The search for happiness?

816tC2hjFELAs more and more organizations look at problematic engagement issues within the workforce, the more confusing the concept of engagement actually becomes. Engagement is a trendy buzz word right now, but like corporate culture, it’s not easily defined and varies greatly depending on the organization.

That uncertainty has led to a very disturbing trend that terrifies me beyond belief. For some reason happiness is often viewed as a synonym for engagement and total employee happiness is often presented as the utopic end state for an organization.


Lebron James:: Understanding his decision is understanding today’s workforce

Yesterday, countless sources (read, the explosion that was my twitter feed) reported the Kevin Love / Andrew Wiggins trade. Immediate reactions – mostly from male, Gen X, white, Canadian e-pundits – talked of shortsightedness, selfishness and mistakes. People used the trade to rehash complaints about how Lebron jumped ship. He was somehow wrong for leaving for a better situation instead of paddling doggedly to keep a sinking ship afloat.

We judged him and now the Cavaliers by static criteria, despite the fact we live in a fluid world. We questioned their decision to risk an uncertain future for a chance at immediate success. We assumed both would trade happiness and fulfillment for a sense of loyalty that no longer exists and we asked organizations to sacrifice today for a future that can never be accurately forecasted.

Not to pull a Wooderson, but the reality is sports writers and leaders are getting older while athletes and employees stay the same age. The generational divide forces them to assess a decision on criteria that are foreign to the people making the choice. It’s the same struggle we face trying to motivate, inspire, develop and retain talent in today’s organizations. Organizations no longer hold all the cards, and decisions are less black and white than ever before. (more…)

Fresh start: TELUS Transformation Office

services_hero-300x139Wow. Yesterday already seems like a distant memory. For most of the last year, I focused on building marketing materials, doing research, creating strategy & recommendation documents and working with pilot customers in preparation for a new role within TELUS. Knowing that as of yesterday we finally moved from planning to reality hasn’t quite sunk in – you know, forest through the trees type of thing – but my work  life has changed completely.

Yesterday, we launched TELUS Transformation Office, a future of work consulting wing within TELUS that aims to help organizations improve corporate culture and improve employee engagement. Ideally, we can take our experience, insights and successes and help other organizations in their own attempt to evolve leadership, digital readiness, career & talent services, and the onboarding experience.

Without question, this is a new type of mentality for us. Learning is a unique space. I honestly believe that there are very few walls between people in this industry. We’re all in the business of helping people, whether it’s internally or externally. We share freely on blogs, wikis, chats, twitter, at conferences and basically in every forum possible. We all have the same, altruistic goal; to make work better for the people we support.

Right now, most of this sharing is done informally and meant to inspire, not transform. By formalizing the process, we hope that organizations can get the traction not only to start the journey, but to continue it. The end goal is too important to have it pushed to the side of the desk or the left to the energy and influence of a few dedicated workers.

I was in a very fortunate position. I loved my job and I love working for TELUS. In terms of Enterprise learning/collaboration and corporate culture, TELUS is pushing the boundaries and changing the conversation. It was no longer a desperate ask of “how can we fix this?” When we talk to anyone about the state of learning, collaboration and culture, they ask “how did you fix it?” It’s no longer theoretical knowledge. Great culture and collaboration is reality at TELUS.

In my (almost) five years at TELUS, we’ve gone from virtually no social technologies and very little cross functional collaboration to an industry recognized success story. We’ve incorporated a leadership model that encourages collaboration and as a result, we’ve deployed new tools and cultivated a workforce that not only understands how to share and leverage technology, but why collaboration is vital to our business and can dramatically improve the customer experience. Simply put, we’ve taken our ideals and moved them from an HR project to a organization-wide vision. The difference is huge.

Basically, in terms of learning, my role was as close to the perfect fit as I’ve come across. I was able to explore tools, work with new people and really try to prove value in the methodologies and capabilities we’ve been preaching for years. We were able to successfully unite leadership, learning and collaboration. That’s probably why the possibility of helping other organizations do the same thing is so exciting. It’s no longer a pipe dream. The need is there, the technology is available and – without sounding like a documentary trailer – the time for change is now.

Society isevolving; it’s harder to get people’s attention and as learning professionals we need to constantly reevaluate our approach. It’s scary, but it’s also exciting. We know that the fundamentals of leadership and learning should be blended with the move to a more technology based ecosphere to help people understand how to succeed and feel connected/supported. We know that people demand more from their job than just a pay cheque and that right now and we know that almost half of the people that go to work each morning aren’t happy. This needs to change and we want to help.

Watch this video to learn more about how we transformed TELUS, and how we can help you.

Failure must be an option

love-mlm-failure-010A few days ago, I read a quick article about what – outside of passion – defines a great leader. According to LB Adams, the number one trait that great leaders should possess is the willingness to fail. At TELUS, risk and innovation are part of our DNA and as a result, we prepare for and react quickly when we aim high and come up short.

As I talk to more and more organizations, I realize that TELUS team members are very fortunate and in most cases failure is not an acceptable outcome. Imagine working for an organization where employees rejected learning opportunities and any career development that involved testing of any sort because they were afraid how their managers would react if they failed the associated quiz?

If an employee is scared to even register for training, how could they ever feel comfortable suggesting changes to products or process? Even scarier is to realize that if an employee was afraid to share an idea or push free from routine, over time it will be harder to help them feel inspired to come to work every day.

If you look at any organization’s values, chances are you will see some sort of variation of innovation standing arm in arm with respect, communication, respect, quality and integrity. It’s great to have these example on the wall of your boardroom, but how can you push innovation if mistakes and failure are deemed unacceptable?

How does fear impact team culture? Immensely. Optimism is hard to find in most orgs. For every energetic, glass half-full employee you meet, you will find at least one that always thinks the worst. How many times have you heard statements like, “that won’t work” or “our people won’t buy into that” the minute an idea is thrown out for evaluation?

In the last four years, we’ve been forced to trust each other and test the resolve of our team members. Was everything perfect? Did we hit a home run every time we stepped to the plate? Of course not, and looking back it was those failures that helped make huge strides as we shifted direction. Originally, we developed a strategy and deployed it to the organization. We saw good success and were thrilled with the organic growth we saw across pockets of the org, but when we were forced to dig deeper, we also saw opportunities for improvement.

Even with high adoption rates and dramatic increase in usage, we made some tactical errors, none bigger than the decision to roll out independent channels for social learning and collaboration. We were so happy to be able to provide a complete suite of independent tools – micro-blogging, video sharing, document collaboration, coaching, mentoring, subject-matter expertise and personal profiles – that we overlooked the fact we were creating new silos of information. We built tools internally, leveraged existing technology and purchased new tools that didn’t integrate seamlessly with what we had. We opted for a phased approach to help ease team members into the collaboration space, which ultimately led to increased demands for training and siloed collaboration.

In a recent interview,  Shawn Price (President for Global Cloud and Line of Business at SAP) mentioned that these individual channels were like ghost towns. At TELUS, they were more like club memberships. We had high traffic and collaboration – this infographic is a great place to see how collaboration increased over the last few years – but users opted for the the technology that best suited their comfort level. If I was trying to force a golf metaphor here, our users didn’t play other courses.

The more we analyzed our collaboration metrics, the more obvious it was that if an employee understood how to create a video and share it internally, most likely they continued create and consume that type of content. There was no proof that they also explored skills sharing, micro-blogging or blogs and wikis. People tend to stick with technology and processes they understand and we unintentionally facilitated that behavior.

When we made the decision to consolidate our social tools into a singular collaborative platform – SAP Jam – we started to realize that our success hid some of the failure. We encountered territorial users, unwilling to learn new technologies. We encountered users that demanded specific features instead of adapting to new, more robust set of tools that provided more collaborative options. We realized that our collaboration data, in a consolidated form, was a success story, but we were actually promoting a strategy that created segregated audiences. We had to build migration training/strategies. We had to rework communication plans.

What this meant was we needed to re-evaluate our adoption and learning strategies and ask the business and the leadership team for patience and support. In certain organizations, we would have encountered resistance. “Didn’t we just try this?” “Why should we invest more resources in something that is already in place?” There was no talk of ROI and no skepticism that we could get it right and improve on the successes of which we were so proud.

we were able to present a plan that highlighted where we succeeded, but focused more on where we went wrong. We didn’t try to cover up gaps. We readily identified them as areas we knew we missed and would win over. Our assumptions about adoption were proven wrong over time, and as a result, we were able to come up with a better launch and adoption plan for the release of Jam.

What does this mean? Well, in less than a year, 75% of the organization has accessed our collaboration platform. We’ve been able to consolidate tools without losing the support of our user communities. We’ve lowered the TCO and required support resources. We also created a better, more targeted set of learning materials based on the metrics we tracked from our other tools and how existing learning was consumed.

We are early on in our deployment; the first year is often heavily based on communication, transition and migration but our failures have helped us determine a plan that will hopefully turn a good story into a great one.

It’s easy to tell someone to roll out a consolidated, integrated solution. It’s more realistic to prepare for small wins and failure while you move towards your ideal end state (the utopia where tools that talk to each other, users that are participative and happy, and leadership that supports the project). In most cases, that dream state is not possible – we all fight for every dollar and every successful adoption story. But if your leaders let employees be pragmatic and learn from each incremental step, you will get there.

By letting your organization know that it’s okay to fail and move forward, you will develop resilient workers that take that core value on innovation off the boardroom wall and truly live it every day.

Leadership: It’s not a marathon or a sprint

runningWhat was your time?” One time over beers, my brother-in-law suggested that asking people about their race time is a more clever way of saying, “I don’t run very much.” Running, like most passions, is an ongoing, ever evolving journey. It’s not about a single race or distance completed. Knowing you ran a 40-minute 10K or sub-two-hour half marathon five years ago doesn’t mean much today. Are you still running? How has your routine or thoughts about running changed?

Until running becomes a meaningful part of your day, you are not a runner. You are simply going for a run. The same is true for leadership.

This may seem like an odd intro to a post on leadership, but as I scrolled through my twitter feed last night, I got very nervous. We’re starting to slide down a very slippery slope.

Without question organizations need a vision to define actions and model behaviours. I know that people – myself included – search for inspiration from other people, but I feel we’ve gone too far. We’ve got too many visionaries and not enough examples of actual, practical leadership. Leadership is based on historical and future facing methodologies. It should evolve over time, and truly shines when things go wrong. Leadership is not a Buzzfeed like list of PowerPoints, clever acronyms and analogies.

In twenty minutes last night, I saw thousands of posts from hundreds of very smart people. I know Twitter’s 140 characters are meant to inspire, and without question, if you keep scrolling something will resonate with you. I saw leadership compared to sports teams, war heroes, emotions, inanimate objects, childhood actions and breathtaking art.

This is great for some people, but personally, I’d rather read about the impact and learn how these comparisons inspired action and people. To me, talking about models, acronyms and finding inspirational quotes is no different than asking someone what their last race time was. Leadership is an action; a passion that you should develop and display with purpose and routine. Finding a quote that resonates with your view of leadership is good, but using that inspiration to form your leadership style is the real challenge. You are more than your time, and you must be more than someone else’s words.

People look at TELUS as a textbook example of great culture and strong leadership. I honestly believe that to be true, but not because we tried to implement ideas that were so radical to those proposed by our competitors. There was no silver bullet, and no singular model that helped us drive engagement from 53% to 83%. I think we just focused on the value of culture more than some organizations and dedicated our efforts towards creating a culture that allowed individuals to feel supported and fulfilled.

We worked hard to create a leadership model that is accessible to all, but the real benefit is the playbook we created to help people understand the behaviours and actions that help all team members display leadership regardless of role or tenure. While that may sound like HR speak, the reality is we enabled team members to lead by example and inspire others. It’s not the model; it’s how the model is put into action.

People are naturally inspired by charismatic people speaking to an audience, but I’m inspired when people do amazing things without the luxury of an eager audience. I see true leadership in small wins, like when I hear about an engineer developing informal curriculum on his own time (without being asked), simply to help are field techs learn about IPV6. Leadership cannot only come from those with titles and reports.

I take my view on leadership (ironically, considering the theme of this post) from a quote that’s been on my wall for years. Yvon Chiounard, the owner of Patagonia and protector of the environment once said, “To do good, you actually have to do something.” It’s such a simple idea, but one that’s shaped how I interact with people and try to lead. I have no reports, but I work with new people every day. I don’t have a leadership toolbox, just a work ethic and desire to help.

Organizations need to maximize the power of the individual and celebrate the results. Employees should feel comfortable voicing opinions, surfacing ideas, but they must be empowered to put ideas into action. Our role, should be to nurture and share the successes with the rest of the organization. Showcasing the tangible results of all the hard work will help transform leadership from a concept into a continuous action. Real life examples of leadership and success will motivate people. They are the stories that build trust in a concept and in each other.

It’s easy to talk about leadership concepts, just like it’s easy to talk about running shoes, past races and training tips. The real challenge is getting people to actually go for a run or to be a leader. When we actually start doing either, we fail, we learn, we sweat and we hurt. We also grow, we improve and we find our stride.

We need to help people become runners, not just tell them to go for a run.