THE IMPORTANCE OF TRUST

During career counselling, I often hear people say they quit their jobs because their work environment was toxic. When I ask them why, a lot of them say they had a horrible boss. When I asked them why they were horrible, if often boiled down to the same answer: they didn’t trust their boss.

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I never really thought about it before, but a lot of leaders lack this characteristic. They are not able to inspire trust into others. But trusting your leaders and your co-workers is essential to being happy at work.

My current workplace has a great culture for that matter and it’s based on Patrick Lencioni’s bestselling management books. Lencioni wrote about dysfunctions of teams and trust is one of the essential building blocks for a team to work properly.

You can find more information about the philosophy here:

https://www.tablegroup.com/books/dysfunctions

 

Interview with Laurence Vanhée, Chief Happiness Officer

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Laurence Vanhée, Chief Happiness Officer (www.happyformance.com)

 

How did you become a Chief Happiness Officer (CHO)?

I used to work as a vice president for a corporate HR company. I left the company because I struggled with a burnout for 11 months. After this period of reflection, I promised myself I would never be unhappy at work anymore.

What does a Chief Happiness Officer do?

To me, a CHO is all about change management, company culture and organization. You put employee happiness at the center of the company, along with performance. A CHO thinks along with the CEO and management about how to combine these two. But in the end, you give employees the freedom to make certain choices regarding tools, time management, offices, devices, etc. You give them the responsibility.

Have you encountered criticism or mockery regarding your title as CHO?

In the beginning, yes. I started out in 2011 and it wasn’t easy. I had to fight off the jokes until’ I started showing them results and KPI’s. That quickly changed their minds (laughs)! Less absenteeism, more retention, a better corporate branding to attract talent, more creativity, … What kind of company would resist these results? Of course, some people find it too hard to change certain habits and don’t want to participate. But we give them an opportunity to be heard and to be seen, and if they don’t want to change, it’s their choice.

What are 3 characteristics of a good CHO?

A CHO is not just a feel good manager!

I see a lot of CHO’s popping up in companies in France. They usually organize activities that focus on fun. To me, a CHO is much more than that. You need to have a strategic mind, you need a lot of courage and you have to be honest. You have to believe that what you’re doing is changing the company for the best. It takes a lot of energy and it isn’t always easy. It’s often a systemic and holistic approach. If you change one shackle in a company, it will have an effect on another shackle. Especially in the managerial world, it’s not easy to change rigid hierarchic structures.

Can you give us an example of how the CHO-philosophy changed something?

I used to work with a very talented woman. She was my right-hand colleague. She had so much potential but she was being left behind in the organization because she did not have the right degree. I did not want to lose her, but I told her to look for a job outside the organization. Today, she’s a manager of a crematory and she and her team have just won an award for best crematory in the world.

Ultimately, it’s a combination of 3 questions: what am I good at? What do I love? And what’s useful for the company?

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Thank you Laurence! Find out more about her work as a CHO on www.happyformance.com

The power of intrapreneurship

Wikipedia will tell you intrapreneurship is the act of behaving like an entrepreneur while working within a large organization. It’s the “practice of a corporate management style that integrates risk-taking and innovation approaches, as well as the reward and motivational techniques, that are more traditionally thought of as being the province of entrepreneurship.”

Intrapreneurship takes the sexiness and the appeal of entrepreneurship and incorporates it within an existing company. It’s also the possibility to generate and develop ideas within your company. You could even say it’s pure talent management. The right talent at the right place in an organization could possibly come up with outstanding ideas for business development. But in order to accomplish that, you need management and a corporate culture that allows these ideas and talents and to have a intrapreneurship-playground.

In an interesting Forbes read, Clinton Senkow, COO of Influencive and former intrapreneur at Influencive, talks about a few strategies for excelling at intrapreneurship – empowering your team is one of them.

One company called Intuit even built an entire support system for their “intrapreneurs”. In this Harvard Business Review article, Intuit interestingly states it’s important to ‘support, don’t control‘ and to ‘make it easy to conduct the first experiment‘.

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This isn’t exactly a new idea. But it could help you to keep your employees in your company. If they can take on new or different roles, they could be able to keep themselves challenged. And the right amount of challenge in your job is often a strong motivator. And a way of not getting bored. Plus, the employees that like to co-work and don’t come up with grand ideas, are often happy to take part and execute bottom-up projects.

I’m even convinced some entrepreneurs would be better off as intrapreneurs, and vice versa. It’s a matter of understanding what drives you and probably how much you can cope with (financial) risks as well.

The power of impact

Impact is a word that is often used when talking about working with millennials. Millennials want to work with purpose, and they want to have an impact, it is said.

I think this is a result of our current bureaucratic system. In the course I’m following onc Coursera (‘Managing the company of the future’), professor Julian Birkinshaw talks about how bureaucracy can create a disempowerment of employees.

Employees can become a shackle in a paperwork-chain of rules, procedures and formalities. They are given a chunk of a manager’s responsibilities and they just need to perform. But they often don’t really see the end result.

When I look at recent developments with people I know and friends I have, I see this trend coming up as well. A lot of people tend to ‘go back’ to manual labour, because you can see the ‘fruit of your labour’ as Birkinshaw puts it.

They take up jobs in construction or start painting as a hobby. The fruit of your labour plus a feeling of satisfaction is your impact. You could try to figure out what gives you this feeling, how you could actually see the fruit of your labour. What job that would entitle.

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I used to work as a teacher. In our current education system, and in the schools I used to work, I didn’t really feel I had an impact. I was doing my very best to help my student develop themselves. But if I really wanted to be efficient, the system wasn’t helping. There were all kinds of final attainment goals to take into account, and it restricted my creativity and these kids often needed an adaptive style of teaching.

So I tried out tutoring and counseling students outside the system, and that’s were satisfaction kicked in. Suddenly, I received text messages from students saying “I got an 15/20 for my English exam and I couldn’t have done it without you.” and I was all smiles.

The company of the future

I’ve recently started a course on Coursera by The London Business School about “Managing the company of the future”.

In this course, professor Julian Birkinshaw teaches us how our current management models are based on traditional ways of looking at how we work.

He talks about the Industrial Era and how everything was based on controlling factory workers (a concept that Frederic Laloux equally talks about in his book Reinventing Organizations – check out my earlier blog post about this book.).

Today, we are faced with a ‘Knowledge Area’. Birkinshaw questions how all the available information and knowledge will challenge us in the future. Companies of the future will have to be agile, innovative, and engaging. A lot of the content matches what Eric Ries has to say in the Lean Start-Up about ‘intrapreneurship‘.*

The course is free if you don’t care about getting the official certificate. Or you can try it out for free and purchase it later. You can enroll here. Professor Julian Birkinshaw is a great teacher and you can download the videos to watch them offline. (I really like watching them in the train!)

What I equally wrote down was ‘paralysis by analysis’ or how too much information can cloud your decision-making abilities. This definitely resonated with me. I used to think a lot about how work defined me. It had to include all my hobbies and interests, without even knowing what all my interests were!

 

*intrapreneurship is the act of behaving like an entrepreneur while working in an established company.

 

Forget about ‘finding your unique talent’?

How much easier would our lives be if all of us had one specific talent? Or if we knew what our passion truly was? Most of us don’t really know.

Stanford Professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans wrote a book about designing your life and they say: “Many people operate under the dysfunctional belief that they just need to find out what they are passionate about. Once they know their passion, everything else will somehow magically fall into place. We hate this idea for one very good reason: most people don’t know their passion.” 

These days you can also have many talents or passions and be a ‘multipotentialite’ or a ‘polymath’. (Check out these two TED videos by Emilie Wapnick and Ella Saltmarshe about having multiple interests and talents.)

But now what? How do you get to the point where you know: this is what I should and will do?

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I haven’t finished the book by Evans & Burnett yet, but I can tell you what I’ve learned on my road to work happiness so far.

  • Find out when you’re truly having fun at work & why you’re having fun
  • Find out when you forget about time
  • Find out what you would like to learn
  • Find out if you’re ok working solo – or if you prefer working in a team
  • Don’t just think about your career, think about it in a holistic way – take into account family, friends, me-time, sports, travel, time to read books, time to see your children, etc.

And what if you do know what your passion is?

  • Find out if you really want to pursue your passion all day long (it often comes at a price)
  • Find out if you really want your passion to pay the bills

Trust your gut or trust your brain?

I’ve worked as a recruiter and I’ve applied for many jobs. I’ve been on both sides of the table. The feeling you have about the person interviewing you is very important.

I remember one of my very first job interviews. I was just a student. I remember I instantly disliked the manager I was about to work with. And even if I say so myself, I’m not a difficult person. I get a long with people easily and there’s very little that gets on my nerves. But this guy was so haughty and harsh. But he was to the point, he said the right words, he promised the right things. And I figured it was just a different style. And how difficult could this job be? I went against my gut feeling and accepted the job. It only took me 3 months to realise this guy did not walk the talk at all. He was poisoning the atmosphere at work and undermining my motivation all along.

This got me thinking about intuition. When do you know if you need to think something through rationally? And when do you follow your gut? And how do you know what’s what? Is there such thing as intuition in business? Or in life?

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I dislike all things too spiritual, but haven’t we all witnessed a moment in life where we thought: I knew it. I felt it. I couldn’t have known it. I didn’t listen to myself. Or: I’m so glad I did what I knew I had to do.

In an article by Inc., it says you should listen to your gut “if your gut has a good track record.” Is states your gut could be “rooted in anxiety, or fear of change, or something else entirely. So it’s important to be honest with yourself about all your feelings about a situation, so that you can try to separate that stuff out.”

That makes sense, right? You have to be sure you’re not reacting out of fear or being impulsive about important decisions.

In an article in the Harvard Business Review, author John Lees is quoted: “The primary reason people leave a job is because of either a mismatch in culture or a boss who drives them up the wall”.

Here’s a few do’s and don’ts the article also states:

 “Do:

  • Pay attention to how the manager treats you throughout the interview process
  • Research the manager, and if possible find former employees to ask for their perspective
  • Request to spend a half-day at the organisation so you can interact with your potential colleagues and boss

Don’t:

  • Ignore your gut instincts about the manager as you go through the interview process
  • Ask direct questions about leadership style — you’re unlikely to get an honest answer, and they might signal that you don’t want the job
  • Neglect to look up your potential boss’s social media profiles”

 

*Sources:

 

Bored at work? 3 tips to make it better

  1. Quit! Just kidding.
  2. Take your hobby to work. Find out what your hobbies truly are. Maybe you can incorporate a small part of your hobby into your job. Talk to your co-workers or manager about what excites you or how it could mean something for your company. Having you stay on board is usually in their benefit (except if you’re really slouching big time…).
  3. Speak up. Just talking about the fact you could take on more responsability can change a lot of things. I know it’s hard. I know you don’t really want to say “Hey there, could you give me more work?”. Don’t ask for more work, ask for different work. Or ask for additional training. Ask if you could get transferred to another department. Or even another country, if your company is a multinational! A good manager should listen to your needs. Even to something small like getting off work an hour earlier so you could walk your dog – you never know!
  4. Do something different! You can’t change anything if you’re just reading articles. Here are a few suggestions:
    – Make a list of pros and cons about your job (and pros and cons about leaving or staying).
    – If a large chunk of your day includes sitting in front of a computer, find ways to incorporate fun at the office. Suggest a team building (low in cost), take your hamster to work, etc.
    – Write down the perfect job description and see how big the gap is with your current job.
    – Find a career coach in your area.
    – Find a way to train for another job or industry. There are lot of inspirational and open online courses out there these days (check out my resources).
    – Talk to people that look happy at work and pick their brains.

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The importance of creativity (& 5 tips!)

Lately, I’ve been dreaming of my very own studio to work in. I imagine an old industrial building with lots of light and big spaces. I have my library with all my books, a reading space, a ‘playground’, a space where I can have people over for tea, and two big working surfaces in two corners: one for my computer and one to tinker. Am I an artist? I don’t think so. Am I a creative person? Of course I am. Deep down, we all are.

When I look up ‘creativity‘ in the Cambridge Online Dictionary this is what I get: the ability to produce original and unusual ideas, or to make something new or imaginative. 

I come up with new ideas all the time and I’m sure you do as well. In the book Big Magic, author Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how ideas can fly by and you have to tap into them and make it happen. Ideas are common good, implementation is everything! That’s tricky, right?

Creativity also stands for untapped potential. It’s that thing you want to do at work, but you’re afraid of what people might think. It’s your hobby you kind of want to put on Etsy – but tomorrow. It’s that start-up you’ve been thinking about for years. Or it’s the topic of an article you want to write that pops into your head while you’re under the shower but you never bother to write it down. These are all imaginative things. You need your imagination.

But what if you’re running low on creativity? How can you fire it up again? Here are some tips:

  1. Make a life-mindmap or collage. Don’t just focus on work or one aspect of your life. Include everything that interests you. Yes, it’s allowed.
  2. Think negative. Whut? That’s right. Try to turn everything that’s blocking you, upside down. Can’t find inspiration for your next book? Try to think about what you definitely DON’T want to write about.
  3. Do nothing. And I mean nothing. It’s pretty hard to find creativity. Usually, it kind of implodes like popcorn! The Greek scholar Archimedes shouted Eureka! from his bath tub. And Newton thought about gravity by watching an apple fall from a tree. That means you have to relax in a bath tub. And just watch a tree! Stop googling ‘creativity’. In fact, stop reading this!
  4. Do something good. When you’re trying to solve a problem, you’re being creative. Find out what really irritates you or which problem hurts you the most and find an easy solution.
  5. Watch children. Children are creativity-royalty. Just go and watch them (and preferably not in a creepy way). Go to a trampoline park with your niece or build a giant Lego house with your son. You’ll get it.

 

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3 tips for your road to happiness at work

I’ve been searching for my ‘dream job’ for over a decade, and I still haven’t found it. But I have learned quite a few things on the road to work happiness.

Don’t always blindly follow your passion

Knowing what your passion is or what it is you love to do, is an important step. Just knowing what it is you love, often takes a lot of soul-searching. But for me, it wouldn’t have worked to drop everything and just sail off to the land of passion. I love doing a lot of stuff as a hobby, combining it with a ‘good enough’ job. (Read ‘Refuse to choose‘ by Barbara Sher if you want to know more about this). Following your passion could also easily translate in: run away the minute it gets difficult and you’re building something. However, I think following your passion works if you really know you have a big change of succeeding and rationally it also makes sense, but you’re just very scared. Then I’d say: follow your passion.

You will change

Your identity is not something fixed. It’s eternally influenced by what you learn, what you see, what you experience, whom you talk to, what books you read, etc.
We have this urge to define ourselves with work titles and functions (e.g. “Once I’ll be a manager, I’ll be happy”) or to keep wanting to go higher on the ‘career ladder’. But once you get there, you might realize it was all in your head, and you don’t like being there at all. And that’s ok.

Don’t forget about what truly matters

People that are on a work happiness quest often only think about themselves. I know I did for a very long time. But what about your neighbours, your family, your friends, your wife or your husband? They are often equally important in your life, but because you develop some kind of ‘tunnel view’ focused on work, you forget that they are the ones that make you smile when your working life kind of makes you depressed.

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*Sources:
– Paul Verhaeghe – Identiteit – http://paulverhaeghe.psychoanalysis.be/boeken.html
– Barbara Sher – Refuse to choose – https://www.amazon.de/Refuse-Choose-Revolutionary-Program-Everything/dp/1594866260