Monday, 29 October 2012

Built to Serve

I have just finished reading ‘Built to serve. How to Drive the Bottom-Line with People-First Practices’ by Dan J. Sanders. I feel totally inspired by this book, so much so that I really feel the need of writing this new post. Hopefully you could also get some inspiration or just pleasure by reading Sanders’s words and ideas.
The book contains many valuable concepts brought together by the author in order to remark the importance of people-centered organizations.
Dan Sanders believes that ‘‘people-centered organisations are those who understand that human beings directly influence processes and performance’’.
Mastering the art of balance in managing an organization requires a heavy focus on issues that matter…This method (the author talks about the ‘4-P Management System’) begins and ends with human being People and Partners. When organisations create a culture that promotes human interaction and -in between - constantly enhances the Processes used in the day-to-day tasks, the result is superior Performance”.
Sanders explains that organisations with misaligned cultures prefer the opposite, beginning with performance and ending with human being. However, in organisations that are culture-driven and people-centered, human beings hold the key to sustainable success. Those organisations recognize the value of securing relationships. Therefore, in Sanders’s opinion people-centered cultures are consistently capable of developing a fully engaged workforce as well as an outstanding customer service.
The author also focuses on the importance for any organisation of having a higher purpose and serving others:
“I believe in human beings, and I believe human beings have a basic need to serve others. Work makes a difference in people’s lives, and the most successful organisations are built around people who identify with their mission to the point that it becomes part of their very essence. Working in a culture defined by a higher purpose adds value to employees and those they serve, and creates a sea change in the way the business world operates…the economic power of an organization resides in people-first practices aimed at sustainability. The bottom line is not about price and profit; it is about choice and culture”.
Finally, another concept that Sanders explains wonderfully well in my opinion, is that one of ‘sustainability’. In that respect I found very interesting his idea of ‘keeping the faith’.
Sanders writes that there are too many companies that pursue growth without regard for consequences and that therefore, often fail to grow properly. The author writes that “the lack of faithfulness to the original vision and mission consistently destroys sustained success.
D. Sanders thinks that growth is a good thing when it is not at the expense of the unique values that define the organization: “All companies are capable of growing while remaining faithful to the principles that created their success in the first place, but the purpose for the growth must be sound”.
In fact, the author explains that if organizations desire to grow purely as a matter of financial gain, they will fail to recognize the higher purpose of serving others and ultimately make a sustainable difference in the world by enriching the lives of others.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Praise improvements

“Praise is like sunlight to the warm human spirit; we cannot flower and grow without it”
(Jess Lair, psychologist)
For the ones who are familiar with my blog it should be quite clear that I have always been fascinated by the subject of human relationships in the workplace and that the more I study it the more it intrigues me. With that, I have always wondered if there might be any rules that could be listed down and applied in the many different working relationships we face daily in our life.
Dale Carnegie in 'How to Win Friends and Influence People' seemed to answer my question very well. In fact, in his famous book he presented what he called the 'principles of human relations'.
I read the book with great interest and fascination. I am very happy to dedicate a marginalia about it.
In particular, I have decided to write about one of the principles given in chapter four “Be a Leader”.
The principle is the number 6:  Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise”.
At the beginning of the chapter, the author asks a question: “Why, I wonder, don't we use praise instead of condemnation?
Let us praise even the slightest improvement. That inspires the other person to keep on improving. I can look back at my own life and see where a few words of praise have sharply changed my entire future. Can't you say the same thing about your life?
The author reports about the experiments of psychologist B.F. Skinner who by working with both animals and humans found that when criticism is minimized and praise emphasized, the good things people do  will be reinforced and the poorer things will atrophy for lack of attention.
The author explains how powerful all this can be: “If we inspire the people with whom we come in contact to a realization of the hidden treasures they possess, we can literally transform them”.
Therefore, the suggestion given by the Cornegie in order to become a more effective leader, is to “use at the fullest extent the magic  ability to praise and inspire people with a realization of their latent possibilities”.
“However”, writes also the author, “the principle will work only if it comes from the heart “(we all crave appreciation and recognition but nobody wants insincerity).
I would like to conclude these marginalia about the power of praise and recognition, by reporting a story that Dale Carnegie himself reports in that respect:
“In the early nineteenth century, a young man in London aspired to be a writer. But everything seemed to be against him. He had never been able to attend school more than four years. His father had been flung in jail because he couldn't pay his debts, and this young man often knew the pangs of hunger. Finally, he got a job pasting labels on bottles of blacking in a rat-infested warehouse, and he slept at night  in a dismal attic room  with two other boys – guttersnipes from the slums of London.
He had so little confidence in his ability to write that he sneaked out and mailed his first manuscript in the dead of night so nobody  would laugh at him. Story after story was refused.
Finally the great day came when one was accepted. True, he wasn't paid a shilling for it, but one editor had praised him. One editor had given him recognition. He was so thrilled that he wandered aimlessly around the streets with tears rolling down his cheeks.  
The praise, the recognition, that he received through getting one story in print, changed his whole life, for if it hadn't been for that encouragement, he might have spent his entire life working in rat-infested factories.
You may have heard of that boy. His names was Charles Dickens”.
As for Principle 6 listed in 'Be a Leader', all of the other principles of human relations given by Dale Carnegie in his book are very well worth reading. I encourage you to read the entire work. You might find those principles very helpful and beneficial and might want to apply them to your closest relationships at work!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Organisations: Systems of Human Interactions

If I think about my ‘engagement with employee engagement', I could say that this passion officially started with my first BA in Science of Communication (Italy, 2003-2006). Then I did the MA in Business Communication (Italy, 2006-2009), followed by a post-graduate certificate in Management Studies (UK, 2010) and a Certificate in Internal Communications (UK, 2011).
Well, I am so passionate about the subject that I cannot stay without studying it! The more I study the more I want to study it. I cannot explain it but I really want to study it forever!
In fact, last week I happily started a new course on the subject: the Diploma on Internal Communications and Employee Engagement at The PR Academy.
I have already been given a lot of material and resources to study and challenge my thinking on the topic.
Among them, is a book we have been using for the course titled “Auditing Organizational Communication” and edited by Owen Hargie and Dennis Tourish.
Below are my marginalia regarding a paragraph (‘Communication and the Motivation of Staff’) that you would find within the first chapter (‘Communication and Organizational Success’) of the book:
Why should an emphasis on RELATIONSHIPS have such a profound impact on people’s ability to perform the tasks for which they are hired, and on organisational outcomes?”
The explanation given by the authors is that “people do not set aside their normal human needs during working hours”. We”, continue the writers, “would need to stop viewing organisations as impersonal systems, to be manipulated into new forms exclusively at management’s will” (traditionally, communication tended to be viewed as a simple linear process in which a message was transmitted by a sender to a source, who then understood, internalized and acted on the message; in that context organisations were seen as having a taken for granted existence as material entities, separate and apart from their discursive constructions. This view was then challenged by a new research and ultimately, organisations emerged as being a “phenomenon that is produced and reproduced by the discursive interactions between organisational actors”).
The authors report that “organisations are systems of human interactions” and that “people carry their emotions and wider social needs into work with them”. They also discuss and share these in groups.
“Such needs”, suggest the authors, “must be addressed or they will become a source of dysfunctional”.
The authors continue by writing that “the quality of relationships with co-workers is crucial in determining levels of job satisfaction. Yet, this is far removed from the primary task-focused rationale that is generally the original spur for the creation of most organisations”.
Therefore, job satisfaction cannot be achieved by an exclusive emphasis on tasks.
Effective organisations must be aware of their members’ personal needs, and take care to nurture relationships at all levels”.
Communication is a vital means for furthering this objective:
Through opening the channels of communication people can articulate their needs, reduce uncertainty by gaining access to information, develop opportunities to influence the decision making process and satisfy the fundamental human need to make a difference”.
Effective communication promotes organisational cohesion and effectiveness because it answers to people basic motivational impulses (What’s In It For Me?- What’s In It For Us?).
“It appears”, write the authors, “that the commitment of employees to the enterprise is primarily engaged, in the first instance, by the amount of attention that is paid to their perceived needs”.
“Business success is vital for individual as well as societal wellbeing. However, in order to grasp this wider picture, the fundamental human needs that people bring into the workplace with them must be addressed”.
Ultimately, the authors add that “this also suggest that communication should be regarded as a competence of core management, underpinning the many people management skills that organisations are now battling to develop”.

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Importance of Taking Action

“Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it” (Goethe)
The last book that I read is the “Entrepreneur Within” by Brian Chernett. This post is about a chapter of the book that talks about the importance of taking action.
In particular, the below marginalia are some sentences that I extrapolated from that chapter and that I wanted purposefully to leave as they were originally written. I found them very meaningful and powerful:
"Unless we take positive action for change, nothing  will happen.
Sometimes, we can feel blocked and unable to function and spend our time reflecting on what it is that is blocking us. This inertia can seem disabling and as we spend more time thinking about it, completely impossible to overcome.
Only our choices prevent us from being the best that we know we can be.
Motivation (or the lack of it), fear, the culture of which we are part and the messages we have been given whilst growing up, are barriers to taking actions and achieving our goals.
It is important therefore to move from a position of negative thought to a position of positive thought. This process requires belief.
“Positive thought creates the positive action that leads to achievement”
Often the fears that prevent you from acting are not real, just a story that you tell yourself. You don’t have to tell that story. If you can find out where it is coming from, you can overcome it.
Take your goals and take ownership of them. Nothing can stop you achieving, providing you take the responsibility and don’t blame others. Anything we don’t do is not because someone else told us not to do it or because something else happened. We did not do it because we chose not to do it. “We always have choice”.
Keeping your goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Based) and creating a habit of progressing and achieving your goals – as an individual and as a business – will result in the development of a virtuous circle and an attitude of success.
“As you get into the habit of looking at everything positively, good things will happen around you”
Giving permission and encouragement will motivate those around you to achieve the results you do want and some you didn’t expect.
To take action you have to start loving yourself. You have to start to recognise that you have value; that your glass is half full and not half empty.
“Successful people take action wherever they are, whenever the opportunity arises”
People who achieve take action in every part of their lives. They take responsibility and ownership for what they do. They share their goals, their challenges and their dreams with others. By taking small steps and believing they can achieve, they do achieve.
As we travel through our daily lives we accumulate habits and activities that once were useful but are now no longer needed or could be done in different ways. Getting rid of this accumulation allows you to simplify and focus.
“Leadership and management should begin with our own cluttered lives”
Great leaders spend 75% of their time creating a culture that encourages their people to develop their strengths leaving only 25% for their weaknesses. Most of us reverse this procedure, spending far too much time on weaknesses, with the result that people seldom achieve their full potential".