Training. Teaching. Knowledge. However you want to put it – we are clearly not doing enough to develop and retain our smartest people. Three points to get started:
- Stay out of the “war for talent” as much as you can. Increase your efforts to keep your most talented people. Keep them challenged, keep developing them. And don’t simply rely on your headquarter’s training programs. Sending someone to HQ for an extended weekend every three or four years doesn’t qualify as developing talent.
- Quoting organizational theorist Richard Boyatzis: “70 to 80 percent of people in management can be removed from their role – and the organization runs more smoothly.” Why? Simply because they are toxic to their environment. If you want to focus on one thing, it’s the education of your managers. Help them to be resonant leaders, and you will keep your best people longer.
- Modernize your training program. Make it a priority, and don’t just allocate budgets for external training. Build something that sets you apart. Look around for partners to do this. More and more schools are providing specific content for your industry. And online learning is a sensible addition already. Have you looked at Coursera (a massive open online course provider – or MOOC) yet? If not, do. It’s free of charge.
To (mis)quote Jane Austen: A good company is a company of clever, well informed people who have a great deal of conversation.
It’s time to focus on what’s really important, and what’s really driving success. It’s not efficiency, it’s not innovation, and no, it’s not cost cutting. It’s the stuff that makes all of this possible – happiness. Three reasons to go for it:
- The 20th Century is really over. People don’t just go to work to earn the money they need to survive. Remember Abraham Maslow’s pyramid and understand that work is increasingly the place where we seek self fulfillment. And if we find it, that’s when we’re happy. Just look at yourself – don’t tell me that you aren’t more successful when you’re happy. Make sure this is true for everyone in your organization.
- Stop focusing on success as being the source of happiness. Understand that happiness is the source of success. Plenty of psychologists, sociologists and even neuroscientists have given plenty of proof to this. If you are really serious about long term success, you will have to get serious about happiness. Make sure your management understands this and acts accordingly.
- You need to have something that offsets all the pressure, the long hours, the stress. It’s your responsibility. It’s a simple exchange. Your people give loyalty, time, energy, enthusiasm, creativity, they identify with their work and the company they work for, and the least thing management can do is to make sure they are happy. It’s a manager’s primary function.
Like my professor, Mr. Saburo Kob
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ayashi, always said: “Without love, you can’t do management.”
In case you’re wondering how that’s a positive thing, read the book “Thinking In New Boxes” by Alan Iny and Luc de Brabandere. Doubt is one of the richest sources of creativity. It’s a good idea to make it a habit to question things. Three thoughts on how to go from doubt to innovation:
- Don’t just condemn the old by saying, “We have always done it this way.” Do something. Start doubting every routine and make a real effort to find better ways of doing things. Remember: If the rate of change on the outside is higher than the rate of change on the inside, the end is in sight. By doubting the way you are doing things, you have a much better chance of keeping the rate of change at a high level and stay ahead of the game.
- It won’t hurt to doubt that you know everything you need to know in order to be successful. There is a huge difference between “I know digital” and “I have grown up with digital.” The same goes for leadership Know what you don’t know, and keep learning. If you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. So make sure you develop a full set of tools, and don’t think that you can split the wood if you know what an axe looks like.
- Don’t hesitate to bring doubt to your business model or positioning. The structure of your organization. Do you really have the ideal setup for your marketplace today? Put your basics to the test. Get together with your best people and start looking at everything your business is based upon. Chances are that you will identify great ways of improving your business, and you will gain a lot of momentum from this exercise.
I was really surprised when one of our professors at the Berlin School of Creative Leadership once exclaimed “Only the paranoid survive!” without actually putting it up as a joke. I have come to understand what he meant. Doubt is a good thing.
No, this is NOT obvious. Especially not in advertising, where we still think that “creative” is a department. Every single position in every single company and industry can benefit from creativity. Three reasons to focus on it:
- Creativity has never been limited to creating things. Start to understand creativity as something that leads to new ideas, to new ways of doing things. It’s the basis of innovation – and there is nothing you can’t innovate. Products, services, internal structures and processes, everything. Look up “Ten types of innovation” on the web to get an idea.
- Make sure that everyone in your organization understands that they all have creative abilities, and make sure that they use them in what they do. Especially in advertising agencies, we think that if we are all creative that we can all write headlines or commercials. That’s not the point. Everyone can be creative at what they do. Ideally, get someone in to help you with that.
- Get an idea of the state of creativity in your organization. Do you know your most creative people? Chances are that most of the creative potential in your organization hasn’t even been identified. Which translates into a lot of unused innovation and business potential. You need to have a plan to identify your organization’s creative assets and make them work for you.
Creativity is the basis of innovation. It is the root of strategy. It’s what sets you apart from your competitors, and what gives you an identity. Without creativity you wouldn’t even have a business. So make sure it prospers.
With all the mostly superficial talk about passion and the transactional coldness of commitment, I propose to meet somewhere in the middle. Enthusiasm. The honest brother of commitment, the smart and smiling version of all that passion. Three ways of looking at it:
- More and more, our organizational environment is resembling something that is close to what organizational theory labels as organized chaos. Lots of things going on at the same time, some of it structured, some of it not, problems seeking solutions, solutions waiting for problems, things changing constantly, teams being built project by project. This is an environment that requires enthusiasm. Conviction. Positive energy. It needs enthusiasm of an amount that is contagious. People that are not afraid to speak of visions, persistently positive folks. Find them, bring them in.
- Enthusiasts don’t get stuck in a rut easily. They have this perpetual motion thing going, where their energy is constantly producing more energy. They are naturally curious, like to learn, move forward, go beyond boundaries. And they are not just passionately driving forward until they hit a wall, they keep their eyes open and don’t mind if they have to modify a plan, change direction, move past an obstacle. It’s part of the game. If at all, enthusiasts might get bored more easily than other people. Feed them.
- Just think of your work hours. It’s hardly conceivable that we will go back to regular 40 hour work weeks. Ever. Work and private life continue to overlap, converge. Enthusiasts don’t feel like their jobs are eating them up, don’t seem to be extraordinarily stressed. If you love what you do and if you consider your profession as something that is part of your personality, your life, it is actually easier to balance work and private life. Not as two parts that need to be separated, but as an integrated project that defines who you are and how you want to live.
So go ahead, move toward 2015 as an enthusiast. Someone who embraces creativity and raises the level of happiness in your environment and someone who is clever enough to doubt and reflect, and to never stop learning.
You’ll have a great year.