International Perspectives - Part II By Richard Hadden
July 2005

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In this issue...
  • International Perspectives - Part II
  • Myth Shattered: We can't afford to bring these guys in to speak to our group!
  • Buy the Book or CD at the Cow Store

  • International Perspectives - Part II

    By Richard Hadden

    What a difference a month makes.

    Last month we began our Fresh Milk article by asking Does the 'people thing' work the same in the UK as it does in North America? Our conclusion, based on anecdotal impressions gathered while traveling there was a resounding YES.

    We couldn't have known (though we might have feared) what would happen in London on July 7, that would demonstrate further that our similarities - in vulnerability, resolve, character, and culture, bind us with greater strength than any of our differences divide us.

    We planned and researched this article before the atrocities of last week, and out of respect, we considered putting it on hold for a few months, so as not to appear callous. Then, as we saw the British characteristically just "getting on with it", we decided that our best show of respect would be to do as they would. So here it is.

    To complement the previous article, written mostly from personal experience, we thought it might be helpful to take a look at some sought-after UK employers and the Better Practices that have made them exemplary places to work.

    We're struck by several themes that jump out of London's Sunday Times' report of the "100 Best Companies to Work for in the UK". We thought it'd be interesting to look at three of those themes - Listening, Pride, and Fun, and highlight a few companies that have built their success by including them in their business strategies.

    Can You Hear Me (Now)?

    One of the most telling findings of this year's study was the importance of - not telling - but listening. The listening score turned out to be the best predictor of the overall rankings, and it also had an amazingly high correlation to another factor - lack of stress. That's right. Without implying a direct cause and effect among any of the factors, the Sunday Times' study showed that those employers who do the best jobs of listening have among the least stressed out workers in the country, and are more likely than the other companies to be in the top 10 overall.

    To Beaverbrooks, the large jewelry retailer, listening means more than opening your ears and shutting your mouth (although that's a good start if you haven't tried it). They create opportunities for those in the head office (at all levels) to listen to staff in the stores, where the money gets made. "Office vs. Stores" football matches keep the two arms well connected, and frequent visits from office people to the stores, and vice versa helps ensure that no one loses sight of the customer.

    We've often quoted US Army General Melvin Zais, and we'll do it again. He once defined active listening when he said, "A soldier won't come out and tell you everything's all wrong. He'll be a little hesitant. If you ask him if he's getting along all right and he just shrugs, he's getting along lousy. If he's not enthusiastic in his response, there's something wrong. You'd better dig a little deeper."

    In our new book on Discretionary Effort (we're still working on it!), we've introduced a feature we call "Monday Morning 8AM", which will give readers a few specific actions they can take to implement the ideas discussed in each chapter. Here's our Monday Morning 8AM entry to stimulate some action on your part when it comes to listening.

    Monday Morning 8AM:
    1. Identify one person whom, if you're really honest, you haven't listened to much lately. If it's because you haven't had the time - make time. It's part of your job. If it's because you don't like what they have to say, see what you (as in, you) can do to help them make their messages ones that people are more likely to listen to.
    2. The next time you're listening to someone you work with, pay close attention to what they're not saying, and in the words of General Zais, dig a little deeper.
    3. Create two-way communication opportunities for people in your organization whose functions don't ordinarily interact. Getting, for example, your sales team together with your production schedulers, could be the best training either group has had in years.

    Brimming With Pride
    It's no wonder that the professionals working at St. Ann's Hospice are proud of what they do. Those who can work every day with the terminally ill (we couldn't) have justifiable pride in helping people die peacefully and with dignity.

    What does deserve some marveling is that the people of St. Ann's, among the lowest paid on the Sunday Times' 100 Best list, are also among the most satisfied with their pay and benefits, and their people log more hours on the job than almost any other organization on the list.

    But what if your outfit exists primarily not for the sake of improving the world, but for the pursuit of filthy lucre? Can your people take pride in what they do? "You bet your boots," say workers at Adidas UK, who make the boots for famous footballer David Beckham - and the kid on the local neighborhood team.

    This isn't about the grand and lofty mission of your enterprise. The question is this - Does each person on your payroll have a compelling understanding of why his or her work matters? To somebody? Somewhere? That what they do makes a difference? Whether you're feeding the hungry, or selling Gucci handbags, almost everyone needs to know (not think) that what they do is important.

    Monday Morning 8AM:
    1. Maybe the primary activity of your organization is not aimed at performing some great societal good. Maybe you make potato chip bags, run a casino, fix air compressors, or sell long distance services. Articulate to yourself, and to your people why what you do matters. It does matter, doesn't it?
    2. Identify one job in your organization the holder of which could be forgiven for questioning its importance in the scheme of things. Figure out a way to show (not just tell) them how important their job is, and how important it is that they do it well. If you can't convince them - and yourself - that the job is important - find something important for them to do.

    Productive Fun
    Let's face it. We're all wound a little tight these days. And it doesn't take a study (government funded or not) to know that undue stress has a downward effect on productivity. Workers at many of the UK's best employers say one of the things that keeps them loyal and working hard are frequent opportunities to laugh and have fun at work.

    I've visited Flight Centre Travel Agencies in Australia, Canada, and the UK, and the first impression I always get is how much fun it is just to be in one of their stores. Ninety percent of British Flight Centre workers say they laugh at work a lot. I wonder what's eating the other ten percent.

    Each Nando's Restaurant has a "fun budget" of around US$2,000 a year to make sure servers and others get a little planned relief from what could otherwise be seen as drudgery. Makes perfect business sense, too. The chain markets itself as a fun place to eat. How can your diners have much fun if the staff is a bunch of grouches?

    Productive fun - fun tied clearly to some aspect of the business serves not only to make a better workplace, but a better organization. Ninety-three percent of the workers at recruiting company Badenoch and Clark laugh and have fun at work. Much of it centers around celebrations of individual and team successes. Many B&C'ers say they get a "buzz" from working there, and the fun (and lucrative) way the company shows appreciation for their hard work.

    Monday Morning 8AM:
    1. Find a way to tie some fun activity to workers' success. The more success, the more fun. Plan some activities during business hours; others on people's own time.
    2. Lighten up. Smile more, even when you don't feel like it. Kid around more. Make someone else smile, or laugh, at least once a day at work.

    Myth Shattered: We can't afford to bring these guys in to speak to our group!

    The fact is - you probably can't afford not to. We don't publish our fees online, but we'll be glad to talk with you about what it costs to have one of us come and speak for your company or professional association. And we'll bet it's not as much as you think.

    If you want a return on the speaker investment from your next meeting, consider whether you want a funny motivational speaker, or a high-content speaker who's funny and motivational.

    Our clients repeatedly remark on the take- home value we provide in our customized programs.

    You may be able to hire bigger names, at bigger fees, but you can't hire a speaker who will show up better prepared to make you look good, and to help your audience create a great, and more profitable, workplace.

    To find out more about bringing in one or both of the authors to speak for your association conference, or corporate meeting, click on the link below. OR, pick up the phone, and call our office at 800-940-7006 (that's 904-720-0870 from outside North America). Or, send us an email and let us know how we can be of service. We look forward to hearing from you.

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