Why Santa, as a boss, is authentic AND an ass.

(A parable of the workplace.)

According to the reindeer, at Christmas Santa gives out cards and bonuses and sometimes pays for a lunch full of turkeys. Dancer can’t stand it any longer; he’s looking outside the company for a new role. Prancer is learning the advanced skills of sucking up and always being positive and has achieved two undeserved promotions. Dasher is concerned that the numbers just don’t add up and that the new performance management system is doing the opposite of its intention. Whilst Comet and Cupid have yet again caused mutterings because of their closeness at this year’s office party and are already gearing up for full-bodied activity during the Christmas break.

Donner and Blitzen have intellectually left the building seeing no point to their new roles as Change and Commitment Managers, and Rudolf has now gone into Human Resources reckoning that his large red nose will be a real asset in sniffing out how to engage with employees. The elves are concerned about forthcoming automation and the impact of the new digital age. Santa ponders on just how he will achieve the ever-increasing customer needs and compete with the march of Amazon and eBay.

41% of under-35-year-olds feel organisations are falling short on their expectations that business should be a force for good. As they achieve senior leadership positions themselves, will the maturing millennial workforce affect the changes they wish to see and realize their potential? Will they make a difference or just yearn for a happier and more peaceful world when they see how their elders, though not necessarily their betters, have done on their watch?

Employees of all ages and stages want something unique. Yes, there are common themes, and yes, there are differences but by these very differences they offer organisations a vast capacity for learning, innovation and cross-generational advantage instead of the let’s all be jealous about what another generation has, or had.

Employees want a purpose, they want a chance to do something meaningful –  by the way this is what bosses want too. So, what gets in the way? Well, what we say and how we say it is not always a true reflection of our intent and ability to get it right for us, and for them. So choose your words carefully and think about how you say them.

Employees want something that they have choice over and the freedom to work in a way that is best for them. As Daniel Pink says in his best-selling book Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us; “Let people figure it out for themselves by choosing the best path to the goal rather than breathe down their necks and micromanage. “

Employees want innovation. Google announced its 20 percent creative time policy, which encourages employees to work on any innovative ideas they have that are company-related. Okay, not every company is Google but what about starting with a regular innovation half-day where encouraging creative freedom allows something else to take flight.

I’m also reminded of some executives I have coached who are so overwhelmed by the vastness of the problems and the sheer volume of issues they encounter, that they abandon thinking time. As a result, they start to make decisions that are not the best for them or their organisation but merely reduce their bursting and demanding email inbox.

With the incredible march of technology, the advancement of robots and the dumbing down of debate, for example the “tweetaverse”, it is left to humans to see where they can best use their skills for the development of organisations and the advancement of their self worth and subsequent legacy.

As the festive season approaches and a bright shinny New Year beckons, perhaps it’s time to reflect. What’s next? What now? What do you really, really want for yourself? Not in a selfish way, but in a way that enables you to give of your best, to yourself, to your colleagues/employees, to your organisation.

The skills and leadership required for the next ten years will be the ability to build relationships with groups of colleagues, create meaning and purpose for them and yourself and develop innovative/creative thinking, and truly believing that creating space and time to think is invaluable.

Dig deep this holiday period and search out your inner five-year-old, full of play and invention, so that next year may be the best you’ve ever had.


ACTION FOR HAPPINESS course – Swindon, September to November 2017

AFHBooking is now open: Book now

The Action for Happiness course (“Exploring What Matters“) is a unique and inspiring 8-week course to explore what matters for a happy and meaningful life.

The course is based on the latest scientific evidence and is intended for people of all backgrounds, particularly those who would like to see a more positive and caring society.

Each session has a theme, based on a ‘big question’, such as: What really matters in life?  What actually makes us happy? How should we treat others?

Each weekly session lasts for 2 hours. Each session follows the same format, which has been designed to be inspiring and interactive, including:

Tuning in: simple activities that are great for wellbeing (e.g. mindfulness exercise)

Expert view: an inspiring 15-minute TED-style video/talk from a leading expert (including Richard Layard, Ed Diener, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Karen Armstrong, Brene Brown, Shawn Achor)

Personal view: a chance for people to reflect on their own experiences

Did you know?: fascinating and surprising research findings relating to the theme

Group discussion: sharing ideas in groups and listening to each other’s perspectives

Action ideas: everybody comes away with an action they hope to take as a result

The course content has been developed and tested by Action for Happiness, but the course itself is run by local volunteers who believe in our aims and have some relevant experience.

Course value

The course is run by volunteers and valued at £90 (£10 per session and £10 for the course book). Every participant is asked to make a donation to sign up for the course, which helps to cover the venue hire and provision of materials.

The recommended donation is £90 but if people are unable to afford this they can make a donation of their choice instead. Some people choose to donate more than the recommended amount, to help to cover the costs for those who cannot afford to give so much.

 Who is behind the course?

The course has been developed by Action for Happiness, whose co-founders are Prof Richard Layard, Sir Anthony Seldon and Geoff Mulgan. Key members of the team include Vanessa King and Dr Mark Williamson. It is backed by the Dalai Lama, who is the patron of Action for Happiness.

The course starts on 14 September for 8 weeks, Thursday evenings from 7-9pm.
Booking is now open: Book now
For questions about this particular course please contact the volunteers who are running it: Peter Mayes peter@petermayes.co.ukAFH

More about Employee enlightenment

During these uncertain times it’s worth exploring how organisations can work together and maximize the contribution of everyone

employee-engagementLatest blog from bookboon about my book follows on from the February newsletter and continues to explore the engagement as a management device or as a tool for growth

Employee Engagement: Organisational Brain Washing or Enlightenment?

Employee engagement:a state or mind or organisational brain washing?

February 2017 newsletter

Over the years there have been many slogans, trends and life boats for organisations and some of them have even worked, but given the overall failure rate of most quality improvement, continuous improvement and company initiatives, a lot has been said and not much done.

Based on a history of how organisations have developed their relationship with employees either driven by a wish to grow or a wish to survive, employee engagement has morphed into a whole thing in its self.

Employers want well motivated, creative, learning and flexible employees, employees want a work place that uses their skill, recognises them as human beings and enables them to succeed at work and have a great life. Is this really too difficult for employers to facilitate and employees to work with?

When it works employee engagement transforms companies and transforms lives. Sometimes organisations are crushed by dogma and bureaucracy; they have a process for everything except a process that works.

So whose responsibility is it for this to happen? Well, it’s everyone’s.

Engagement is based on the values of the organisation matching the values of the employee, that leaders are engaging, and that contributions are valued and respected. In my book Employee engagement: Getting the best from everyone, not just another survey I explore where employee engagement has come from, what helps it to work, how to do it and where it is going.

Employee engagement is an emerging theme for many organisations, how in changing times, with differing employees and constant market pressures they get the best from their people.

  • What’s the difference between engagement and engaging employees?
  • How can leaders be engaging and work for the benefit of everyone?
  • What are the keys to success and the pitfalls to be avoided?

The book also reflects on the nature of leaders, coaching and mentoring within organisations as triggers for successful employee engagement. It also looks at the changing world of work and the adapting types and forms of motivation to inspire and keep employees engaged throughout their career. Case studies, practical examples and guidelines are throughout the book which helps to answer the key question of how to help all employees be engaged.

Change and a whole new world or not?

Change can be scary even in a turbulent world

Throughout our lives and careers we all have to cope with times of change, either of our own making or where we are pushed into it. With the changes in governments, changes in expectations of how stable or consistent the world will be. What is it that we can do, well we can all opt out, run for the hills or realize that these changes will happen and that we can influence somethings and sometimes we are unable too. I heard a radio programme the other day where they talked about a post trust age, really have we really stopped trusting

There’s no denying that change can be scary, but that’s normal.  There are several perfectly justifiable and normal stages that we go through.  The first is normally panic, followed by confusion and then a need to find out more information.  You can’t subvert those stages, but by helping people through that process and by encouraging them to do things that are positive and productive it can change their view of the situation.

This time of year is one of reflection and looking back so for me its been a different year, writing more, spending time with family especially recently arrived granddaughter, enjoying working with new people and deciding what to do next.

Worst case scenario

When career coaching, the first and the only piece of advice I would give would be to stop panicking.  Of course, that’s very easy to say and quite hard to do.

In my experience people tend to react far too quickly.  For example, if they are losing their job they will often write their CV the day after they know they are going and send off several applications straightaway. But they are still at the very beginning of a personal change process where they are learning about what they need to and how to get there.

By really taking some time to explore what they’re good at, what they enjoy doing, what the most important thing for them is about their new role and what outcome they want, is a vital process.  It provides the best possible start to know how to move forward and I’ve found that getting this key stage right saves people huge amounts of time, effort and anxiety later.  If it’s not carried out properly they’ll keep coming back to it.
It’s also often the case that things are not as bad as they seem.  So it’s a good idea for people to write down the worst case scenario.  After writing it down and thinking about what would be the worst that could happen, it usually doesn’t seem as bad and some of the anxiety disappears and it becomes more manageable.   We have a tendency to over think.

I also like to challenge people’s assumptions about what they can do and help them think things through calmly and rationally and above all to do things that are productive to help them change their view of what’s around them.  By following this process it’s possible to start that person’s own journey to where they want to go by helping them come up with the solutions themselves.

My own goals for next year are to be published again this time on employee engagement something that is very important but missed by many organisations, do more public speaking its a real buzz and the most important thing be happy and enjoy life.