Want high performance? Support peoples personal purpose – here’s how.

The trend for people to find personal purpose means more are leaving the world of employment to forge their own path. Where does this leave organisations? Are we missing out on talent, because people believe they need to seek their purpose elsewhere?

What can organisations and it’s leaders be doing to retain talent and enable individuals to feel fulfilled and ‘on purpose’? It’s about authentic leadership, self management and agile practices.

Change the System, Change the Result

We know that the culture – the system within which people work impacts upon well-being and performance. It also impacts upon our ability to ‘be’ ourselves and bring our full package to the workplace, meaning we feel more purposeful.

The old systems and ways of leading, managing and controlling prevent this:

  • Controlling via top down cascaded objectives: The people at the ‘top’ decide what’s important and cascade to everyone else in a waterfall manner. Objectives are set, often in departmental silos and the people who deliver are the ones rewarded and recognised. This results in a culture where people develop a professional ‘performing’ mask, according to Frederic Laloux in his book Re-inventing Organisations. They feel they must look the part, value rationality above emotions and appear competent, busy & successful at all times. Feelings are hidden and unexpressed, under the pressure to perform to requirements, in order to be rewarded.
  • Company values which are no more than ‘lip service’: The intention behind organisational values is to create a sense of belonging and empowerment. We know this is important to accelerated performance. However, far too many organisational values become a poster on the wall & website, nothing more than a marketing tool. Values must be kept alive and fully integrated into ‘the way we do things’ to really have meaning, otherwise they create cynicism and disappointment.

What are the alternatives?

Co-operation, Self-management and Emerging Strategies

Truly evolved organisations according to Laloux (Re-inventing Organisations ), fully embrace what it means to enable people to bring their whole selves to the workplace. They implement a system where self-managed teams enable co-operative peer relationships, without the need for hierarchy.

We live in a fast paced, constantly changing world and strategies and plans often emerge as our understanding develops, because we’re learning as we go along.

  • Flexible communication enables greater responsiveness to change as it happens.
  • Lack of rigidity means people have less to ‘hold onto’, whether status or responsibility – they are more likely to move with what’s needed.
  • Values are upheld from within the team, rather than ‘communicated’ by the organisation, meaning people feel more purposeful and involved.

Lessons From the Agile Manifesto

The way software was developed changed from the waterfall method of project management to an approach termed as ‘Agile’. Work is structured in short stints, with regular review periods built in and a manifesto which encourages relevant behaviours. There are lessons to be learned from the success of the Agile approach, which can be applied to any type of business.

From the Agile Manifesto:

We have come to value………

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software (replace with product/service/relationship) over comprehensive documentation.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

The agile approach begins with the team creating a vision, based upon customer needs and shorter term objectives are defined – as a team. Steps are mapped out iteratively and frequent reviews in-built, which enable learning to be understood and applied to the next few steps. The plan begins to emerge, rather than being set out in predicted steps and complicated GANTT charts.

Objectives always stay current and realistic. The whole team is behind achievement, avoiding silo thinking and dominant performances. The plan adapts to what is known at a given moment, allowing creativity and flexibility.

“When one holds onto a plan so tightly, one must keep reality at bay, or at least ‘solve for it’”. Lyssa Adkins, Coaching Agile Teams

Leader as Coach and Facilitator, Rather Than Decision Maker and Problem Solver

As a team experiences greater empowerment and agility is facilitated, the leader becomes a coach and facilitator, rather than decision maker and solver of problems. An observer of team dynamics and facilitator of team relationships.

Goals need to be at multiple levels ‘What’s in it for me? What’s in it for us as a team? What’s in it for my company? What’s in it for the world?’ A shared vision encompassing these varied and rich dimensions will survive the shifting winds of conflict and change, which are sure to blow as the team works together.” Lyssa Adkins, Coaching Agile Teams

When an issue emerges leaders ‘take it to the team’ in the belief that they are closer to the problem and will therefore develop a better answer. Understanding that when the team solves a problem this presents an opportunity for further learning and development and evolution of the team, creating greater agility. “Truly agile teams are the unending quest to be better than we are today.” (Lyssa Adkins)

“Problems represent a chance for the team to overcome, grow and become stronger together.” Theodore Rubin, psychiatrist and author.

Team Members Understand Where They Can Utilise Their Particular Strengths

At the core of self managed teams is living real values and empowerment.

There is a tipping point when an individuals self interest shifts to alignment with the behaviours that support team achievement.” Ellen Braun, accomplished agile manager (Coaching Agile Teams).

At the core of the agile approach is iterative planning, which enables continuous learning and improvement.

Both require leaders who are coaches and facilitators.

Team members are more likely to understand where they can add value and utilise their particular strengths. Enabling them to ‘be’ themselves – to be ‘on purpose’.

Strategy and culture become part of the DNA of every single employee, rather than ‘owned’ by the organisation. Better decisions are made, greater accountability is experienced, increased purpose is embedded. Talent is retained, because people want to stay when they are this fulfilled.

“People are not motivated by the company’s bottom line – they want to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves”. (Joey Reiman in the Story of Purpose).

To create a culture which enables individuals to bring the best of themselves and want to stay within your organisation contact Lyn: 07950 914328, Lyn@evolveyou.co.uk

A version of this article was published in the Lean Management Journal 30 March 2017: https://the-lmj.com/2017/03/is-agile-the-best-way-to-achieve-personal-purpose/

Want better results from your team? Be more tortoise!

rabbit and  turtle  on a white background

Want Better Results from your Team?  – Be more tortoise.

The hamster wheel of corporate life. So much to do, deadlines to meet, meetings to attend, projects to deliver. The hare thought speed was the secret to his success, but he lost the race.

Instead, be more tortoise. Follow your hare like sprints with time out for reflection – this is what gets the best results.

On the hamster wheel you will keep on doing what you’ve always done, eventually leading to poor, stagnant results.

Taking time out to reflect develops understanding – of what’s working, what’s not and what we could do differently. It builds our resources to innovate, create, collaborate and continuously improve.

The actions you then take are more considered, focused, specific – your sprints speed up. Less firefighting – more problem solving.

In a competitive world it’s essential that teams are agile in the face of change. This stems from their ability to learn. Learning happens in both the doing and the understanding. To understand, you must reflect. John Dewey (psychologist) said, “We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”

Reflection isn’t just about understanding what went wrong and how you could do better, it’s about understanding what went well, so you can do more of what works. It’s honestly and non-judgmentally examining our contributions.

When you’re contained within your work environment and the pressures it presents you’re not always in the right frame of mind to pause, step back and examine with an open mind.

The work environment demands (sometimes covertly) that we demonstrate our competence, our ability to be in control and deliver. This is what is recognised and rewarded, however, this doesn’t facilitate openness.

The most effective reflection happens in a safe environment.  It’s important to set the conditions for judgement and criticism to be suspended, so it’s possible to examine a situation openly and honestly. James Zull (author, the Art of Changing the Brain) said, “Even if we experience something that has happened to us before, it is hard to make meaning of it unless it engages our emotions.” He also points out that reflection is a search for connections and suggests that we have to seriously consider the role of emotion if we want to foster deep learning. Environment is an important factor in creating the conditions for connecting to emotion.

Setting the boundaries around open and honest review is essential to productive conversations – a facilitator can help to hold a space for this to happen. Some reflective conversations may get intense (in a good way), so take time to have fun together too – reinforcing trust and positive relationships to take back into the workplace.

Most importantly time for review and reflection should be built into the fabric of a teams culture, to be something which happens with regularity. This enforces the habit and builds the skill of review, so improvement becomes – continuous.

Sprints of hare like activity will get things done, but balancing this with regularly slowing down to reflect and review will ensure that the next sprint is well aligned and delivering the best result possible.

Lyn Paxman has over 20 years experience of facilitation, working with corporate leaders and teams. Her mission is to help teams to work in an environment where they thrive not strive. The ‘Team Pause’ day is an experiential and fun process, where teams reflect and understand, before considering their future shared vision. Insights are developed and experienced facilitation creates better conversations, which leads to better decisions and better results.
Contact on 07950 914328, lyn@evolveyou.co.uk