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Keeping Mum

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One aspect of diversity and inclusion that’s not often discussed is how well organisations treat women returning after maternity leave, and the impact this can have on engagement.

An article in HR magazine that caught our attention recently discusses how the attitudes organisations have towards maternity leave affects women when they return to work.

Just like any of us, mothers returning to work need to feel a sense of belonging to their organisations. They want to feel as much a part of the organisational culture as they did before they left. But how a mothers' time away is viewed by line managers and the wider organisation can have a significant impact on engagement and performance. 

Subconscious bias can lead to women feeling stereotyped and judged on their return to work, with employers discussing availability issues and changes in priorities.

The research carried out reveals some solutions, however:

  • Organisations who view maternity leave as a brief interlude rather than a major disruption are more likely to retain high-performing mothers.

  • Importance of buddy schemes - new mothers felt more inspired to progress in their careers when they had role models they could look up to.       

  • Organisations need to be more inclusive of parents by introducing initiatives such as adoption leave, shared parental leave and flexible working.

If we look at our own organisations, what is being done to ensure mothers can re-engage easily and give their best? The risk of losing key talent is too great to ignore.

To explore more impacts of subconscious bias come to our next Breakfast of Change on Diversity and Inclusion - details below.

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Once a quarter we bring together a cross-section of people for a unique Breakfast of Change. Each event brings fresh thinking to a challenge holding individuals and organisations back. 

Using the power of the network to explore new possibilities, Breakfast of Change kickstarts the day and reinvigorates the agent of change in each of us.

Join our next Breakfast of Change on 12th July, 8.30-10.45am in King's Cross, London. Click here for details and to reserve your spot. 

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Beyond the Gender Agenda - Overcoming Unconscious Bias

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Two candidates are shortlisted for a job vacancy. They both have exceptional skills and experience, so why do we favour one over the other?  

Subconsciously, our final choice is likely to be biased by age, race, gender, or any other social stereotype.

While we may not be aware of our below-the-radar biases, they can lead to serious consequences in the composition of our teams and networks - and the long-term success of our organisations.

Dangers of unconscious bias

Research has shown that unconscious bias can strongly influence recruitment and selection decisions. A manager who is educated to degree level might favour other graduates, ignoring the wider, more experienced pool of talent. Unconscious bias may make more extraverted managers reject quieter more talented candidates.

Why does it matter?

  • Workforce diversity is a key driver of innovation.
  • Diverse organisations attract and energise the best global talent, enabling a diverse range of opinions and more informed problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Greater growth - a study carried out by McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity had 15% better returns.
  • More diverse organisations have access to a more wide range of customers, opening up new markets and audiences.

The benefits are clear. So what can you do to overcome to help your managers and organisations overcome unconscious bias and create a more inclusive culture?  

A good place to start is by joining us for the next Breakfast of Change, Beyond the Gender Agenda, to explore how we can overcome unconscious bias to create more inclusive workplaces.

For limited time only, get a 50% discount when you use code catalyst50 - only £10 per person.  

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Gender Equality: Good For All

In this fascinating TED talk, Michael Kimmel explores how gender equality benefits men just as much as women.

The virtues for women may seem obvious - whether it’s narrowing the gender pay gap, smashing through the glass ceiling or simply taking a more balanced approach to housekeeping and childcare.

But the idea of gender equality has some interesting perks for men as well. Men are able to have a better work-life balance when their wives are able to be just as committed to their careers as they are.

When men share housework and childcare, their children do better in school. They have lower rates of absenteeism, higher rates of achievement.

It is also good for companies. Research by Catalyst and others has shown conclusively that the more gender-equal companies are, the better it is for workers, the happier their labor force is. They have lower job turnover. They have lower levels of attrition. They have an easier time recruiting. They have higher rates of retention, higher job satisfaction, higher rates of productivity.

The film reveals many of the rewards gained from gender equality and the impact it has on our wellbeing as humankind. So we need to empower not only women but men as well to become a part of the dialogue. It’s only then we’ll be able to create more diverse, inclusive cultures, and happier, more productive teams.

Come join our next Breakfast of Change, Beyond the Gender Agenda, to explore how we can overcome unconscious bias to create more inclusive workplaces.

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Employee Engagement: Inside and Out

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It’s little surprise that feeling connected to our organisation’s mission drives positive performance at work - when we buy into the purpose of what we’re doing we’re willing to go that extra mile as we feel the company’s success is allied to our own.

But feeling engaged with our work benefits us as much as our organisation. We’re happier, more focused, self-motivated. We understand our contribution to the organisation and are invested in our personal development.

Each of us is responsible for our own engagement, and that of those around us. So we need to try to recognise what’s working and what’s not, and influence change where necessary. But where do we start?

We need to look inside, and we need to look outside.

Inside lens  

Firstly, take a good look at your team and/or organisation and make an honest assessment of what’s working well about your culture. How are these aspects celebrated? What can be done to make them even better?

Secondly, analyse the gaps - where can things be better? Make a list of the changes you’d like to see. In what ways could people feel more included? What would help them to contribute more positively towards your organisation’s success? Who do you need to influence to make change happen?

Outside lens

Everyday more and more case studies are emerging of organisations who are getting this stuff right. These organisations understand the link between employee engagement and performance, so we can learn from their experience.

For Marks & Spencer for example, shifting from an annualised, action-plan driven approach where engagement was merely seen as another task to be completed to a more committed approach that concentrated on regularly listening to employees - and acting on what they heard - has delivered a year-on-year increase in engagement for the past six years.

This is just one of many examples where organisations have seen the difference a fresh approach to engaging employees can make. So what needs to happen to help your organisation reinvigorate its approach to engaging employees?

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Privacy vs Trust

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In the wake of the Facebook data scandal, we have to ask - is privacy still possible?

For many of us, the answer is no. The digital trail we leave behind us, our social media profiles, that random online quiz we took, they all open up our personal preferences for the world to see.  

But it’s as much about trust as it is about privacy. As technology continues to influence our everyday lives, the question is how much we can trust the platforms and people we open ourselves up to?

Concern for our privacy  

When 50 million Facebook users can be manipulated into having their data collected by Cambridge Analytica, it’s no wonder we are hesitant to share our lives with others.

How companies collect and use our data is an issue the GDPR initiative seeks to address, but it doesn’t stop there. There can be a knock on effect in our everyday lives too - the wariness we feel sharing our lives online can impact how much we reveal and share with our colleagues in the real world.

A lack of trust sits at the heart of many of the issues we’re called in to support clients with - it’s an issue that holds many teams and organisations back.

But trust is a two-way street - in order for others to trust us, we need to trust them.

Openness leads to better solutions  

The more we open up to others, the more they will feel confident sharing with us, so we can build our collective confidence and trust in the knowledge that there are people who ‘get us’, who care. A survey by Time to Change revealed 66% of adults had no one to speak to about their problems. This further highlights why it’s vital for us to talk more - not less -  with our colleagues.

For organisations to thrive employees have to be able to feel safe to speak openly - which is only possible through relationships built on mutual trust and respect.

Companies that promote a culture of open communication and transparency reap the rewards.  At TGI Fridays - voted Britain’s best big company to work for by The Sunday Times - 79% of employees say they love working for the company, thanks to the culture and the fact that they feel like they have a voice.

Furthermore, far more creative solutions start to emerge when we open up and create a culture of trust with our teams. This can lead to bigger and better things not just for us, but for our organisations.

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Learning for Growth

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This week marks the celebration of Learning at Work Week, and as workplaces are rapidly evolving, we too need to continue to  develop and grow.

In the quest for competitiveness, companies are constantly looking to be the leanest, most effective, most productive they can be; versatile employees are the key to making this possible. And in today’s fast-paced working environments, dynamic, flexible employees are the most widely sought after.

So as we’re faced with constantly changing demands, it is important we maintain a focus on our own development - if we lose that drive and hunger to grow we risk being left behind.

Evolving Learning
Along with changing ways of working, ways of learning are evolving as well. As training budgets get ever smaller, the 70:20:10 model has served as a powerful guideline for organisations to maximise the effectiveness of their learning and development programmes. Long gone are the days of chalk and talk in dull grey rooms - we’re now able to learn from a plethora of different sources - whenever and wherever we need it.

With the growth of platforms such as Google and YouTube, we’ve never had such an array of opportunities to learn. In fact such ready access to learning is driving self-development, as 67% of people learn on mobile devices, and 80% choose to learn from Google, at the point of need.

Tapping Into Expertise
Our own colleagues are also a great source of learning – many of them have been there and done that. Finding ways to tap in to their knowledge and experience can help us to hone our own approach and discover new, more effective ways of doing what we do.

Opportunities for learning are all around us - we just need to recognise and capitalise on all that’s available. So how are you learning? And when?

The challenge of course, is time. It’s easy for our own development to slip down the agenda when things get busy. So with all the complex demands on our lives how do you ensure you regularly carve out time for your own personal development? 

Learning at Work Week is a great opportunity to take stock, to ensure we are putting our attention where we'll reap the greatest rewards. 

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Safe is Risky

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Sometimes the riskiest thing we can do is play it safe.  Choosing to stay in our comfort zone can become a prison - or worse. 

We’ve all heard the sorry tales of companies who became complacent, failed to innovate or capitalise on the gaps in their markets - which eventually led to their downfall.  

Remember Blockbuster - the former video rental industry leader? In the 1980s and early 90s, the brand was untouchable.

Come 1997 and the birth of the young upstart Netflix, Blockbuster happily remained in the safe zone that it had always known, a lack of vision and courage which ultimately led to their demise.  

Netflix instead took the risk of challenging the status quo and thinking one step ahead. And with a market capitalisation of $142 billion, it clearly reaped the rewards. 

So, what can we learn from Netflix’s success and Blockbuster's failure? Do we stay in our comfort zone too often? Could we be more courageous and daring with our choices? That crazy idea in the back of our heads could just be the spark we, or our organisations, need. 

So we have a responsibility to push the boundaries, to try new approaches and test out new ideas. 

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If not you, then who?

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What is the single biggest driver of change? This is a question we’ve been asked by many of our clients, and the answer we give is simple - you.

Whether your organisation is in the middle of a merger, launching a new strategy or transitioning into a new structure, people - peers, leaders, team-members - are looking to you to sponsor and support that change, so you need to lead by example.

Resistance to Change

Change is tough. When change happens at work, we're likely to feel uneasy - we relate to what’s familiar and comfortable, and change can take us wa-ay out of our comfort zone.

We’re all familiar with the change curve, and as it's taking place we have to remember that we will inevitably be going through one of the stages of the curve. Sometimes people get stuck - which is where you come in.   

If we don't listen (to ourselves and each other) and seek to understand and overcome the challenges, performance, engagement and relationships will suffer. But each of us has the power to provide inspiration and support to help ourselves and others adapt to change.

Three steps towards being an agent of change

Firstly we need to be open to change ourselves, to build our muscle at handling uncertainty and to learn to seek support and advice whenever we need it. Change can be isolating so talking through your concerns with line managers and peers helps. Where are you stuck? 

Secondly, people are looking to you so you need to model the behaviours and attitudes needed to deal with change - openness, comfort with uncertainty, a zest for overcoming challenges. By demonstrating those characteristics you will help to lead by example.

Finally, create a space for open conversations, listen to those around you and recognise their concerns. Share your own struggles with change, and what has helped you. Only by creating an open dialogue will people really open up to you about their issues, so you can help them to overcome them.  

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Motivating Matters...

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Motivation is the springboard to success. It not only helps us to get out of bed and get ourselves into work each day, it helps us to realise our goals.  But what happens when we get to work depends on the culture and habits that we create for ourselves and those around us. 

A survey carried out by The Hays Group recently revealed that poorly motivated employees reduce productivity by nearly 50%. Finding out what motivates people and enabling them to spend more of their time doing it is clearly good for business. 

Of course, what motivates each of us varies - but tapping into that and ensuring that we create time to focus on it regularly helps us to stay on track. 

Regular one-to-ones are great opportunities for this, but there are many ways to lock in a routine. The key is finding the way that works for us - and making sure we do it! 

The Challenge

I love driving change - as an Agent of Change, that shouldn’t be surprising - and I’m motivated by creativity, so I’m constantly seeking to explore new solutions, different approaches. But I don’t always get it right - like most of us, when we’re busy or we lose focus it’s easy to get caught up in the hamster wheel and forget about why we do what we do. 

It’s only when I consciously take the time to remind myself about what’s important for me, and why it means so much that I can ensure I have the motivation needed to stay on track. 

Tapping into Motivation

What are your goals? What motivates you? Ensure you carve out time to focus on the stuff that gets your blood pumping, the stuff that motivates you. Try to do a little every day. If you lead a team, encourage them to do the same. 

Do it regularly and you’ll see the impact it has on our energy levels, on what we achieve and on how connected we feel to ourselves and to those around us.

 

 

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Why You Should Make Time for Self-Reflection (Even If You Hate Doing It)

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Why You Should Make Time for Self-Reflection (Even If You Hate Doing It)

by Jennifer Porter

When people find out I’m an executive coach, they often ask who my toughest clients are. Inexperienced leaders? Senior leaders who think they know everything? Leaders who bully and belittle others? Leaders who shirk responsibility?

The answer is none of the above. The hardest leaders to coach are those who won’t reflect — particularly leaders who won’t reflect on themselves.

At its simplest, reflection is about careful thought. But the kind of reflection that is really valuable to leaders is more nuanced than that. The most useful reflection involves the conscious consideration and analysis of beliefs and actions for the purpose of learning. Reflection gives the brain an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, and create meaning. This meaning becomes learning, which can then inform future mindsets and actions. For leaders, this “meaning making” is crucial to their ongoing growth and development.

Research by Giada Di Stefano, Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano, and Bradley Staats in call centers demonstrated that employees who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day reflecting about lessons learned performed 23% better after 10 days than those who did not reflect. A study of UK commuters found a similar result when those who were prompted to use their commute to think about and plan for their day were happier, more productive, and less burned out than people who didn’t.

So, if reflection is so helpful, why don’t many leaders do it?  Leaders often:

• Don’t understand the process.  Many leaders don’t know how to reflect. One executive I work with, Ken, shared recently that he had yet again not met his commitment to spend an hour on Sunday mornings reflecting. To help him get over this barrier, I suggested he take the next 30 minutes of our two-hour session and just quietly reflect and then we’d debrief it. After five minutes of silence, he said, “I guess I don’t really know what you want me to do. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been doing it.”

• Don’t like the process. Reflection requires leaders to do a number of things they typically don’t like to do: slow down, adopt a mindset of not knowing and curiosity, tolerate messiness and inefficiency, and take personal responsibility. The process can lead to valuable insights and even breakthroughs — and it can also lead to feelings of discomfort, vulnerability, defensiveness, and irritation.

• Don’t like the results. When a leader takes time to reflect, she typically sees ways she was effective as well as things she could have done better. Most leaders quickly dismiss the noted strengths and dislike the noted weaknesses. Some become so defensive in the process that they don’t learn anything, so the results are not helpful.

• Have a bias towards action. Like soccer goalies, many leaders have a bias toward action. A study of professional soccer goalies defending penalty kicks found that goalies who stay in the center of the goal, instead of lunging left or right, have a 33% chance of stopping the goal, and yet these goalies only stay in the center 6% of the time. The goalies just feel better when they “do something.”  The same is true of many leaders. Reflection can feel like staying in the center of the goal and missing the action.

• Can’t see a good ROI.  From early roles, leaders are taught to invest where they can generate a positive ROI — results that indicate the contribution of time, talent or money paid off.  Sometimes it’s hard to see an immediate ROI on reflection — particularly when compared with other uses of a leader’s time.

If you have found yourself making these same excuses, you can become more reflective by practicing a few simple steps.

• Identify some important questions. But don’t answer them yet. Here are some possibilities:

◦ What are you avoiding?

◦ How are you helping your colleagues achieve their goals?

◦ How are you not helping or even hindering their progress?

◦ How might you be contributing to your least enjoyable relationship at work?

◦ How could you have been more effective in a recent meeting?

• Select a reflection process that matches your preferences.  Many people reflect through writing in a journal.  If that sounds terrible but talking with a colleague sounds better, consider that.  As long as you’re reflecting and not just chatting about the latest sporting event or complaining about a colleague, your approach is up to you.  You can sit, walk, bike, or stand, alone or with a partner, writing, talking, or thinking.

• Schedule time.  Most leaders are driven by their calendars. So, schedule your reflection time and then commit to keep it. And if you find yourself trying to skip it or avoid it, reflect on that!

• Start small.  If an hour of reflection seems like too much, try 10 minutes.  Teresa Amabile and her colleagues found that the most significant driver of positive emotions and motivation at work was making progress on the tasks at hand. Set yourself up to make progress, even if it feels small.

• Do it. Go back to your list of questions and explore them. Be still. Think. Consider multiple perspectives. Look at the opposite of what you initially believe. Brainstorm. You don’t have to like or agree with all of your thoughts — just think and to examine your thinking.

• Ask for help. For most leaders, a lack of desire, time, experience, or skill can get in the way of reflection.  Consider working with a colleague, therapist, or coach to help you make the time, listen carefully, be a thought partner, and hold you accountable.

Despite the challenges to reflection, the impact is clear. As Peter Drucker said: “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection, will come even more effective action.”

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Invest In Yourself

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Invest In Yourself

I was running a workshop last week and when we were summarising our experiences at the end, one of the quieter participants summed up the reason it's such a privilege to do what we do at Agents of Change.

A smile started to appear at the corner of his mouth as he told us that he felt a newfound confidence in it being ok to be him - to trust his instincts and not to feel pressured to try to be like everyone else. 

It reminded me of the eecummings quote, "It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are."

It does take courage, and it takes time, and sometimes, provocation...and it's a job that's never done – no wonder many of us opt to bury our heads in the sand! 

Invest in yourself

It's courage and time that's well rewarded, however, if we choose to invest it. Life is easier when we're in our flow. Finding comfort in the skin we're in; finding joy in what we have to offer – that's the pay off for our investment. 

But taking time out from our hyper-speed lives can seem like a challenge – unless we make it a habit.

At Agents of Change we help people to create sustainable habits that enable them to build confidence in who they are today, and provide the tenacity to evolve into whoever they'll become tomorrow.

Challenge

Try to take a moment each day this week to celebrate what's great about you - and watch the difference it makes to your confidence. 

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Are you an Agent of Change?

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Are you an Agent of Change?

Given that our name is Agents of Change we often get asked what it takes to be one. 

Agents of Change show themselves in many ways: some are loud, shouty and obvious and others are quiet and stealth like. Regardless of their style, change is always the result. 

So how do unleash the Agent of Change in you?

    Vision
    Agents of Change are very clear about the future they see and articulate it in a way that brings it alive for others. Martin Luther King didn’t say ‘I have a strategy’, he said ‘I have a Dream’ and then went on to describe, using visual language, what that world would look like. In doing so, that vision of the future took life in the minds of others.

    Purpose
    In 'Man's search for Meaning' Viktor Frankl describes the rapid decline of fellow inmates in the Nazi Concentration Camps when they lost their reason for living. If you are absolute clear WHY you are doing something, that purpose is a source of energy and motivation; it will enable you to dig deep when you need to.

    Tenacity
    Change is hard and frequently takes much longer than we expect. Tenacity is like focus and commitment amplified, giving you the resolve to keep going when others might be flagging. Of course in order to maintain your energy, you need to know what fuels and restores it.

    Passion
    How frequently do we hear contestants on Master Chef or Bake Off tell us that it's their passion for food that drives them. Emotion is hugely important in driving our behaviour, so Agents of Change fall in love with the change they are seeking. And their passion is infectious, inspiring others to join their cause.

    Connections
    Agents of Change are well connected. They invest in relationships before they 'need' them, forming strong bonds with people. And that means they can be assured that help is always at hand.

    Influence
    The ability to articulate a strong, well conceived case for change is a core skill of an Agent of Change. You have to be able to see all sides of the idea and adapt your communication to the differing needs of those around you to convince them, hearts and minds, to join you.

    No one of these skills on its own is enough. Tenacity without Influence, for example, can just be over bearing! It's the balance of these attributes that creates an Agent of Change.

    So if you were to score yourself out of 10 (0 = low, 10 = high), how do you measure up?

    And what could you do to up your scores by one or two in each category?

    We'll be exploring these ideas and more in our Summer Breakfast of Change, come and join us to unleash the Agent of Change in you.

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    Building an Intrepreneurial Culture

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    Building an Intrepreneurial Culture

    We spend a lot of our time talking to organisations eager to know how they can better engage their employees and reduce attrition. Attrition has always been expensive for companies, but in many industries the cost of losing good workers is rising, owing to competitive labour markets and the increasingly collaborative nature of jobs. 

    Exit interviews show that one of the most common reasons people choose to leave is because they don't feel their voices or ideas are being heard, so the first question we ask is always about culture - what is happening currently to ensure people feel like a valued part of the organisation? 

    Innovate to Engage

    Innovative ideas are the lifeblood of progressive organisations, but many don't provide sufficient forums or budget for them to be explored or exploited. Enabling ideas to be heard and talent to shine will not only engage and retain your people, but ensure that your organisation stays one step ahead. 

    Lose your entrepreneurs and you not only cut off the source of innovation, you're left with a torpid, uninspiring culture - which in turn prompts others to edge towards the door. 

    An intrapreneurial culture invites and activates ideas from employees, ideas that capture the best of the start-up, entrepreneurial mentality, but that can be brought to life internally, to provide a valuable source of new products, processes or approaches.

    One of Google's most famous management philosophies is called "20% time." Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin highlighted the idea in their 2004 IPO letter:

    "We encourage our employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google," they wrote. "This empowers them to be more creative and innovative. Many of our significant advances have happened in this manner."  

    Huge 20% products include the development Google News, Gmail, and even AdSense. 

    So the potential is huge, but what can you do to invoke and support this spirit?

    1. Regularly encourage idea sharing at team level. Implement great ideas that fall within your remit and support people in creating viable business cases for those that don't.
    2. At organisational level, recognise who your intrepreneurs are and consider them for new positions. Some firms, such as Credit Suisse, ensure Internal recruiters cold-call the employees to alert them to openings inside the company. In 2014 the program reduced attrition by 1% and moved 300 employees, many of whom might otherwise have left, into new positions. Credit Suisse estimates that it saved $75 million to $100 million in rehiring and training costs.
    3. Encourage the board to set up an innovation fund, to provide funding for projects that wouldn't pass regular governance procedures. Ideas that might not have an immediate business case, or a clear return on investment but that come under the "I think this could work but we need to experiment and we need some money to be able to do that..." banner. 

    Whether you're able to instigate intrapreneurialism at a team or organisational level, you'll ensure teams that endure and stand out. 

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    Divide or Multiply

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    Divide or Multiply

    We loved hosting our quarterly Breakfast of Change last week.

    For those of you who weren't able to join us, it was a deep-seamed exploration into the power of vulnerability and the benefits of leading by heart. Our Breakfasts are generally fertile breeding grounds for ideas, and this one cut to the core of the human experience - we laughed, we cried and we parted feeling galvanised and uplifted - all before 10:45!

    The choice of whether to divide (exclude, judge, differentiate) or to multiply (bring together, include, cross-pollinate) is one we face every day, in a multitude of different ways. Whilst instinctively we might appreciate the value of multiplication, it's often easier for us to do the opposite - to exclude people, to handle stuff on our own, or with the ones who 'get it' most readily.

    At the breakfast we shared this beautiful short film which went viral recently, an ad for a broadcaster in Denmark. Take a look at it if you haven't already seen it - take a look again if you have! 

    What this film does so elegantly is to expose us to our own prejudices, pre-judgements that assume an entire identity (and point of difference) from what we perceive at surface level. 

    I have always believed that there is more that unites us than that which divides us - we simply have to take the effort to dig beneath the surface - to ask questions to expand our understanding of other people; their experiences and perspectives.

    Much of my adult life, and our work at AOC, has been invested in helping people to see the wholeness and uniqueness of each of us as human beings, resisting simplistic generalisations or superficial judgements. This film writes the rulebook on how we can do this. 

    What can we do? 

    This week's Catalyst asks: how can we do more multiplication, less division. How can we include people more, or give people greater opportunity to reveal who they are? What advantages will this bring?

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    Love at work

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    Love at work

    I remember watching Simon Sinek’s TED talk on leaders who create safety a few years ago, in which he asks what it would take to be able to talk about love and leadership in the same sentence. If you haven’t seen it, check it out here.

    The answer, it turned out, was being willing to bring the subject up. 

    More and more people are waking up to the need for greater connection, humanity, love in the way we work with each other.

    A good proportion of our clients are large, male dominated, engineering/ops-focused businesses; these are not fluffy, cuddly, talk-in-intangibles kind of places. And yet many are willing to explore how to bring more love into the way they lead their people, the way they connect to customers, the way they work across departments, as they see the impact it has not just on productivity, but on how happy they feel.

    So if you're ready here are some a few ideas for how you can up the level of love in your work life:

    Love yourself

    ‘Would you treat another person in the way you treat yourself?’ We are often our own harshest critic, applying pressures and standards to ourselves that we would never expect of others. Accept yourself, perfect as you are right now, fabulous and fallible. We are all a work in progress so love where you are at in this moment.

    Extend love to others

    When you’re in a meeting, in a coffee queue conversation, a conference call, really be there. Turn up fully and listen intently to what others have to say. Giving people attention is extending them love. You'll be amazed at the results!

    Love what you do

    Reconnect with your purpose. Why did you decide to work where you do. What drew you to dedicate a chunk of your life to this cause, to apply your skills to their vision? Reinvigorate your reason for being.

    We are going to explore Leading by Heart at our next Breakfast of Change, why not come and join us?

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    Recognition: The Single Biggest Driver of Success

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    Recognition: The Single Biggest Driver of Success

    Someone asked me recently what I thought was the single biggest driver of organisational success.  

    It took only a fraction of a second to respond. Recognition. From the moment we arrive on this planet until the moment we leave it, our need for recognition governs and defines our human experience. 

    And great organisations get this – how we recognise and reward our people has long been the cornerstone of effective management and successful organisations.

    But as organisations become ever leaner, meaner machines this week we explore how each of us can invoke the power of recognition.

    The Push and The Pull

    The battles for talent and competitive edge are only going to intensify. Recognition is the not-so-secret ingredient for not only how to hire and retain the right people but also to enable them to perform at their best for the long haul.  

    But as technology continues to transform what we do, as organisational structures adapt and transform how we do it, the ways in which we recognise, engage and reward people has to keep pace.

    Forward-thinking organisations are activating recognition on on three levels:

    Organisational
    Smart companies are leveraging technology to harness the energy and experiences of their people. Building lines of communication up, down and across the organisation can have a huge impact on how engaged and recognised people feel, and on the health of the bottom line. 

    Team
    Whatever happens organisationally, local trumps global – our relationship with the people we work with is what defines our daily experiences. If you're the leader of a team your influence is huge, so take time out to look at what you could be doing more to really connect with people and recognise individual efforts. 

    Personal
    Firstly we need to recognise ourselves and the impact we have on others. Wherever we work in an organisation, it's how we behave in our encounters with each other that defines our culture. So we have a responsibility to ourselves to and to each other. Even the simple decision to smile at people more, or to say thank you more often can have transformative effects. 

    There are a million ways to recognise people and their efforts, so this week we challenge you to think of five new approaches – and try them out. Let us know how you get on.

    Why bother?

    A recent whitepaper commissioned by Fortune 100 Best Company to Work For investigates the root cause of great employee performance and how managers can tailor their workplaces to promote it. The paper gathers its conclusions from an open-ended survey where respondents were asked the question, "What is the most important thing that your manager or company currently does that would cause you to produce great work?"

    The data is clear - way above a promotion, or training, at 37% recognition is by far the biggest driver of employee experience, the biggest driver of performance.

    So if we want to get the best from our working lives let's all consider how we can help to make authentic and meaningful recognition a more significant part of our management philosophy - individually, as a team and as an organisation.

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    Equality and the yin and yang of gender

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    Equality and the yin and yang of gender

    In any of the work we do with teams of people, regardless of gender, it is diversity that is paramount; how do we catalyse the individual uniqueness within the team to enable greater collective success?

    This is important when it comes to the gender discussion too. As men and women how do we harness both our masculine and feminine, the yin and the yang, to enable greater success? 

    Rethinking Gender at Work

    When women started entering the workforce in significant numbers it forced many organisations to examine gender. Through the decades the desire for equality has translated into a drive towards sameness - same numbers, same ways of doing things, same ways of thinking, same ways of leading, same measures of success.

    Having grown up in a world structured by patriarchal systems, we are programmed to judge success in masculine terms - power, money, competition. What if we changed the criteria? Surely that would really create a shift in true gender equality?

    What would it take?

    We have to start from a place of valuing the contribution of the feminine. Success through fulfilment of purpose, greater connection and collaboration, sustainability of impact.

    At AOC we're dedicated to being part of this conversation.

    International Women’s Day

    This Wednesday we're starting with women. We are creating a regular event to help every woman regardless of role to own the value of our different contributions.

    The sessions will help build the strength to stand out rather than blend in. 

    Guys - it's your turn next! 

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    Are you on the Empowerment superhighway?

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    Are you on the Empowerment superhighway?

    Empowerment has long been part of the conversation in organisations, but talk isn't enough – the need for the real deal, genuine empowerment, has never been greater.

    As more leadership teams wake up to end of the old world hierarchy of command and control, many are finding they lack sufficient skills to empower the more dynamic, agile workplaces of the future – which is often we're we come in. 

    But where should this empowerment come from? Is empowerment something to be given by others, or to be taken for ourselves?

    This week The Catalyst explores how we can both empower ourselves and empower others.   

    I Empower

    I can hang on, hoping and waiting to feel empowered by my boss or my organisation, or I can take charge of the one thing that is always in my power, me.

    Here are a few things we can do to empower ourselves whatever our situation:

    1. Mind Control
      Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re probably right. Whatever you think you make real for yourself so be mindful of falling into negative thought loops. Think about a situation you are feeling disempowered in at the moment and ask yourself, ‘what do I need to be thinking that would make it easier for me to be empowered?’ and ‘what’s a baby step I can take to make that thought more real for myself’ and then think it and do it.
    2. Get Connected 
      Who are the key influences around you and what is the quality of your relationship? Galvanising the trust and support of others is crucial so invest in the relationships around you and not only at the point you need them. Having regular time carved out in your diary to connect more broadly across the organisation always pays long term.
    3. Focus  
      Control what you can control, influence what’s in others' control and let go of whatever is beyond your control. There is a lot of personal and organisational energy wasted in trying to control things that aren’t within our realm of control. Be really clear with yourself and focus on your own business.

    We Empower

    If you're a leader of a group of people there are many things you can do to help them feel and therefore behave in an empowered way. Ultimately it’s about diminishing fear in your culture.

    Here are a few ideas:

    1. Set the where and the why but leave the what and the how to your people
      Organisations need to be certain of where they are heading and why they are going there in order to provide a clear direction of travel and galvanise energy purposefully. Beyond that, rely on the talents of your people to determine what needs to be done and how to do it to move their bit of the business towards that goal 
    2. Provide clarity and rigour in roles and responsibilities
      It’s not enough to have job descriptions, people need to know exactly what they are responsible for and be held accountable for it. Often we find that the lure of being involved in tangible operational activity draws leadership down a level and into things that are not their remit. This is where rigour is needed.
    3. Create a learning culture
      How leaders respond when things don’t work out has a huge impact on how empowered their people are likely to feel. If you want to encourage a growth mindset and an environment where people are willing to stretch themselves and take a risk provide resilience training, coaching and mentoring to help them work through problems and disappointments.

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    The Two Faces of Engagement

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    The Two Faces of Engagement

    Organisations face the risk of losing up to 55% of key talent because they're not fully engaged with their jobs, their managers or the organisation itself. This comes at an enormous cost in terms of knowledge loss, recruitment, on boarding - not to mention team morale and productivity.

    One major ad agency in London recently lost several popular senior figures and attrition went through the roof as key talent panicked and jumped ship. Clients soon followed suit, and the agency is now scrambling to pick up the pieces. The risks are real and significant, whatever the size of your business.

    So how do we ensure we engage and retain our talent? 

    We now understand that there are two core components that influence whether people stay or go: current engagement and future engagement.

    Current engagement is determined by a combination of past experiences with an employer, and an individual’s current experiences in their role and work environment.

    Future engagement is determined by an employee’s expectations about their job, career prospects and their employer, or what’s known as “engagement capital.”

    7 ways to engage and retain key talent

    Engagement levels, both for now and the future, will depend on an individual’s rational and emotional commitment. They are going to be as interested in their alignment with the organisation’s mission and goals as they are with their personal challenges and goals.

    So to drive engagement and retain talent, here are a few things every manager can do. 

    1. Show them some love: make sure they know they’re important to you, and how much you appreciate their work.
    2. Sit down with them regularly: listen and respond to their needs and concerns.
    3. Strive to be the best people manager you can be: working on your own skills as a leader enables you to lead by example and inspire your team. 70% of disengagement is because of poor management.
    4. Provide clear structure, role definition and career pathways.
    5. Give them a challenge: provide opportunities within their current role to stretch themselves.
    6. Support their growth with development opportunities: think about the 70:20:10 approach to how we learn.
    7. Be their organisational champion and let them shine. 

    It's easy to others for how our teams feel, but these simple tips are within our direct control and will make a huge difference to the long-term stability and effectiveness of our teams.

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    Random Acts of Kindness

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    Random Acts of Kindness

    In a week in which romantic love is celebrated across the globe it also happens to be Random Acts of Kindness week. The RAK Foundation believe in the power of kindness to change the way people see or experience the world – and we couldn't agree more.  From the 12-18 February we are invited to demonstrate love in its wider context – the love for our fellow man.

    Kindness as enabler

    Kindness might be less headline-grabbing than romantic love but it comes from the same heart-led place, and it is arguably as or more important for humanity.

    There are over 7 billion of us on the planet, and in our self(ie)-obsessed world it's easy to forget the power of simple connections. A study in 2015 revealed Britain to be the loneliness capital of Europe with people less likely to know their neighbours or have strong friendships than anywhere else in the continent.

    Rebuilding connections

    Random Acts of Kindness week gives us the opportunity to reach out, to rebuild connections with each other.  And unlike its card-bearing, flower-waving sibling kindness doesn't come with a price tag attached.  

    To recognise somebody, to pay them a complement, to offer a hand of support, a smile, an opportunity to laugh, to learn – kindness comes in many guises; it needn't be flashy and it shouldn't need a fanfare; kindness is quiet, it's simple, it's real. 

    'Love makes the world go round' might be an overused and inaccurate cliché but it certainly helps us feel stronger and more connected as we spin through space and time. 

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