Archive | December, 2011

Merry Christmas everyone. Goodnight Vaclav Havel R.I.P

23 Dec

Why you should let your staff go surfing

21 Dec

We like this approach to management, in fact not enough companies think like this. Yvon Chouinard does and it this approach to business that makes Patagonia a company that people want to work for. The fact that they regularly have 900 applicants for each position within the company is a testament to this. But we at Wake Up! like companies that think differently and are conscious of the environment they inhabit and Patagonia who make climbing gear and outdoor clothing  are one of those companies.

Yvon Chouinard doesn’t have a business degree in fact most of his staff don’t have one either. He prefers to take on people he likes that have an interest in the outdoor life and teach them to be businesspeople rather than the other way around.He likes to break rules and make them work. We like him a lot.

Here are a few of Yvon’s thinkings when it comes to business

  • He employs people who are independent and lets them do what they have to do without any need to supervise.
  • He quite happily sees the benefits of having women in his workplace around 79% of his staff are women. He provides childcare facilities so he can keep his female employees for longer.
  • He tells his customers to buy less. Yes less!! you don’t need a separate pair of shorts for every sporting event. He wants his customers to think with a conscience just as Patagonia do as a company.
  • His staff are friends or Patagoniacs as they are called. He employs people he would like to go to dinner with. “Were surrounded by friends who could dress however they wanted, even barefooted. People ran or surfed at lunch, or played volleyball in the sandpit at the back of the building. The company sponsored ski and climbing trips”
  • He wrote a book called “Let my people go surfing“where he espouses the need to give your staff the freedom to do what they love to do. It makes for a connected and engaged workforce. We love the Patagonia way.
Behind all this is the strength to be able to allow your employees understand that they are trusted to do the right thing.  We spoke about this in the article on X and Y employees. Yvon is definitely a Y employer. If you can trust your staff to complete the tasks they are given then they should be allowed to enjoy the benefits of frisbee when the sun is shining or surfing when the waves are up. The fear is that your staff will take advantage of these opportunities to your detriment. The likelihood whatever you think it is,is probably true. Not only does Yvon trust his employees to do the right thing he also wants to ensure that Patagonia as a company do the right thing.
The Patagonia Mission statement is a testament to this
“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm,use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
Patagonia creates a happy workplace and it is working towards building a business that thinks with a conscience and also creates a happier world.

We can no longer do business without thinking of the consequences on the world we live in and the people who live here. The time to awaken is now.

Happy Friday. These guys are full of energy,

16 Dec

Why you should believe in your staff. As above so below

15 Dec

If you have studied management you have come across the teachings of Douglas Mcgregor and his X and Y theory. Mcgregors theory dates back to 1960 where he placed workers into 2 different categories.

  • Theory X = We work because we are paid and if we are not properly supervised we will stop work= Extrinsic motivation
  • Theory Y = People work because they want to and they feel a sense of achievement or satisfaction from this =Intrinsic motivation

We are either one or the other. So as workers or managers we are either Theory X or Theory Y devotees. If you are energized by your job and firmly a member of the Theory Y camp what happens when you have a manager that is a solid Theory X believer or vice versa? does it matter? well apparently it does.

Researchers have studied the impact on management or leadership styles on the workforce and have discovered that Theory X managers usually end up with staff that need constant supervision. Theory Y managers have staff that enjoy being there and have a sense of fulfillment from where they work. Does this just happen by chance or is there more to this. Apparently there is.

Research taken by a team of people led by Robert Rosenthal uncovered the Pygmalion effect. The researchers went into an elementary school in America and set intelligence tests for the students. The researchers then told teachers in each classroom that certain students where well above normal in academic ability. The students were identified to the teachers but the teachers were told to not say anything to the students or to do anything throughout the school year that would favour these students. The Teachers were told that there also would be a certain amount of observation of their teaching to ensure no favourability to the students.

At the end of the school year the students were once again tested and the results showed that yes indeed these students had academic results that outshone the average. Which is exactly what the teachers expected. Only for the teachers to be informed by the research team that the test results from the start of the year were false and these students where simply average.

If this was true then what caused the students academic abilities to gain such an increase?

It was the Teachers non verbal communication with the pupils that had instilled these beliefs within the students that they were “A” students rather than students of average ability.

This happens within our workplace too! If your manager has the belief that you should be free to make decisions and instil you with a sense of trust then you react positively to this and model these beliefs. You also react to managerial skills that provide constant supervision and subsequently when provided with no supervision you will happily down tools and happily look for opportunities to avoid being productive.

As mangers we need to ask ourselves a couple of questions

  1. Do I trust my employees to do the right thing?
  2. Have I told them or shown my staff how much I appreciate them today?
  3. What have I done to make someone happy where I work today?

You want a happy, productive, engaged staff then maybe it’s time for you to look closer to your management style and the type of workforce you want to help create.

” As above so below”

The positives of having a women centred workforce

12 Dec

Women are our the worlds most important asset. They have nurtured families for years. We call our own Planet mother Earth and we have worshipped female deities like Devi, Venus, Sri Lakshmi and Mother Mary for centuries.

Yet when it comes to the business we tend to fail in seeing the value of women in the workplace. This week I was invited as a panel member by Carlow Enterprise board here in Ireland to address female school students who wanted to field questions about the place of women in the world of business. Also present was Miriam O Callaghan a Journalist,political television presenter, mother of six and positive role model for Women and Men alike.

One of the questions that came to the panel from a female student focused on the fear of not being good enough to make it in business and the fear of failing. We see very poor examples of business role models in programmes like “The Apprentice” where we constantly hear statements like “failure is not an option” or “ winning is everything” or “Being in business is not about making friends” etc. This comes mainly from the male competitors but also more frequently from some of the female participants trying to emulate the male approach to business.

Lets put some of these quotes to rest. Firstly failure is an option….. always. We can never fully appreciate our final goal unless we have failed along the way. We are learning when we fail, we exit our comfort zones when we fail, we grow when we fail. As Peter Drucker says if he was entering a new corporation he would find all the members that have never had made a mistake and fire them. They are the people that have not taken a risk. I see his point.

Often within business we set goals that are for the most time unattainable. Ricardo Semler at Semco sets 6 month plans rather than 3 or 5 year plans that are simply hopeful projections. If the company is still there in 6 months, simply put a plan in place for the next 6 months.

It is alright to make friends in business. It is even more important that we forge friendships within the workplace. We spend more time with these people each day then our families. Each of us feels better about where we work when we know we have people we care about to meet at work each day. We perform better when we are surrounded by an atmosphere of friendliness compatibility and encouragement. We will not get to experience this if we believe that “business is not about making friendships”

The young female student felt that she could not compete in a male centred world of Business because she worried not only about failing but also not being able to live up to the standards that were set. I am not sure what standards were set but we need to be able to speak with some honesty here. We would probably not be in the fiscal difficulties we are in now if more women had been involved in making decisions within financial and political organizations.

One of the exercises I do with students is get them to look at their core values, Happiness is nearly always number one as is Family. Two values that I would commend in anyone. Friendship comes in a close third. These are the values that can help business move in a positive more caring  direction. I believe that women in business can be at the forefront of this movement without having to feel the need they have to become testosterone fuelled counterparts. Our financial woes are testament to the fact that this has not worked.

Any organizations or committees that I am involved with have only ever benefitted from the inclusion of women. Trying to emulate male practices and characteristics should not be the goal of women entering the world of business. Having the strength to stay as you are and bring those strengths to the workplace will benefit us all at a time of great uncertainty.

This Is the future of travel. Happy Friday

2 Dec
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