a difference.
I keep running into the same set of factors when looking at what creates magic in the workplace. So what are you doing to create flow in those with whom you work?
There’s a great interview of Seth Godin on Copyblogger. Worth a read, I’m still laughing from reading it.
The best line was when Seth was asked whether he writes every day. His response: “Do you talk every day?”
As all of you know, I’m trying out this writing thing (having read prodigiously all my life) and am really enjoying it. I write fast and as you know, not well, but I’m learning and hopefully I’ll figure it out some day.
Meanwhile, I have been writing like a madman for 18 months now and frequently end up sending somebody something that they just don’t read. I mean they don’t even get far enough to get turned off by my turgid and dense prose.
I’ve run into this problem before and used to be dismayed by the fact that many people don’t seem to like reading. Seth’s pairing of reading with talking made me realize that I shouldn’t be so upset. Lots of people don’t like listening either.
It’s hard to soar with the eagles when you’re surrounded by turkeys.
Do you have a passion for quality, in product, process, or people? If you don’t then why not? Is it because you don’t really care about your company’s mission, you’re turned off by a boss who doesn’t care, or you’re surrounded by people who don’t care?
If you find yourself disengaged then either it’s time to step up to the plate and engage those around you or it’s time to move.
Employee engagement is the key to engaged customers and better results.
If you don’t believe me then perhaps you’ll believe the Gallup Organization who says it well in this post.
While Sam Walton was a great believer in identifying weaknesses, he didn’t focus on them. Yesterday’s blog was not meant to advocate a focus on weaknesses, just to say that ignoring them is not productive. In fact, what you want to focus on are strengths.
The book, Strengths Finder by Tom Rath lays out the findings from some great research done by the Gallup organization on employee engagement.
Make today a Strengths day. Go out and compliment a few people today.
Are you really engaged in your job? Chances are good that you aren’t. Well, Towers Watson just released Their 2012 Global Workforce Study. According to the study, 65% of you are not highly engaged at work. That would make employee engagement one of the biggest problems for companies these days.
“For optimal engagement in the modern workplace, employers must create a combination of discretionary effort (the willingness to work extra hard), enablement (the capability to excel), and energy (the capacity to maintain efforts over time). Old methods focused solely on discretionary effort, but any organization that wants to yield a significant performance advantage must combine all three elements to forge sustainable engagement.”
While this is a bad thing for you and probably for your employer, it might not be a bad thing for the economy. According to another source, a blog on HBR:
“What do 70% of successful entrepreneurs have in common? They all incubated their business ideas while employed by someone else. Indeed, most people start their own companies — or go freelance — in order to stop working for others. Why? Because most managers are simply unbearable. Year after year, Gallup reports that most employees are unhappy at work, and that the number one reason for dissatisfaction is their boss.”
So if you’re not engaged, what are you doing with your time? If it’s because your manager is unbearable then get moving. Find another job or better yet, create one yourself and free yourself from the tyranny of bad bosses.
McKinsey has done some interesting research and written a great article on how leaders kill meaning at work. I had a conversation recently with a friend who is a recruiter and we were discussing (not gossiping) about a variety of people we know who are serial tormenters. They go from job to job, tormenting new people at every organization. The recruiting system must be broken if this keeps going on. I guess they get good references from current employers in the hopes that they’ll leave.
The funny thing is that the serial tormenters I know don’t even realize that they are doing it. They seem to think everyone else is doing something wrong. Where do serial tormenters come from? Are serial tormenters born or are they made? Do they learn from being tormented themselves? Great research ideas if anyone out there has time.
Ask yourself: Do you work for a serial tormenter? Could you be one yourself? Would you know it if you were one?
Trust academics to study everything. You might have read last week’s rant on whether leaders are born or made. Sure enough, some very distinguished academics attempted to use research to figure this out.
Heritability and Leadership
To study whether leaders are born or made one group of researchers used identical and fraternal twins. “Preliminary evidence using a behavioral genetics approach has shown that approximately 30% of the variation in leadership style and emergence was accounted for by heritability; the remaining variation was attributed to differences in environmental factors such as individuals having different role models and early opportunities for leadership development (Arvey et al. 2007*).
Because identical twins have 100% of the same genetic makeup and fraternal twins share about 50%, this behavioral genetics research was able to control for heritability to examine how many leadership roles the twins emerged into over their respective careers. In this and subsequent research for both men and women across cultures, similar results were obtained. The authors conducting this research conclude that the “life context” one grows up in and later works in is much more important than heritability in predicting leadership emergence across one’s career.”
I’m glad that debate is done and we can turn to actually figuring out how to develop people as leaders instead of inventing tests to identify leadership capabilities at birth.
*Arvey RD, Zhang Z, Avolio BJ, Krueger RF. 2007. Developmental and genetic determinants of leadership role occu- pancy among women. J. Appl. Psychol. 92:693–706
Research from the Center for Creative Leadership attempted to answer the question of whether leaders are born or made. You can read the research here. While 52% of the respondents believe that leaders are made, fully 19% believe that people are born leaders. A further 28% believe that they are both born and made.
I found it to be a very strange topic to research. If you look at the results, 48% of people would appear to believe that you need to be born with leadership capabilities to become a leader and of those, 19% think that no amount of training can help. I suppose that those who believe that you need to have some innate leadership capability would be those that support streaming of children in early grades or that an aristocracy is a better form of government than a meritocracy. The same discussion takes place all the time in the world of entrepreneurship wherein people attempt to pontificate about whether entrepreneurs are born or made.
It is a silly discussion as it doesn’t get us anywhere as a society. We need entrepreneurs and we need leaders. Every single person has some degree of entrepreneurial spirit and some degree of leadership capability. Leadership does not only happen at the CEO level or in politics. Each and every person needs to perform some act of leadership even if that is only providing a vision and motivating oneself to get through the day. Every person in a working environment who collaborates with others needs to perform small acts of leadership on a daily basis.
I’m hoping that the Center for Creative Leadership come out soon with a study about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Perhaps instead of arguing about whether leaders are born or made, we should be trying to figure out how to accelerate their growth as fully 81% seem to believe that this is possible..
Some time ago I subscribed to Harvard Business Review (for the umpteenth time), just to get a collection of articles called Leadership Insights. The first in the collection is a reprint of Henry Mintzberg’s “The Manager’s Job”. If you haven’t read it recently, it is worth a re-read. Based on a review of research into how manager’s spend their time it debunks a lot of old folklore and although it was first written in 1975, is still applicable today.
What struck me the most was at the very end of the article. In it Mintzberg states that management schools have done”an admirable job of training the organization’s specialists – management scientists, marketing researchers, accountants, and organizational development specialists. But for the most part they have not trained managers.”
And Now Time For a Rant
It’s sad to think that 40 years after Mintzberg first published a book on this subject, we are still not doing a better job training managers. This training is still not happening in MBA programs for the most part and few companies are doing it well. A friend told me that she is studying for an exam to enable her to become a Certified Meeting Professional. If there is a course for meeting professionals, just as there is for Corporate Trainers, Project Managers, Aestheticians, and a host of other disciplnes, why is there no course or certification for managers, something that 10s of millions of people do worldwide?