Doing dangerous things for the hell of it is part and parcel of being human
Don’t be cynical about Felix Baumgartner. His parachute jump was extraordinary
Daredevil Austrian born Felix Baumgartner has safely jumped out of a balloon 24 miles above New Mexico, becoming the first skydiver to break the speed of sound by traveling over 833 miles per hour. His ascended the rooftop of the world, just inside the outer edge of the stratosphere, in a specially build rocket capsule, hanging underneath two million cubic-foot polyethylene balloon filled with helium. from their he opened his capsule, hung in the doorway uttering something about suddenly feeling very small and bravely jumped to earth.
In total, it took him just under 10 minutes to make the record descent – it was also the highest ever freefall – and he opened his parachute with just a few thousand feet to go.
With the waiting over and Baumgartner safely back on terra firma, reaction to his stunt seems to be polarising. There are those who say that, although clearly brave, the Austrian is also clearly stupid, selfish or both.
“Jumping from a balloon won’t cure cancer or reverse the global economic meltdown”
After all, they argue, this was largely a stunt for self-aggrandisement and little else. Baumgartner spent a lot of money and presumably tied up quite a few emergency personnel because he wanted to show off. And he could easily have died – like others who have recently tried to break this particular record.
Jumping from a balloon won’t cure cancer or reverse the global economic meltdown, so why is it afforded so many column inches in newspapers and celebratory pieces on the news?
“Baumgartner’s death-defying jump was sensational, and it showed something good about the human spirit.”
The fact of the matter is that Baumgartner was not alone in this quest – just like any incredible feat of human endeavour, the achievement comes through a strong support network and great teamwork. It is a story of NASA proportions where everyone has a crucial role to play in order to demonstrate the capacity and capability of the human spirit. After all, why does anyone want to break any record – because they believe they can. This story is a testimony in self belief, the achievement of goals and the celebration of success. Baumgartner’s death-defying jump was sensational, and it shows something incredible about the human spirit.
There was, of course, some scientific justification for the jump, though it has to be admitted that any data that comes from it on high-performance, high-altitude parachute systems feels rather secondary to its real purpose.
Which was simply to go to where no man (or woman) has gone before, and do something nobody else ever has.
Why is that worthy of celebration? Because it’s what human beings do. Along with big brains and opposable thumbs, what separates men from monkeys is a desire to understand our world and explore beyond our natural boundaries. Baumgartner is undoubtedly a bit of a show-off, but then he also follows in a long tradition of those who push the limits of human experience for its own sake.
“Though Neil Armstrong collected some interesting rocks, the abiding intent of the Apollo missions was not chemistry or geology but to… prove it could be done”
If you think Baumgartner shouldn’t have bothered, would you rather Sir Edmund Hillary or Ernest Shackleton had also been shackled by health and safety concerns? What about Captain Scott, a tragic British hero celebrated in print and film who died attempting to walk to the South Pole?
Scott died in Antarctica simply trying to find out if something difficult could be done (it could, but mistakes were made, which of course were learnt from), which seems to me like justification enough.
And though Neil Armstrong collected some interesting rocks, the abiding intent of the Apollo missions was not chemistry or geology but to show man breaking free of the constraints of gravity, and to prove it could be done. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon to help satisfy man’s natural curiosity about what he can achieve.
And that really is a good thing. It may eventually lead to human settlements beyond the solar system, or the discovery of alien life, or the seeding of the deepest oceans for human benefit.
As the story captures the imagination of the world we will all feel a sense that there are fewer and fewer things we cannot achieve when we build top performing teams of people with incredible skills, knowledge and tenacity, not to mention bravery.
It says a lot of good things about our insatiable spirit of adventure, and a can-do attitude that bodes well for our collective future.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? WAS BAUMGARTNER’S JUMP AN EGOTISTICAL WASTE OF TIME, OR AN INHERENTLY GREAT THING FOR A MAN TO DO?
With the economy picking back up, it’s only a matter of time before job turnover also starts speeding up again. Unsatisfied workers will begin looking for a better job environment and if your office morale is lacking, your company could be the one losing team members. But making some tweaks to your office and work culture can turn the tables and make yours the company that people are dying to work for. Try these techniques suggested by Business Insurance Quotes for boosting office morale and you may see your employees’ satisfaction soar. Alternatively you may not, because I don’t actually agree with this list of 8, so see my alternative list at the end. What do you think?
1. Get a dog
Not every work environment may be suitable to have dogs running around, but research has shown that dogs in the office can help boost the morale and improve work relationships. Whether it’s one office dog or many dogs brought by the employees who own them, the furry co-workers somehow build trust between employees and encourage collaboration. If you allow workers to bring their own dogs from home, it also keeps them from wanting to leave work right at 5 to get home to their pet.
In 2011, employees everywhere got great news: there is now scientific evidence that says they should be able to browse the Internet at work. Now, we’re not talking going to any sites you’d be ashamed to show your wife, but in general, if you let employees use their short moments of downtime to look at websites they enjoy, they will feel less tired become more productive when they’re done. Studies have found that workers who use their breaks to goof around on the Internet rather than checking emails or texting friends are also more engaged in their work after the break and less likely to get bored with it.
The trend in employment is to let more and more employees work, at least occasionally, from home. As many as 40 million Americans telecommute at least once a year and that number continues to grow, with some estimates putting the number at 43 percent of the population by 2016 (though that seems a little extreme). But telecommuters in your company might be hurting the morale of the physical office. In-office workers are less satisfied with their work when there are more people working remotely. It may be because they have weaker ties with these co-workers or because they feel like they have less freedom and more work than the unseen workers at home.
In terms of the set-up of your office, what works for one company won’t necessarily work for another. You obviously have to take the space you have to work with and the nature of your business into account, but there are some office layouts that are better for morale than others. Traditional cubicles are the worst, making workers often feel isolated, under appreciated, and depressed. The open layout has less privacy than cubicles, which could be a problem if your workers make a lot of phone calls, but it encourages communication between employees and makes them feel like part of a team. Closed offices, where employees each have their own office, might be the best for morale, offering privacy and satisfaction, but if you can’t afford that, you might look into a mixed office plan, with closed offices, open-office desks, and a common area.
So “That’s what she said” jokes might actually hurt the office environment? Maybe taking management tips from Michael Scott isn’t such a good idea after all. A 2009 study found that even when people enjoy flirtation and sexual innuendo in the workplace, it has a negative effect on the morale of the office. Surprisingly, the effect is even greater among men. So try to cut down on sexual jokes among your employees, even if everyone seems to be laughing along. The office may seem tame at first, but it will boost spirits overall.
Whether you work in a place where suits are the daily requirement or your office just demands slacks and button-downs or dresses, rewarding your employees with a casual day can be a big morale booster. Many offices go with Casual Fridays, which allows workers to relax a bit and gives them something to look forward to throughout the week. You might also want to give dress-down days as a reward for finishing a long project or a special achievement.
7. Swear a bit
You don’t want to swear at someone at work, but mixing in cursing occasionally when appropriate can actually build relationships in the workplace and allow employees to release frustrations. A British study found that profanities that aren’t used in a negative or abusive way can boost morale and decrease stress. The boss should set the tone for the amount of swearing that is acceptable and gauge the comfort levels of employees to make sure no one is turned off by the amount. You should also avoid using foul language in front of clients or senior staff members.
Many companies were discussing cancelling their office holiday parties when the recession was at its worst. Spending money on a lavish affair didn’t make sense when everyone was hurting for cash. But experts warn against nixing parties altogether because it could hurt the morale of employees who have been working hard all year long. Take companies like Iceland Foods, recently voted the best company to work for in The Sunday Times – now they know how to party and celebrate, thereby creating a high value, high performance culture. If you typically have a party around the holidays or for other special occasions, like the company’s anniversary, keep the celebration but maybe scale it back a bit. You don’t always need a chocolate fountain or a ballroom for employee satisfaction.
Thank you to Roxanne McAnn for sending this post.
My personal view however, is somewhat different to all of the above.
What’s written above reflects things from an employee perspective in an economic cycle where employees have power. However, with 3 million people unemployed in the UK, it’s currently the employers with the power. In addition to which, if companies are to survive in this extremely challenging global economic climate, they cannot afford to go all ‘soft’ on their employees.
Great companies, like Iceland Foods, will be seeking to get the best out of their employees, retain and attract the very best people, by creating a high value, high performance culture. I would therefore replace the above eight suggestions as follows:
Organisations who are looking to become great places to work are striving to achieve the right balance between a stretching and demanding work environment and highly efficient, productive workers with a healthy work/life balance. This see-saw is incredibly difficult for leaders to manage. Companies must have the edge over their competition if they are to provide a secure environment for their employees and maintain their morale. To achieve this requires the creation of unstoppable teams, who deliver staggering results, but do so because they work hard and play hard and don’t burn themselves out. Having an external professional coach by their side enables leaders to achieve this balance in the same way top athletes and sports people do.
The problem with an open policy on browsing, as I have so often seen in companies I visit, is that it can become a complete distraction for employees and it reduces overall efficiency. Conversely, one of the biggest issues affecting productivity and morale is when employees feel they are so over-worked that they cannot afford to take a break at lunch. No break = a more inefficient afternoon = mounting workloads. Leaders should set the tone here and encourage staff to take ‘time out’ and rest.
Now-a-days many teams operate remotely. Some in different offices; some in different countries. The key to strong team-work and morale is good communication. Get the team together once a week to discuss and debate issues. This is the key to better decision making. With the explosion in audio conferencing facilities, skype and GoToMeeting this is entirely possible to get everyone ‘in one room’.
In terms of the set-up of your office, you will achieve greater productivity, efficiency and morale by addressing the behavioral and attitudinal issues facing the team each and every day rather than the physical environment in which they work. Here it is the leader who sets the tone. He/She must demonstrate good leadership. They must be alive to the feelings of the employees if they are to win their hearts and minds and create a fantastic atmosphere in which to work.
The key to healthy, open and honest working conditions is to actively promote equality and respect for all and celebrate diversity within the team. the team needs to be able to have their say in a spirit of honesty and openness, without fear of reprisal or blame. Playing to everyone’s strengths you can have banter and fun in the office – but everyone needs to understand the ground rules and the implications of getting it right or sometimes acknowledging if we get it wrong.
Most organisations now provide their employees with uniforms – in the customer services arena this helps the customer to easily identify who is working at the company. Wearing company attire with pride promotes the overall image of the organisation and can lead to a positive brand image – after all, as an employee, you are the face of the organisation. As such, poor dress code or poor (miserable) facial expression and attitude will undoubtedly damage the brand. I have a saying that one of only two things happen whenever you walk into an organisation. Your view of the brand will either be enhanced or diminished by the experience you have – there is no middle ground.
I’m not sure about the swearing thing – the boundaries here are impossible to set. However, leaders should always be promoting the opportunity to have fun. I once visited the guys at Charthouse Learning – their office was full of color, family photo’s, toys and games to play at break time and as ice-breakers for meetings. The atmosphere was electric. There was plenty of laughter, but also a serious undertone of being the best in business.
Surprisingly, many staff are not motivated entirely by money. The bonus culture is frowned upon and research shows that people are far more inclined to work harder and feel greater job satisfaction with a simple “Well done” and a pat on the back. The best blue chip companies I ever worked in knew that if they spent up to £10 million on lavish parties/conferences to celebrate the success of their very top people, they would earn that money back within a month, because it has the effect of stepping everyone up a gear to want to deliver even more and get back on the podium the following year/quarter. Take companies like Iceland Foods, recently voted the best company to work for in The Sunday Times – now they know how to party and celebrate, thereby creating a high value, high performance culture in which to work.
Anyway – that’s what I think – what do you think?
If you enjoyed this article:
- please LIKE Leadership-Expert™ on Facebook,
- subscribe here
- Sign up to learn many more leadership tips at The International Leadership Conference, London 2012
- Leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.
Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries has written over 35 books on the subject of leadership and the dynamics of both individuals and teams during periods of organisational change. A clinical professor of leadership development, he has been rated by The Financial Times and The Economist as one of the worlds leading leadership theorists and among the world’s top 50 leading management thinkers. More than this though, he has over 20 years of hands on experience of running CEO leadership team coaching programmes entitled ‘The Challenge of Leadership: Creating Effective Leaders’ and his book draws on many personal ‘real-life’ experiences.
Don’t let his academic standing put you off. His book is full of easy to understand concepts that I found really resonated with me from my days of working in medium to large corporations. If you are a CEO, senior manager or aspiring leader, this leadership book is a must read.
It provides real insights into the ‘human’ intricacies of working in teams; the dysfunctional overt and covert behaviour that can marginalise individuals and hinder team productivity. Manfred goes on to examine the benefits of leadership coaching and the positive impact this has had through his own experiences of building high performing teams.
He provides a wonderful story which for me sums up the culture that managers can create, without even realising it:
“A group of frogs was hopping contentedly through a swamp, doing whatever it is frogs do, when two of them fell into a deep hole. The other frogs gathered around to see what they could do to help their friends. When they saw how deep the hole was, they gave up. They told the two poor frogs in the hole that they should abandon hope and prepare themselves for death.
Unwilling to accept their fate, the two frogs tried with all their might to jump out of the hole. The frogs in the marsh kept calling down to them, insisting that their situation was hopeless and that the best they could do was save their energy and wait patiently for death. They did not hesitate to add that the frogs would not be in this unfortunate situation if they had been more careful, and listened to their elders.
But the two frogs continued jumping as high as they could. Gradually, they grew tired. Finally, one of the frogs took heed of his friends’ words. Spent and disheartened, he quietly accepted his fate, lay down at the bottom of the hole, and died as the others looked on in grief.
But the other frog was more persistent. He continued to jump with every ounce of energy he head, although his body was wracked with pain. Once again, the crowds of frogs, hanging over the hole, yelled at him to stop this nonsense, accept his fate, and just die. Undaunted, the weary frog jumped harder and harder and – wonder of wonders – finally leapt so high that he got out of the hole. Amazed, the other frogs celebrated his miraculous return to freedom and then, gathering around him asked, “Why did you carry on jumping when we told you to give up?”
The poor frog stared at them in astonishment. “But, my friends,” he said, “I am rather deaf. At that distance I could not read your lips. When I saw you waving and shouting, I thought you were encouraging me not to give up. That’s why I kept on trying.”
As the paradoxical tale illustrates, having your team-mates on your side, cheering you on, motivating and encouraging you, can be very powerful. This level of support may stimulate you to perform beyond expectations. Equally, where the opposite culture exists, team members are doomed to fail. Your future as leaders will rest on your ability to recognise the often invisible undercurrent of group dynamics within your organisation as these can either create a group effect that is more powerful than the sum of its parts, or quickly destroy the purpose and performance of the team. This book will enable you to explore team-based distributive leadership skills, enabling you to get the best from your people.
‘The Hedgehog Effect’ goes on to explore the need for the organisations of tomorrow to have executives who can deal with the advantages and disadvantages of teamwork and know how to be an effective member of a team themselves.
The book focuses heavily on self-awareness, culture and group dynamics. It is very well written and I found myself highlighting whole pages of ‘golden nuggets’ of practical tasks I could undertake as a coach, leader and team member with everyone I interact with. This is one of the most powerful, up-to-date leadership books I have read recently and one well work adding to the arsenal of tools to help you learn some of ‘the secrets of building high performance teams’. It will be well worth quoting from in forthcoming practical articles on coaching and team work.
If you like this article, subscribe here , LIKE us on facebook, leave a comment, or to get your own personal copy of The Hedgehog Effect to enable you to become a more effective leader, coach and team member. After all, I’ve told you about the frogs…wait till you read about the hedgehogs!
The way in which you work is influenced by a myriad of factors, not least of which being the working culture you’re surrounded by. Whether it’s a national or local outlook, the world around you inevitably has a knock-on effect when it comes to the hours you work, your productivity, and your career trajectory.
On a global scale, it is easy to see the effect of different working cultures on the world of industry. The OECD (the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) keeps a close eye on the average annual hours worked per worker by country, and Korea remains consistently at the top of the table (in 2010, the figure reported was 2,193). Whilst the UK sits comparatively lower down on the table, with the figure in 2010 standing at 1,647, this is no bad thing. In a report by Forbes.com, it is made clear that the high working hours in South Korea are due largely to the working culture, which often includes huge amounts of overtime and very little holiday.
Obviously, working cultures don’t just differ from country to country, but also from city to city. Certain areas in the UK, for example, are renowned for having a more highly pressured working environment than others. London – the country’s capital – has gained a reputation for an extremely competitive workforce. As the hub for many industry giants, the sheer number of people eager to work in the capital results in a working culture in which everyone is constantly fighting to stay on top. This certainly boosts productivity, but must of course be offset by the necessity for a sensible work-life balance (which might explain why the city is also famous for its nightlife and culture!).
It’s generally easy to tell what the working environment will be like in certain areas, simply by looking at the kind of businesses operating in the city and the ratio of urban:suburban living. Even different branches of the same company can feel completely different from one city to another, so it’s important to assess the factor of location when job hunting.
For those eager to enter into the job race in the country’s most productive areas, there are various online recruitment companies which offer up to date news and information on jobs in London and the UK’s major working cities like Manchester and Nottingham. Keeping a close eye on financial and business news sources will allow job seekers to stay on top of the best places to advance their careers, and help them to figure out their ideal working culture.
Sure, every individual has valuable contribution to make within an organisation. But it is the core team that makes the difference between corporate success and mediocrity. The core are the key strategic, mission-critical roles driving the organisation. The rest is just window dressing.
If you consider the dynamics of the world’s ultimate sporting teams, it is the spine of the team that spells great team success. With the England ’66 squad it was Banks, Moore, Charlton and Hurst. For the long unbeaten Australian cricket team, it was McGrath, Warne, Waugh, Gilchrist and Ponting. And then Vickery, Johnson, Dallaglio, Dawson and Wilkinson delivered in spectacular form as the legendary 2003 Rugby World Cup team.
History tells us that behind each of these sporting team triumphs was a beautifully crafted core in which not one player, but the entire critical backbone of the team was equally outstanding. A strong core team can also afford to support remaining players with lesser skills and experience without compromising overall performance.
And if you translate this sporting analogy into a business context?
It is about the effectiveness of the corporate core, working as an elite team driving the corporate direction, living and breathing its vision. But make no mistake - organisations require more than competent, experienced individuals to fill these key roles. Business excellence demands that the calibre of the core team is best-in-class.
Without exceptional appointments in the core, organisational success is badly diluted. Surely this is never more important than in a challenged economic climate.
About the Author:
This is a guest post by Christina Sage, an ambassador for CMI, a leading source of management training in the UK
I received an unpleasant phone call today. A man was calling from abroad to try and pull a cliche scam. Him, allegedly belonging to my ‘technical maintenance’ company, wanted to tell me that I had viruses on my computer that he could help with. About 20 seconds into his script, my brother arrived at the front door, and in a rather smug act I slammed the phone down without warning and went to greet my brother, without a care in the world. I did however pause on the stairs to imagine whether my dodgy cold caller was feeling the same.
I like to think that by now, I have a fairly good understanding of the world and the types of people whom inhabit it. But which category did my afternoon intruder fit into? Was he an evil career criminal? Or more likely; was he a poor and desperate individual, reluctantly tied into coming into ‘work’ each day to dupe unwitting westerners in order to take a tiny cut and feed his family? A bit of follow-up research into the matter indicates that the latter scenario is probably closer to the truth.
This got me thinking about unethical organisations, and the people who work within them. When I think about ‘unethical businesses’, my mind isn’t just fixed on the ‘Nigerian Scammers’ of today. A greater number of legitimate but questionable multinationals could also be considered unethical organisations. Their industries include:
Tobacco, Online-Pharmaceutical, Gambling, Animal Testing, Weapons & Military Systems. While these organisations cause harm to their customers or stakeholders, there are also industries classified as unethical from a wider religious or political standpoint, including Pornography and Lobbying, and could recently be said to include the Oil & Gas majors as well as Investment Banks.
These industries employ millions of people the world over, but are these employees as happy as their equivalents in ethical organisations? Does an employees perception of their employers ethical standing affect their motivation and productivity? Do unethical employers in return, have to pay an ‘unethical premium’ to retain their staff?
The Labour Market
‘The survey found that 71% of recent UK graduates would rather work for a business with strong ethical values, while an even bigger number, 76%, said they would actually consider leaving a firm because of its CSR policies – or lack of them.” The threatening statistics about employees proactively leaving a job in response to CSR policies is particularly striking. This is a big step up from the ‘choosiness’ displayed by job seekers.
And according to the Guardian, a BT survey found that for more than one-third of young professionals, working for a caring and responsible employer was more important even than the salary they earned.
It seems clear to me that when we apply the basic laws of economics to unethical job roles, in seems an inescapable reality that employers are having to offer higher salaries in order to compete in the labour market.
If we take Maslow’s famous ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ (Source), which provides a useful insight into the way motivation ‘works’, we can see that the lowest instance that ethicality of an employer seems to appear is perhaps ‘Sense of Connection’ which could apply to the resonance between an employee and the organisations values. It could also be relevant to the self-esteem level, as ‘achievement’ is subjective and will be affected by societies perception of an individuals employer. It goes without saying that self-actualisation is heavily inter-twined with morality and ethics, and therefore employer ethics will become a significant factor at this level.
So what does this mean for unethical employers? Well, the ‘Hierarchy’ represents the limiting factors of human happiness. The theory states that if one factor is unfulfilled, employees will struggle to move up the pyramid, and struggle to attain high levels of happiness and productivity. Maslow would therefore agree that if an employee feels at odds with his organisations or colleagues lack of ethics (Love and Belonging), or feels persecuted and disrespected due to his employer (Self Esteem), or believes his work to be in some way immoral (Self-actualisation), then the employee will be less happy at work. The knock-on effect for productivity is obvious.
The Ethical Champion (The Co-operative)
The Co-operative Group has a very different legal structure to a standard corporation, which may sound rather strange to you, depending on which country you’re browsing from! A co-operative is a company owned by it’s members, who are typically its customers. On a large scale, this results in large organisations that have no external shareholders. The result is an ethical culture of sustainability. The Co-operative Group, based in the UK, is the worlds largest retail co-operative, with services spanning from food, to finances to funerals!
If unethical companies do have to pay a premium to retain good staff, then the ‘Angel’ companies such as The Co-operative must be witnessing the upside. I took a look at The Co-operative 2009 Annual report to see if I could interpret a measure of employee commitment and loyalty performance. Their annual employee survey, which is a good indicator of employee participation levels had an 85% response rate, which is extremely high (against personal experience). It seems that the positive and ethical companies are seeing rewards from their various CSR schemes, many of which directly involve employees.
Or of course, you could take advice from Jay Goltz, writing for the NY Times, when he said “The secret to having a happy workforce, [...] is firing the unhappy people”.
What Do You Think?
Do you work in one of the industries outlined above? How much does the morality of an organisation effect your loyalty and motivation? Leave a comment below!
The modern manager understands the benefits that can be gained from team diversity, but managing a truly multicultural team is not a simple task. While many developed and developing countries are packed with organisation featuring a wide range of ethnicities, often these employees have all lived in the same country for many years and as such are not truly multicultural, as they share much of the same heritage and background.
Globalisation and the international consolidation of industry has led to large, international groups of companies becoming the norm, and with this – comes the really significant changes like language barriers, cultural differences and a plethora of new perspectives, as well as working styles. Whether you’re leading a cross-global project team, or work with internationally seconded employees, you’ll be familiar with the new challenges that these changes bring.
A Uniform Approach or a Tailored Style?
One of the first decisions you have to make as a leader or manager, is whether to use a consistent leadership style in your interactions with all people, or to effectively treat each culture differently. The latter method is simpler, and leaves your mind freer to deal with day to day tasks, however increases the risk of alienating individuals or committing a faux pas.
I believe the answer to this question lies in how many cultures you deal with on a day to day basis. Do you interact closely with a select few cultures, or are you engaged with a far wider number at a further distance?
An example of the latter would be a university lecturer who must teach a class with more nationalities than one could name. In this case, a universal approach to leadership styles seems reasonable. This is for two key reasons: The first is that ensuring one observes the often subtle manners and traditions of a particular culture requires a significant amount of effort, and attempting to do so for a class of 20 students would require more attention than in acceptable. Secondly, a relationship between lecturer and student is more distant, meaning the lecturer would often have to make a ‘best guess’ at the cultural background of the student before tailoring a response – a strategy that again would distract a lecturer from their teaching, and could result in offensive mistakes.
The opposite applies for intimate business relationships with different cultures, for example perhaps you are engaged in a consultancy project with a Japanese client, which means you have work closely with Japanese employees to produce your deliverables. In this case, developing a style of interaction suited for Japanese people is probably the most efficient and effective leadership method.
How to Develop a Uniform Leadership Style
A leadership style that ‘works’ across all cultures is one that is polite, respectful and sincere, as this will always be appreciated. Becoming a multicultural manager is about stripping back some of the traits that are actually culturally relevant to your home country, but not transferable to others.
Generally speaking, for British managers, this would involve:
- Refraining from using sarcasm, displaying cynicism,
- Not using ‘edgy’ banter that may be taken the wrong way.
- Avoiding the use of colloquialisms unless you plan to put this in context for the listener. “As we would say in England, ‘The early bird catches the worm’.“‘
- Maintaining good body language, as this is more keenly observed by some cultures than others.
Developing a Tailored Leadership Style
In the case of the Japanese Consultancy Project, it would be worthwhile to research how westerners (or visitors from other countries) can best adapt to the often unforgiving Japanese traditions. (This site would be a good place to start). There are two levels of development of your behaviour to suit their culture; The first level is concerned with minimising faux pas, or social mistakes, which may instantly ruin the good rapport you have built up with them. The second level is about truly understanding how the other culture ‘works’, in order to sculpt your behaviour to go beyond the norm, to impress and inspire your multicultural teams.
The first level can be obtained by researching online or in books, guides written to help businessmen and travelers fit in with foreign cultures. The second level requires more forethought, and will be attained after you have built up a host of experiences with the culture in question.
How do you set out in dealing with people from different cultures that you have never worked with before? How do you not only ‘get on’ with them, but lead them effectively? Leave your comments below!
The current financial situation in the UK is dire, there’s no denying that fact, so some extra cash should be very appealing, shouldn’t it? Well, what would you be prepared to do as a leader for free money? Research carried out by MoneySupermarket.com details how far members of the British public are prepared to go for £400.
When we asked the question, what would the British public do for £400? We had loads of suggestions, from licking a public pavement to being a crash test dummy. Considering some members of the public would be a crash test dummy for £400 we found it astonishing that (according to our research) half (50%) of the British public have never used a financial product that rewards them for their spending, not even a rewards credit card. I’m sure you would agree that using such a product would be a lot simpler and a lot less stressful that being a crash test dummy!
Take a look at the following infographic, and ask yourself would you be prepared to show your leadership skills and do one of the following for £400? Leave your responses in the comments section!
Analysis of the info-graphic above raises some pretty interesting questions. If British employees are disinclined to take advantage of these ‘free lunches’ in their personal finances, are they taking advantage of such opportunities in a business setting? As a leader, I would urge you to critically evaluate whether your subordinates are actually being as efficient as they can be in their roles. In times of austerity, is it important that a business squeezes the most value from each of it’s paid workers. If the average citizen doesn’t look for new efficiencies in the form of free lunches when they personally stand to gain from it, do you really think they’ll grab such opportunities under your leadership, when they stand to gain little as a consequence?
Leave your thoughts below!
Each year, the City of Ventura, California USA plays host to the ‘Ventura Corporate Games’. From their website: “Corporate Games provides a valuable opportunity for companies and employees to work together to build team unity and morale, which has become very important with the challenges facing many businesses and employees in the last couple of years.”
It’s certainly an interesting spin on the office day out, and many companies, including sales outsourcing business Cydcor Inc have been seeing a fair measure of success in the games. While the sports arena is not often associated with the team building activities currently available in the UK, Cydcor‘s recent big win in Basketball in Ventura has certainly sent a clear signal to their employees.
The Ventura Corporate Games are open to businesses with betwen 51-150 employees, which ensures that a significant % of the workforce will be actively participating in the games. What strikes me instantly is ‘Why hasn’t this been done before?’. Firstly, we all appreciate that team sports are perhaps the most team-orientated activities in existence, and also that many companies already have football, basketball and rounders teams anyway. These games are a great fusion of work and adventure.
As Cydcor will have no doubt realised – you wont have a successful sports team without friction, and in the same way, most massively successful business projects encounter inter-personal issues at some point along the way. So perhaps a sporting environment allows individuals to come to peace with others in an environment where conflicting opinions are demonstrated much more openly and naturally. In this respect, I could see many previously dysfunctional work teams come back from Ventura with a far more harmonious vibe.
Let us just hope that the rising obesity figures in both the US and the UK don’t put a stop to the spread of these ingenious events.
Team morale is a massively important element of motivation and is also a key driver of productivity. If you can manage the morale of your team effectively, you can help them produce results in a way that will be as fulfilling for them as it is for you. Different team members with different personalities in different roles will respond to some morale-boosting tips better than others, so please don’t use this guide as a checklist. Be selective, and tailor your strategy to which you think your subordinate or team members would love.
1. Keep employees informed to tackle ‘them and us’ attitude
The retail industry (among many others) suffer from a ‘them and us’ culture, where employees increasingly see management as standing against them. This culture explains the high absenteeism, shocking employee turnover and extreme demoralisation that some retail giants (See: Walmart) suffer from. A communication defficiency between the organisational layers is the main cause of this problem. Elect to be up-front with employees, discussing problems and storms on the horizon as they’re discovered, and not after decisions have been made.
2. Explain the value and benefit to the business they’re creating
A workers morale is derived from the value they believe they’re creating. In this way, a director of a multinational corporation will have a serious morale surplus! However, a cashier at a fast food chain may not feel as well-endowed. Naturally, these grass-root positions in organisations still create plenty of value for the company though, and it pays to remind their occupants of this fact. A manager could, for example let a cashier see how many sales they’ve put through the till that week. It will likely be an impressive figure reaching into four digits for a full-time employee, and may let them impress themselves!
3. Deliver proper training
When your employees are being trained, are they simply thrown in front of a TV and told to sit through a dull and dated video? Or do they get to be coached one-on-one by a consultant, and put through a personalised and well-tailored training programme? A thorough and professional training scheme will fill employees with a sense of empowerment and self-respect. The thought that a company is investing time and expenses into developing their skills will remarkably improve their morale. For existing employees, consider a 2-day training excursion to refresh competencies and update their knowledge with recent market/company changes.
Training schemes are often out of the control of operational manager, and are ‘slotted into’ the induction programme by senior HR managers. However, if you’re in a small company, you may have sizeable influence over the structure of these training programmes. When it comes to budgets and spending, hotel & travel costs will quickly become astronomical if you choose a distant venue. My advice is to hire a local venue that will take employees out of their workplace, but will not require overnight accomodation. This is the key to receive value for money on training programmes, and will allow you to spend more on top quality talent to train your staff!
4. Consider worker’s outside lives by being flexible
Employees flex their lifestyles to fit their jobs with mixed success. Some people, especially young, single professionals manage to get by fine. However those with many responsibilities, including looking after family simply loose a grip on a sensible balance between fun & meaningful activities, and their career. Employ these ‘common sense’ policies into effect today, to create a positive change:
- Allow reasonable personal calls to be made during working hours.
- Use your discretion in allowing employees to leave earlier or arrive later than normal, with the understanding that the hours will be made up later.
- Put money torwards a medical treatment for a parent’s sick child.
5. Treats and team building exercises
I’d describe treats and team building days as ‘expensive and reliable’. Whether you see them as reliable or not, will depend on what you expect to get from them. If you expect a white-water-rafting day to cohesively give your organisation a firm sense of direction, then you probably need to take your head out of the glossy brochure. If however, you would like to encourage positive behaviour you’ve seen recently, and allow a disjointed, new team a little room to gel as a productive unit, then you could be making a wise investment.
6. Suggestion schemes (for large companies with many employees per manager/shop)
The notion that suggestion boxes are somewhat impersonal is a catastrophic understatement. Suggestion boxes are completely impersonal, and don’t directly help the relationship between management and employees. The cloak of anonymity can encourage people to be reckless, hurtful and careless with what they say.
Question: Why did these old-fashioned boxes make it on my list?
Answer: Because they actually work.
Indeed, despite what I’ve said; suggestion boxes do their job rather well. They’re not there to let employees vent anger, or for managers to gleefully ignore. They’re there to take a poll of employee sentiment, feelings, and pick up some of their ideas. I want you to think about the revolutionary (pun intended) element of the 360 feedback exercise. The key element is that you also get feedback from those beneath you, and a suggestion box is a simple way to do this that has been around a long time before such buzz words were ever printed. You need to be disciplined to encourage the use of a suggestion box. You must not let positive comments fill your ego, nor let the angry or hateful words trash your whole strategy. Gather plenty of responses about the exact topic in question, (be sure to ask for constructive ideas alongside any comments) and sit down in a professional fashion and see what you can incorporate into the working environment.
Expert™ Tip: Don’t look up for support
The green flag from a board of directors to go crazy with employee entertainment and training budgets is an recurring fantasy, but don’t hope for it. Don’t resent those ‘fat cats’ for not even supporting a practical, cheap and (in your opinion) worthwhile training project. Instead, become a manager that others will respect. In the face of an old fashioned and top-heavy corporate culture, make your own success in building morale.
You don’t need permission from your boss to tell Jessica how well hard you know she worked last saturday. You don’t need a dual-sign off on a anniversary card to give to an intern graduate you recruited precisely 1 year ago. Morale comes from the heart, and no board member, no chairman and certainly no accountant can stop you in leading your team to new highs of morale.
To Your Success in Achieving Higher Morale!
Simon Oates ~ Leadership Expert