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Employee Engagement Through People Artistry

A People Artistry Tidbit

(Reading time: 50 seconds )

Peoplt Artistry at Work Book Cover

I had a wonderful conversation with the latest reader of People Artistry at Work. He just retired this year as the Assistant Superintendent of a very large school division. He believed the book was a fine leadership book and that it summed up his approach to successful leadership.

He stated, “it is amazing what we can accomplish and achieve together when we recognize and value people even if they initially lack skills.” Through our people artistry we empower, we build capacity and as leaders we never lose sight of the fact that we are only as good as the people we lead. We need to recognize all employees so they recognize their own strengths, gifts, challenges, and contributions.

To learn more about this $10 book or to order people artistry for all you leaders visit: www.peopleartistry.com.

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert.

How leaders can leverage six social media dimensions for employee engagement

Social Media Leadership for Engagement

Employee Engagement Social Media

Roland Deiser from the Drucker School at Claremont Graduate University and Sylvain Newton from GE wrote an insightful piece on the six social media skills every leader needs.  The six dimensions and skills outlined by Deiser and Newton are: producer, distributor, recipient, adviser, architect, and analyst. I will briefly describe the skills and outline some ways that a leader can apply each skill to employee engagement.

Producer. Leaders with high levels of social media savvy produce compelling and authentic content. They are willing to embrace imperfection and communication that is more direct and raw. Here are 3 examples of how leaders can leverage producing for employee engagement:

  • Spread the reach of your message and connection through blogs and videos.
  • Demonstrate your humanness through authentic communication.
  • Ensure that the compelling stories of your organization that glue employees to their work are told powerfully and repeatedly.

Distributor. Information comes from all levels of the organization and from inside and outside the organization. Distribute timely and helpful information to set the stage to co-create information:

  • Keep employees informed of what is going on both inside and outside the organization.
  • Publish a global employee engagement RSS feed on the company’s social media site.
  • Give employees the opportunity to comment and co-create information for new meanings and insights.
  • Post anecdotal comments from the employee engagement survey online for acknowledgement and further commenting.

Recipient. The leader of today must stay informed and can easily access information directly and automatically. Being a recipient means not only reading posts or viewing videos it also means replying, commenting, and linking.

  • Stay in touch with employee engagement information through Twitter searches, Google news feeds, and other automated ways to receive timely and helpful information.
  • Don’t just consume information — comment and add perspective and ideas to what you read
  • A good place to begin is a morning or evening scan of relevant blogs at the Harvard Business Review, Business Week, and Forbes blog sites.

Adviser. Social media is not just a personal issue, it is social. Ensure that you advise, enable, and support the social media literacy of the entire leadership team.

  • Leaders are employees and one of the things that they can engage in is value added social media interaction.
  • Encourage and educate other leaders and managers within the organization to develop and enhance internal social media savvy.

Architect. Play a role in structuring social media within the organization for openness, sensitivity, and accountability.

  • Being open and direct does not mean anything goes, balance openness with accountability, respect and sensitivity.
  • Understand the community can moderate much of the content on their own.
  • Ensure any organizational social media sites are attractively designed, compelling to visit, and easy to navigate.
  • Make use of how “glued” employee are to their smart phones to enhance and increase overall employee engagement through mobile technology.

Analyst. Leaders need to stay abreast of innovation and new trends. The Internet of Things means that about 50 billion devices will be connected by the year 2020.

  • Stay abreast of social media and social media will keep you abreast of what is going on inside and outside your organization.
  • Experiment with new methods of engagement based on mobile work and early technology, such as sociometers.

Conclusion. To read the original McKinsey&Company article by Deiser and Newton with examples from executives at General Electric, click here. Social media is here to stay and can become a powerful tool for employee engagement and strong organizations as we socially accelerate towards 2020.

David Zinger is a global employee engagement speaker and expert who uses the pyramid of employee engagement to help managers with engagement.

10 Stops for Employee Engagement

Please come to a complete stop before proceeding…

  1. Stop waiting for a magic moment to engage.
  2. Stop mistaking engagement as someone else’s job or responsibility.
  3. Stop conceptualizing engagement as a problem to be solved.
  4. Stop searching for a stronger business case for engagement.
  5. Stop thinking of employee engagement as an extra.
  6. Stop believing you need more data to begin.
  7. Stop seeing the CEO or President as someone other than an employee.
  8. Stop wasting time formulating big programs and splashy launches.
  9. Stop extensive consulting with experts so that you have time to consult with employees.
  10. Stop trying and start doing.
David Zinger is a global employee engagement expert. Email him today at david@davidzinger.com for speaking, education, or consulting services.

 

Employee Engagement: Should We Ban Disengaged Employees?

An Olympic Action – An Organizational Consideration

The Olympics banned a number of female badminton players. One article stated:

The evening session of the tournament descended into chaos on Tuesday, with fans jeering two separate matches as players deliberately missed shots and dumped serves into the net in a race to the bottom, forcing the BWF to mount an investigation. A BWF panel charged the players with “not using one’s best efforts to win a match” and “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport” were brought against the players.

Ban disengaged employees? I am not suggesting that we ban all disengaged employees from workplaces as there are many causes for disengagement but it makes me think that we should take decisive action and “ban” employees who deliberately don’t give their best to their work because of self-interest as they fail to consider the impact their poor performance has on their customers, peers, and organization. Even if we work in a disengaging workplace we should be engaging our best efforts to advocate and create change for the better.

What are your thoughts? Is this a crazy idea or something we have neglected in our workplaces? I encourage you to write a comment. To ban or not to ban?

10 Story Tidbits for Employee Engagement

10 Tidbits – Kevin Bishop –  Anecdote – Employee Engagement –  Boston Story Course

David Zinger picture of swans at Boston Commons (June 2012)

Stories are engaging. Stories create a fabric and  foundation for our organization. Stories powerfully communicate what is going on in employee engagement in our organization.

Kevin Bishop from Anecdote in Australia conducted a one day workshop on story and leadership in Boston this June. I believe Anecdote does terrific work with story and organizations. It was an honor to attend Kevin’s session in Boston. The focus was not directly on employee engagement but I always relate my learning to the world of work and engagement. Here is a list of 10 tidbits I derived from the day. These are my thoughts and not necessarily exact representations of Kevin’s statements or Anecdote’s specific perspective:

  1. Stories paint images in people’s minds. They are facts wrapped in context and delivered with emotion.
  2. Be careful about using the word story in many organizations as many people will default on the “once upon a time” limited view of story.
  3. Jerome Bruner, one of the world’s leading cognitive psychologists, stated that we are 22 times more likely to remember a story than a set of disconnected facts.
  4. Stories are concrete – they move us away from abstractions.Words like disengagement take on new meaning and a high level of specificity when we talk about the time our boss created a needless and massive setback on the Miller project that lead to two members of our team leaving.
  5. We need a greater focus on the little stories rather than thinking we need an epic heroic story for our organization.
  6. Follow 3 pathways to stories: tell, trigger, listen.
  7. Your behavioral story is stronger than your told story. As a leader even if you don’t tell stories you trigger many stories in your organization. What stories do your actions trigger in employees? How well are you listening to the stories already embedded in your organization?
  8. We can all benefit from more deliberate practice with our story skills.
  9. Think of narrative strategy: 1. In the past.  2. Then something happened.  3. What we are going to do.  4. What will we have achieved when we succeed.
  10. We must go beyond story telling in organizations to a greater focus on how we elicit stories from within our organizations. It may be less about telling a great engagement story and more about asking: “tell me a time you were very engaged in your work, who were you with, what were you doing, what happened?”

What engagement stories are you triggering, telling, and eliciting?  For a more direct understanding of story and leadership visit the Anecdote site.

 

 

David Zinger is an employee engagement expert who is keenly interested in story and uses story extensively in his engagement work. Contact David today to speak and work on the story of engagement at your organization or conference.

 

Employee Engagement and Anthropology: A Dialogue with Jasmine Gartner

An Engaging Dialogue on Anthropology and Employee Engagement

It was my pleasure to share a dialogue with Jasmine Gartner on employee engagement. Here are a few of the snippets that stand out in my mind:

dozens of drivers, which can be really confusing because if every employer has to start thinking about dozens of drivers they’ll never get their work done, let alone engage people. So, I think what anthropology does is say all right, OK, well what are the core values, what are the things that unite this culture?

You have to have a really good structure in place to uphold a big company

We’re sort of like the mediator, or you know I’ll come in and look at the different kinds of cultures and try and figure out first of all, why people aren’t getting along, you know, and then be able to point that out and help them see it from a different side.

Objectively, what could we say that will apply in every situation, and one of the things we said was culture. So, in other words, if what you say are your values, in other words in your mission statement or your vision statement, and what you do are consistent, then people will plug in to it.

What you’re looking for, again, is patterns of behavior that you can systematize, so even though engagement might look slightly different in every workplace – it will look different in many workplaces, there are some patterns that are the same everywhere.

My apologies for the low volume on Jasmine’s voice. I encourage you to read the transcript as you listen.

If the video does not open in this window, click here.

Employee Engagement Conversation Jasmine Gartner from David Zinger on Vimeo.

David Zinger: Hello, this is David Zinger, and we’re about to embark on a brief dialogue on engagement with Jasmine Gartner who’s a cultural anthropologist, or corporate anthropologist I should say. We’re going to spend about 15 minutes looking at her background. I became fascinated about her work as I came across a blog post she wrote on the topic. Jasmine, welcome to the dialogue. [00:32]

Jasmine Gartner: Thank you, hi. [00:33]

David Zinger: Could you tell us a little bit about your background, and anthropology and engagement, how do those two things fit together? [00:42]

Jasmine Gartner: OK, good question. My background is like you said, it’s in cultural anthropology. The way it started to come about was that I was in academia for a long time, but I was really interested in getting out there and actually taking ideas and making them practical, and so a lot of the ideas that I looked at in anthropology I then used when I started teaching at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York where I taught cross-cultural studies for international business majors, and that meant that you really had to make ideas practical, because these were people in business who are going out there and trying to do well in the world and you couldn’t let them down. So, that was sort of where the seed started, and then through teaching as well I was always really interested in getting my students onboard, having them engage with the material, and really be interested in it, and that’s sort of where it stemmed from, because then in the workplace I know it was the same thing; it was really a question of how do you get people to fully engage with the work, with the people around them, and so on? So, that’s kind of where it came from. [01:52]

David Zinger: OK, so that’s the million dollar question or billion dollar question depending on who you talk to – how to get people engaged. Just, you know, before we launch on employees and corporations, what engages you most in your work? [02:07]

Jasmine Gartner: Two things; I would say it’s the subject matter, you know, absolutely if there’s really good meaty ideas and a lot to work through, that will engage me, but I’d say more importantly than that it’s people. You know at this point in my life all the people that I work with, because I have various partners, the relationships are the most important thing, it really is. I think it comes back to, I think it was Marcus Buckingham in First Break All the Rules stated people don’t leave their workplaces, they leave their bosses or the managers, and I would say that’s absolutely true with me; if I’m not working with somebody where not only do we get along, but we can make the work go further than either of us could by ourselves, then that’s what will make me stay. [02:53]

David Zinger: So, then the relationship, and as we’ll get to it in a few minutes, the culture; kind of background of your study is really also what engages you in your own work? [03:04]

Jasmine Gartner: Absolutely, yeah, that’s definitely true; it’s got to have a good culture. [03:09]

David Zinger: And I came across your work with this first blog post, maybe I saw it off a Twitter or somewhere – Employee Engagement – What’s Anthropology Got to do With It? And you got my attention with the question because you know psychologist race into this field, HR races into this field, organizational theorist’s race into this field, and then all of the sudden anthropology. [03:33]

Jasmine Gartner: Yeah, because a lot of people, I think it’s true, will say oh, like I said in my post, do you pick up dinosaurs? You know, but that’s not really what we do; we study culture, and I think if you look at the definition of culture, you know, which I think is the shared and learned values that groups have that then define their roles and the rules that they have, and their behaviors, it makes perfect sense in the workplace that that’s exactly what you’re looking for is that culture, and that if you’ve got a consistent, cohesive culture, people will be able to plug-in to it. If it’s not consistent, if it’s not cohesive, if they can sense hypocrisy in it, then they won’t plug in to it and people will disengage. [04:14]

David Zinger: OK. There was a theorist Count Korzybski in 1933 once said the map is not the territory, and so there’s many maps we can bring over, organizations, and engagement, and what are the things that anthropology offers on a map to look at the workplace; what things start to show up and what kind of things do we see, Jasmine? [04:36]

Jasmine Gartner: I think what you start to see is systems of behavior so that you can… You know a lot of the times if you look at what people say employee engagement is they will throw out, you know, dozens of drivers, which can be really confusing because if every employer has to start thinking about dozens of drivers they’ll never get their work done, let alone engage people. So, I think what anthropology does is say all right, OK, well what are the core values, what are the things that unite this culture? You know, in other words if you were to go into a workplace and they say, you know, openness is really important to us, and then you walk around and the data you’re gathering is oh, there’s lots of closed doors, people are kind of huddling, and acting secretive, then you say OK, you know what, the culture that you’re saying you have is completely different to what the real culture is, because that’s what we’re picking up by reading behaviors, and we’re looking for a consistency. So, it’s not just one person who’s doing it, but how the whole group behaves is what we’re looking for. [05:37]

David Zinger: So, you’re looking at that, and then in the blog post you have a little discussion – when two cultures come together in a banking industry and one group has a pool table in the room and the other signs her emails with her full names…[05:53]

Jasmine Gartner: Yeah. [05:53]

David Zinger: Can you just talk about that example, because it really stood out in my mind. [05:57]

Jasmine Gartner: Yeah, that’s a really interesting example. When I wrote my thesis for my PhD I looked at a sociologist called Ferdinand Tonnies who’s writing in the early 20th century, and he was looking at how groups change, and the smaller the group, or when you have a small group there’s completely different rules to when you have a big group; small groups are absolutely based on relationships, big groups are based on structure. You have to have a really good structure in place to uphold a big company, and so what happened there was you had this big American bank which had taken over this small British company, and the small British company was all about relationships, it really was, and in order to cement those relationships and keep them going there were things like a pool table, or you know, in their recreational room they had plants all over the place, they didn’t have cubicles, it was really easy for people to move around and engage each other. Whereas at the big American bank it was very much, you know, cubicles, and people didn’t talk to each other, and there was no entertainment, you know, you took your 20 minute lunch and that was it, or your lunch at your table, and so each group coming from their different cultures looked at the other one and judged them through their own lens. You know, so if you’re coming from a big bank which says if we don’t have this hierarchy in place then things won’t get done, then when you look at something that looks really ambiguous, you know, when are people doing their work if they’re playing pool, that sort of thing, then to them that just looks like chaos, and so they judge it and they think you’re not doing any work and you’re just, you know, playing around, and the small group as well; they looked at this big culture and thought when do you get a chance to talk to other people, and if you don’t know other people how do you know who you can rely on, how do you know who’s going to back you up? So, they just thought you’re too, you know, you’re arrogant, you’re informal, you’re not paying attention to what’s really happening, and so it was sort of when they were able to look at each other through a different lens that they had that aha moment where they said oh, actually what you’re doing makes perfect sense in your culture. [07:58]

David Zinger: So, that’s part of what you do with corporate anthropology; you’re not just looking at it and analyzing it, but you’re helping people make connections, or come together, engage, or create some understanding of how that culture may be different? [08:12]

Jasmine Gartner: Absolutely. We’re sort of like the mediator, or you know I’ll come in and look at the different kinds of cultures and try and figure out first of all, why people aren’t getting along, you know, and then be able to point that out and help them see it from a different side. But yeah, absolutely, it’s not just about analyzing it; it’s definitely about going and talking to people, again building the relationships and helping them build relationships. [08:36]

David Zinger: So, in the MacLeod Report, culture was really one of the drivers of engagement, and in this slide we have up on the screen right now we have cultural building blocks, and there’s three elements that come forward. First, if you’re looking at the slide, robust and clear. Can you just briefly talk about that? [08:55]

Jasmine Gartner: Yeah, so basically what happened with the MacLeod Report is that all the research that we did, you know, previous to that report coming out showed that, again, if you look at here in the UK; I’ll use that as an example because that’s what I’m familiar with. If you look at the Sunday Times it has a list, it’s the best companies to work for, it comes out once a year, and if you look at various things on the internet, articles and so on, like I said earlier, you’ll see all these drivers, you know, so that people will say oh, well you have to have time for your family, maybe it’s maternity leave, maybe it’s about parking, maybe it’s about, you know, just all of these things that are very individual. And what we thought instead was, you know, actually you have to take a step back and think it’s not all of those drivers – those are too individual, too subjective, too open to interpretation. Objectively, what could we say that will apply in every situation, and one of the things we said was culture. So, in other words, if what you say are your values, in other words in your mission statement or your vision statement, and what you do are consistent, then people will plug in to it. If they see a mismatch, like the example I gave before where you’re saying oh yeah, we’re absolutely open, or we put our people first, but your behaviors say something different, you’ll lose them. So, having a robust culture, in other words where there’s a 1:1 correlation between what you say and what you do has to be the first building block. [10:25]

David Zinger: One of the people, I know Mike Morrison, who used to be the dean of Toyota University, wrote a book called The Other Side of the Business Card, and one element of the book that’s always stuck with me is he said we need to rethink of our values as promises. You know, it seems to me like values are something you put on a wall, promises are something we keep, and it’s always stuck with me that unless we turn those values into promises, they’re just kind of statements on the wall. [10:49]

Jasmine Gartner: Absolutely. I think that’s a good way of putting it, definitely. [10:53]

David Zinger: So, the second building block, Jasmine? [10:56]

Jasmine Gartner: Yeah, so the second one is leadership, and what we thought there was OK, well what follows on from culture, you know, and in terms of leadership it can’t… Again, I think if you were to look around you could find hundreds of articles about what leadership is, and the truth is that it’s got to come out of your culture. So, again you have to build on what you have, and leadership has to come from that, and it has to be, again, consistent with your culture. So, even the example I gave before where you have a small group and a large group, leadership will be different in those two organizations because one is much more hierarchical, so you expect a lot more from leaders. The other one which is smaller, there’s not as much of a hierarchy; leadership becomes a much different kind of term. [11:44]

David Zinger: And as you were talking, I dropped in the final building block. Can you bring the package together? [11:52]

Jasmine Gartner: Yeah, so this is the how-to, if you will, you know it’s one thing to say there should be a 1:1 correlation between what you say and what you do. The million dollar question I think is well how do you do that, and it comes down to effective communication, in other words it’s got to be two-way, and if you want your employees to be onboard with what you’re doing, you also have to involve them in it, and so you have to ask them for, and I know this actually happens probably more here and in Canada than it does in places like the US to some degree, but where you really consult with your staff, you really bring them in on big decisions and little decisions, and listen to what they have to say. You might not necessarily end up taking it onboard, you know, if it doesn’t make sense with your strategy, but you absolutely want to have their voice in there, and so if the other side, you know, on one side you have leadership, and on the other side you’re going to have what the employees are saying, how they’re responding to that, and you have to pay attention to that as well to see if the promises that you’re making, if they’re perceived as being kept. [12:57]

David Zinger: So, engagement really is that connection. It kind of reminds me of a line from the field of positive deviancy that goes never do anything about me without me. [13:06]

Jasmine Gartner: Exactly, yeah, absolutely. I mean the other thing I would say as well is that I think there’s a perception sometimes that employee engagement is something that you do to your employees, you know, and in fact it should be something that you do with them. [13:20]

David Zinger: And with makes all the difference. [13:22]

Jasmine Gartner: It makes all the difference, it really does. [13:24]

David Zinger: So, we have a slightly different diagram of organizational culture. Anything you want to elaborate with this one? [13:32]

Jasmine Gartner: The reason I have this image is usually when we talk about culture in terms of anthropology, it’s unspoken, it’s below that waterline that you see there, and you know when you talk about culture like a national culture, we would say that it’s almost like language; you don’t remember learning your culture, it’s unspoken, it’s passive, and you almost do it without thinking. Whereas in an organization that is turned upside down and the values are on the top, and so it can be a quite precarious situation, because like I said, again if your values don’t match up with your behaviors and the rules that you put out there, people will see it straight away. [14:12]

David Zinger: Yeah. [14:13]

Jasmine Gartner: That’s why I (inaudible). [14:15]

David Zinger: And so anthropology plus engagement equals question mark. People seem to be into making equations out of things. So, if that’s the equation, what’s the answer? [14:28]

Jasmine Gartner: I’d say that it’s anthropology plus engagement is it brings a science to it; it’s going to become more systematic. So, maybe anthropology plus engagement leads to a, you know, a formula that everybody can follow that simplifies it. Maybe you’re looking for a one word answer, I’m not sure I can come up with one, but you’re looking to simplify engagement, or at least that’s what I’m trying to do is make it more accessible to people, as many people as possible. [14:54]

David Zinger: Simplify it, but also with data and a more scientific orientation as opposed to the biases and the things that we might be so prone to? [15:04]

Jasmine Gartner: Exactly. What you’re looking for, again, is patterns of behavior that you can systematize, so even though engagement might look slightly different in every workplace – it will look different in many workplaces, there are some patterns that are the same everywhere. [15:16]

David Zinger: So, I’m not sure we can do this but let’s give it a shot. So, you’re going to teach a manager to be an anthropologist in 30 seconds or so. If I walk into my organization and I had an anthropological viewpoint of what’s going on, what would I be looking for? [15:35]

Jasmine Gartner: I think what you would be looking for is behaviors, because you know you can’t see values. I think that’s what it comes down to; you really cannot see values, it’s there in people’s heads, they’re ideas, they’re, you know, and so you would be reading behaviors. I was just reading an article this morning about, it was a guy saying well, you know as a boss, as a manager you decide well I’m going go into a room and stay the day and go and make contact with people, I’m going to go and chat with them, and you all of the sudden walk through and realize people are laughing as you walk through, often they’re silent. So, it’s behaviors like that that you would want to be watching out for, and then reflects on your leadership, it reflects on the culture that you have there. If they’re still open with you, if they include you, I think that would be one thing that you would look for. So, you analyze behaviors to get at values, and that means in terms of your employees as well, you know, you want to know what they perceive the culture to be. [16:27]

David Zinger: OK, and where you make a difference in corporate anthropology is looking at not just analyzing, not just looking at it, but helping people get onboard and looking at the drivers of robust culture? [16:40]

Jasmine Gartner: Absolutely, I mean that’s the meat of what I do basically. I do a lot of training, I do a lot of work in teaching people how to communicate well, and a lot of that is about looking for those systems of behaviors, those patterns, and then trying to change your own behavior within that to communicate well or to help other people to do so. [17:02]

David Zinger: Well, Jasmine, it’s been just a very short period of time, but what a wonderful, quick snapshot on engagement, and offering us a different lens to look at the workplace. So, if anybody’s watching this, listening to this, I really do encourage them to go to your website and to look at your blog and the areas that you work in. What’s your current work right now; what are you focused on right now these days? [17:27]

Jasmine Gartner: Right now I do a lot of training around information and consultation, which I think you have in Canada as well don’t you? Where you basically go into the workplace and work with staff forums to build up a culture that’s open, that’s robust, where there’s open communication between staff and management about change. [17:47]

David Zinger: Yeah, that seems so vital and so important. I want to really thank you for joining us for the 15-20 minutes that we’ve been together. This is running in conjunction with the Employee Engagement Network, and the recording will be posted up on the network, it will probably be also at my site. Jasmine, you may decide to post the recording at your site, but a number of ways people can have access to the information, and to offer us another lens to look at this vital field of employee engagement and look at how we can make a difference by focusing on the culture. Thank you so much for joining us today. [18:23]

Jasmine Gartner: Thank you for having me. [18:25]

David Zinger: Oh, it’s just been wonderful. Thanks so much. 

—–

Jasmine Gartner. To learn more about Jasmine’s work I encourage you to visit her site: www.jasminegartner.com.

David Zinger is devoted to helping organizations and individuals fully engage in work to build and sustain successful and meaningful results and relationships. Request his speeches, workshop, or consulting today on the pyramid of employee engagement to engage all of your employees. Mr. Zinger founded and hosts the 4700+ member Employee Engagement Network. Contact David today at zingerdj@gmail.com.

 

8 Powerful Approaches to Create Meaningful Employee Engagement

7. Make meaning – why work?

(Part 8 of an 11 part series on how managers can improve employee engagement)

Finding direction through meaning

Meaning. For work to sustain and enrich people it must be meaningful. Those who have a why to work can bear almost any how and a sense of meaningful work instills a strong and rich intrinsic motivation. Progress, when it is meaningful, can be one of the best events of our day.

Finding and Defining Meaning. Paul Fairlie recently published an article on meaningful work and engagement in Advances in Developing Human Resources. He listed the common dimensions of meaning: having a purpose or goal, living according to one’s values and goals, autonomy, control, challenge, achievement, competence, mastery, commitment, engagement, generativity or service to others, self-realization, growth and fulfillment. Fairlie conducted research on meaningful work with 574 respondents.  He offered six implications for human resource development practice including deeper discussion and social connections, changing mindsets, and management education on models of human meaning. He concluded that meaninful work was a unique predictor of engagement, “meaningful work characteristics are an overlooked sources of employee motivation and engagement within organizations.”

Here are 8 ways to create meaningful work:

  1. Trump how with why
  2. Build abundant leadership whys
  3. Stretch meaning, shrink money
  4. Get Pink with autonomy, mastery, purpose
  5. Master your Mojo
  6. Reframe your values as promises
  7. Lead on purpose
  8. Double your WAMI at work

Trump how with why. Viktor Frankl concluded that the meaning of life is found in every moment of living and that life never ceases to have meaning. To move this to the workplace, if you have a why to work you can bear almost any how. Not everyone is engaged in meaningful work, but maybe everyone can be.  Part of making this happen is helping organizations, leaders, managers, and employees learn how to co-create meaningful workplaces. Part of making this happen is helping workers to perceive and experience the greater purpose in their work. In the workplace, meaning is co-created between the organization and individual. It is not something we give to another person — meaning must be built through authentic conversations about the why of work.

Build  abundant leadership whys. David and Wendy Ulrich wrote They Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations that Win. The authors frame the book around some down-to-earth and meaningful questions around identity, prupose, motivation, relationships, teams, work culture, contribution, growth, learning, resilience, civility and happiness. They encourage us to ask ourselves:

  • What am I known for?
  • Where am I going?
  • Whom do I travel with?
  • How do I build a positive work environment?
  • What challenges and interest me?
  • How do I respond to disposability and change?
  • What delights me?

The Why of Work is a practical book for leaders who are looking to instill meaning. As the authors  state in their preface: “Leaders are meaning makers: they set direction that others aspire to; they help others participate in doing good work and good works; they communicate ideas and invest in practices that shape how people think, act, and feel. As organizations become an increasing part of the individual’s sense of identity and purpose, leaders play an increasing role in helping people shape the meaning of their lives.”

Stretch meaning, shrink money. Money matters but so does meaning, completion, competition and motivation to instill caring at work. Dan Ariely offered an insightful 4 minute video on work and meaning at Big Think. He outlines how motivation and engagement are created through meaning. I encourage you to watch this video. Here is a short snippet from the transcript:

Sure, we care about money and it’s nice to get paid, but there’s also a whole range of other things that we get–a need for achievement and completion, competition with other people, and a sense of progress and a sense of meaning.  And all of those things really, really matter.  But as we move to a knowledge economy that depends more on people’s good intention and willing, and as the nature of work becomes more amorphic and work kind of interweaves with life in all kinds of interesting ways, as we move more and more to that kind of workplace, I think the relative importance of money is getting smaller and the relative importance of those other things could get… could get much larger…The first lesson is that we need to recognize how important meaning, completion, competition, motivations are in getting people to care and to work hard, and we need to try to encourage those…we need to do things that don’t undercut those human motivations.

Get Pink with autonomy, mastery and purpose. Daniel Pink wrote the popular book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  Meaning and motivation according to the research Pink gathered is created through autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Pink stated that purpose maximization is taking its place alongside profit maximization as an aspiration and a guiding principle.  We need to use profit to reach purpose, lessen the emphasis on self-interest, and help people pursue purpose on their own terms. Pink believe this may not only rejuvenate our businesses and organizations but also remake our world.

Master your Mojo. Marshall Goldsmith offers MOJO to find meaning. Mojo means working with 3 elements:

  1. Identity (Who do you think you are?)
  2. Achievement (What have you done lately?)
  3. Reputation (Who do other people think you are? What do other people think you’ve done lately?) .
The back and forth of mojo. We find professional mojo by what we bring to an activity. This includes motivation, knowledge, ability, confidence, and authenticity. Our personal mojo is developed by what the activity brings to us. This includes happiness, reward, meaning, learning, and gratitude. Watch and listen as Marshall takes 3 minutes to help us get our mojo working:

If the video does not open in this window, click here.

Reframe your values as promises. I appreciated Mike Morrison’s slim book on The Other Side of the Card: Where Your Authentic Leadership Begins. Mike was the Dean of the University of Toyota. He stated that one side of our business card has writing and the other has meaning. The meaning is created on the blank side of the card. The book offers a number of short exercises to fill the white space of our work with meaning. One element of the book that really stood out for me was to reframe values as promises. Values are often nice sounding statements that frozen in a framed wall statement while promises are something we keep. Ensure that your values don’t stagnate on the wall, think of them as promises, and then do all you can to keep the promises you make.

Lead on purpose.  Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer have done some great research and writing demonstrating how important minimizing setbacks and maximizing progress is for engaged work. In the January 2012 McKinsey Quarterly they outline how leaders kill meaning at work. This occurs by “dismissing the importance of subordinates’ work or ideas, destroying a sense of ownership by switching people off projects teams before work is finalized, shifting goals so frequently that people despair that their work will ever see the light of day, and neglecting to keep subordinates up to date on changing priorities for customers. The article includes a plea for executives to instill meaning in other and find meaning for themselves at the same time:

 you are in a better position than anyone to identify and articulate the higher purpose of what people do within your organization. Make that purpose real, support its achievement through consistent everyday actions, and you will create the meaning that motivates people toward greatness. Along the way, you may find greater meaining your own work as a leader.

Double your WAMI at  work. Michael F. Stager encourage us to fine our WAMI through a work and meaning inventory. People work for many reasons – some are obvious (I am paid to work), some are not as obvious (work is where my friends are). Research evidence and case studies testify to the reality that understanding how people approach work and what they get from it is vital to learning how to achieve the best possible outcomes for individuals and organizations. Meaningful work is a good predictor of desirable work attitudes like job satisfaction. In addition, meaningful work is a better predictor of absenteeism from work than job satisfaction.  The Work and Meaning Inventory (WAMI) assesses three core components of meaningful work: the degree to which people find their work to have significance and purpose, the contribution work makes to finding broader meaning in life, and the desire and means for one’s work to make a positive contribution to the greater good. To download the 10-item WAMI assessment and scoring key click here.

Five meaningful considerations.

  1. Create meaning rather than searching for it. Making meaning is a creative and co-creative process.
  2. Work with meaning while achieving meaningful results.
  3. Actively engage with some of the sources listed here to enhance your own meaning and help others create their meaning.
  4. Have wide eyes about your work so that you can see and experience the greater purpsse in what you do.
  5. Remind yourself that meaning is a process not an event. You don’t simply find meaning one day, you engage in meaningful work every day.

Read these 7 meaningful sources:

    • Paul Fairlie, Meaningful work, employee engagement, and other key employee outcomesImplication for Human Resource Development. Advances in Developing Human Resouces. December 2011.
    • Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning.
    • Dave Ullrich and Wendy Ulrich, The Why of Work: how Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations That Win
    • Dan Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
    • Marshall Goldsmith, MOJO: How to get it, how to keep it, how to get it back if you lose it.
    • Mike Morrison, The Other side of the Card: Where Your Authentic leadership Begins.
    • Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, How leaders kill meaning at work. McKinsey Quarterly, January 2012.

Next post in this series: Experience Well Being.

David Zinger built the 10 block pyramid of employee engagement to help managers bring the full power of employee engagement to their workplaces. If you would like to arrange to have this course or workshop for your organization or conference contact David today at 204 254 2130 or zingerdj@gmail.com.