at work we create
big incredible results
and eat cheesecake too
Fostering Connection, Collaboration, and Transformation to Move From Enraged to Engaged.
(A Winnipeg Transit Story)
An interview with Helen Maupin
I had the good fortune to interview Helen Maupin in Winnipeg recently. Helen is involved in Whole Systems Design with the legacybowesgroup and was involved in a large scale initiative with Winnipeg Transit. In partnership with representatives from all parts of the organization, Helen recently offered a session on: From Enraged to Engaged: Connecting Through Collaboration.
As I listened to Helen I could hear how proud and appreciative she was of the people from Winnipeg Transit who voiced their story and experiences with this engaging, connected, and collaborative approach to transforming employee engagement within Winnipeg Transit.
I was impressed with the elegant and robust simplicity of Helen’s statement during the interview: “My job was to show up, really be present, and support the engagement in the organization in whatever pockets it was showing potential to emerge or was already emerging.”
Can you offer readers a thumbnail sketch of the Transit story and what stimulated an approach to connect through collaboration?
In August 2008, Winnipeg Transit narrowly escaped a strike vote that would have crippled the public transportation system and inconvenienced 130,000 commuters. What so enraged over 1000 civil servants, namely bus operators, to want to send City Hall a message and what was their message? Three major conditions led up to this trigger event — the health/stress factors facing bus operators, the command and control cultural of Transit, and the adversarial and often bullying relationships between management, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and its membership.
Winnipeg Transit operates a 24/7, 365-day schedule. New operators are required to work weekends and holidays, and days off may not be consecutive or consistent. The majority of shifts take place between 5 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. New operators work both day and night shifts, at times changing from one to the other with little notice. Split shifts consisting of two or three pieces of work can take over 12 hours to complete. The new operator can expect to be placed on what is known as the spare board where work assignments can change daily and even hourly. The choice of when vacation can be taken is limited by seniority. There is extremely limited supervision and support as the supervisor-operator reporting ratio is 1:350, which does not allow for continued coaching and development.
In addition, the work requires:
Command and Control Culture:
Transit’s management reward system was built on a seniority scale with years of service being rewarded as opposed to customer service and performance excellence. This culture of entitlement promoted management based on who was next in line and not on who was best suited at coaching and developing the workforce. Add into this mix the supervisor-operator reporting ratio of 1:350, it becomes apparent why efficiency not effectiveness was the management style of the day. Although it may seem more efficient to discipline for failure rather to coach for success, these tactics left the operators feeling blamed for many circumstances beyond their control. What evolved was an atmosphere of mistrust between operators and management, which was noticeable in the cafeteria where the two sides would not sit together or interact. Ultimately, morale was low for both supervisory and driving staff.
Relationships between the Union and its Members:
While negotiating the 2008 contract, the union was unable to reach a deal acceptable to operators and in fear of strike action, the ATU Executive ratified a settlement with the Winnipeg City Council believing the contract did not have to be voted on by the overall membership. The membership was infuriated when they learned of this development. Bus operators felt their voices were not being heard and there was no guarantee management would entertain changing any of their poor working conditions. Traditionally, the ATU had always followed their own international by-laws, which they discovered are superseded by Manitoba Labor Laws. As a result of this oversight, tempers flared and trust in the union eroded.
The City’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) was aware of the circumstances brewing inside Transit. The CAO attended mass meetings with the ATU membership and, after listening to their issues, assured drivers that if they accepted the contract, Transit would embark on changing its culture and working conditions. In a letter written to the ATU President, the CAO stated, “While achieving cultural change is a long term endeavor, I am committed to achieving positive change in our workplaces.” Hope was sparked amongst the union membership and a vote of 57% passed the contract.
What was your governing philosophy through the project?
There are no bad people, only bad systems that frustrate good people from doing good work. Agreement by the tri-partite working conditions committee (management, union and employees) on this principle was the first small win.
What did you see as the link between collaboration and engagement?
No one wishes to come to work to do a bad job. We are all seeking ways to contribute to the betterment of ourselves, our workplaces and our societies. When we bring together as change agents those who will be impacted by the change, we have engaged passion, curiosity and multiple problem solving skills. It is this combination of variables within a collaborative group that releases innovation and creativity, which are necessary factors in resolving the complex, big life and work issues of today. When our emotions and intelligence are activated in purposeful endeavors, we are engaged. When we have the opportunity to be engaged within a group sharing a purposeful goal, we exponentially increase both our ability to change our world and our enjoyment in the success of this community.
What were some of the key steps to foster wide scale engagement?
What were the challenges you or the people in the organization had to overcome to move from enraged to engaged?
What were the key results?
1. Financial ROI: a conservative estimate of $612,762. savings over one year.
Staff turnover and training cost savings in 2009 of $156,762.
Grievances reduced from 35 (22 required legal fees) in 2005-2008 to 0 in 2009-10 with a combined (ATU and Transit) savings of $456,000.
2. Employee Survey February 2010 (compared to 2004 survey) confirmed significant improvements in:
Respect and consideration of supervisors
Receiving credit for a job well done
Understanding the need for work-life balance
Improving working conditions — safety and technology
3. Organizational Culture:
Increased investment in employee engagement
Improved responsiveness to employee issues
New leadership style with a focus on training, coaching and skill building
Increased trust between ATU and management
Improved problem-solving when dealing with employee performance issues
Increased decision-making for bus operators
Commitment from ATU, Management and Bus Operators to improve working conditions using Collaborative Work Systems
What are 3 to 5 key tips you would offer another organization or individual if they wanted to make the journey from enraged to engaged?
It was enlightening and joyful to speak with Helen about such a powerful approach to fostering employee engagement.
Here is Helen Maupin contact information:
Helen Maupin, M.A. VP Whole Systems Design & Dev’t. Legacy Bowes Group
David Zinger, M.Ed., helps organizations and individuals increase employee engagement. He is a writer, educator, speaker, and consultant. David founded the 3200 member Employee Engagement Network. He is committed to increasing employee engagement 20% by 2020. Contact David today to improve engagement where you work
(Email: email@example.com / Phone 204 254 2130 / Website: www.davidzinger.com)
Eye-I for Engagement
The following 7 internal “I” statements were inspired by my work with Crucial Conversations. To me, they are the essence of a strong foundation for interpersonal connection that builds relationships and achieves results. Crucial Conversations is designed for situations of high stakes, differing opinions, and strong emotions. These statements can form the underpinning of most engaging interactions. I was honored to first present these ideas at Shared Visions Community Day of Practice for Crucial Conversations.
1. I care about you. We only fully engage with other people we care about. Caring does not meaning liking but caring for the other person creates the foundation of respect. Without caring, skills can become manipulation and crucial conversations can quickly slide into creepy conversations. Ensure there is care in your approach to others.
2. I care about what you are interested in. In so many conversations we seem to talk about our self but statement two encourages us to move beyond our self to a focus on the other person and their intentions. In conversations, do you ask as much as advocate and is there a strong focus on the other person and what they want and intend?
3. I see you. How attentive are you to others at work? How well do you pay attention to what they do? It is very powerful to be really seen by another who cares about you and also cares about what you are interested in and fully pays attention to you and your actions. I believe that in employee engagement anonymous surveys unintentionally communicate that people at work are invisible. In the age of engage we show up and mindfully attend to what we see going on.
4. I hear you. Do you stop to fully listen, not just waiting for the other person to finish so that you can start talking? When we see and hear we gather a foundation of facts for a safe conversation or fuller engagement with another person. In powerful engagement not only do we hear but we retain and communicate the significant elements of what we hear.
5. I think about you. People who powerfully engage with others take time to be reflective about other people’s actions and intentions. We seldom stay neutral on facts and quickly create stories to understand what is going on. The problem is that our stories can create their own problems. If our actions are based on caring we are also careful of the stories and thoughts we have while being open to letting others know that we are thinking of them as we extend an invitation to engage rather than voice an inquisition of interrogation.
6. I invite you. How well do you invite other people into conversations and interactions. In the age of engage we need to quickly go beyond caring, seeing, and thinking to asking and inviting others into interactions so that we can both learn, grow, and develop through being together.
7. I am changed by you. So many of us are so busy trying to change others that we forget that the other person is only half of the equation while we are the other half and that our engagement with them should have an equally probability of changing us. Here are two quick questions to test your ability to be changed or altered:
Engage. Live the approaches of caring, showing up, reflecting, inviting, and changing to bring more engagement to your interactions and to engage authentically in building relationships while achieving results.
An earlier version of this post appear at the Shared Visions Website.
David Zinger’s – Zengage: How to Get More Into Your Work to Get More Out of Your Work.
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David Zinger, M.Ed., helps organizations and individuals increase employee engagement. He is a writer, educator, speaker, and consultant. David founded the 3100 member Employee Engagement Network. He is committed to increasing employee engagement 20% by 2020. Contact David today to improve engagement where you work (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / Phone 204 254 2130 / Website: www.davidzinger.com).
Benevolent Hackers Exemplify Robust and Innovative Employee Engagement
I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough;
we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do. ~ Leonardo da Vinci
Such a card. I was facilitating a workshop recently and we were talking about writing a message on the back of the business card. I was doing an exercise that was inspired by Mike Morrison’s The Other Side of the Business Card. Mike structures a number of exercises where people can use the blank side of their business card to work on their work. To the chagrin of one participant her business card was full of stuff on both sides. One side had her position, department, and contact information while the other side had the corporate and logo and tagline.
Hack your business card. We were lamenting the lack of white space at work and she stated how much information she used to put on the back of her card for clients, how useful they would find this bite size referral or information, and how often they would be still clinging to the card during the next appointment. I had some blank business cards with me for people who didn’t have business cards and I gave her one to use for the exercise. Within a moment she had envisioned a hack for her work. She stated she would get a whole bunch of blank cards and glue them to the back of her card so that she could reclaim the power of this small yet powerful tool that was so helpful for clients and played a strong role in achieving the organization’s goals.
Break rules to achieve results. Bill Jensen and Josh Klein would say this was an example of hacking your work. Bill and Josh joined forces to encourage benevolent rule breakers with, Hacking Work: Breaking Stupid Rules for Smart Results. They have developed a great resources on how to customize your work for results. Become a benevolent hacker. Their idea was profiled in the top 10 breakthrough ideas for 2010 published by the Harvard Business Review.
Hacking snippet. Here is a snippet on hacking from the Breakthrough Idea for 2010:
Hack work, and embrace the others in your midst who care enough to do so. Hackers work around the prescribed ways of doing things to achieve their goals. The benevolent among them do this rule bending for the good of all.
You probably already are a hacker. I believe we may be hacking more than we know. As I read the book I realized in my past that I often worked around certain workplace rules to best serve my clients and the organization. For example, I was an employee assistance counsellor for a large distillery in Canada. Rather than seeing my clients in an office I would often sit with them as they were driving a truck around the plant site or go to their homes to see them or see them on the shore of the lake near the distillery. This ensured they got the help they needed without being self-conscious and coming to a counsellor’s office.
Shattered control. The illusion of corporate control is being shattered in the name of increased personal productivity. Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler from Forrester Research and authors ot the book, Empowered, stated more than one-third of U.S. information workers use technologies their companies have not sanctioned. What hacking are you already doing that is breaking a rule and benefiting your customer or organization?
Start hacking. Here are 4 guidelines on selecting what to hack:
Hacking for the good of all. Hacking Work is packed with tips, perspectives, cautions, and approaches to help you become an engaged hacker. I believe one of the highest levels of employee engagement is when employees think well beyond their role and workplace policies to determine what they can engage with to best serve the organization, customers, leaders, and themselves.
Double your breakthrough with the power of progress. In the same HBR list of breakthrough ideas for 2010 was Teresa Amabile and Steven Krammer’s piece on what really motivates workers. According to their extensive research, based on 12,000 daily diary entries of motivation and emotion, the top motivator for workers is progress. Their idea focused mostly on how managers can foster progress for workers. If you think about it for a second, hacking work is a strong method to put progress within each worker’s hands while increasing movtivation and building strong and robust employee engagement based on real progress.
4 Engaged Hacking Actions:
David Zinger, M.Ed., works with organizations and individuals to foster engagement. He is a writer, educator, speaker, and consultant who founded the 3000 member Employee Engagement Network. David wrote, Zengage: How to Get More Into Your Work to Get More Out of Your Work. David’s website offers 1100 free posts/articles on the engagement. David is committed to fostering a movement to increase employee engagement 20% by 2020.
Connect with David Zinger today to improve engagement where you work.
Email: email@example.com – Phone 204 254 2130 – Visit: www.davidzinger.com