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How to organize humans effectively in an organisation?

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Humans are the greatest resource in an organisation. How they work, how they behave, and how they deliver form the major part of the output. But are we creating an environment that people love? Are we working towards human resources or are we letting it go? If you dig deeper, you would know that most of the challenges faced by organizations are not technology-related rather they are human problems. So, the question is, how do we organize humans more effectively?

This time on The xMonks Drive, Richard Sheridan, the co-founder, and CEO of Menlo Innovations, joins us to explain how humans impact organizations and about creating a workplace people love. Here is a transcripted version of the conversation.

Pillars of Building a Loving Workplace 

“The most wasted energy source on planet earth today is the human energy of the people who worked for us”.

Gaurav: Richard, you have been in this working space for over two decades now. What do you think according to you are the most important pillars of building a culture of workplace that people love?

Richard: Do whatever you can to keep the human energy of your team high. Think of all the conversations that are going on in the world today about energy, whether it is fossil fuels, solar, wind, or hydroelectric energy, but according to me the most wasted energy source on planet earth today is human energy who have worked for us. The Gallup group has been measuring organizations for decades and they tell us that 60-70% of people in most organizations are literally disengaged at work. Imagine the lack of everything, lack of productivity, lack of output, lack of caring about what we are doing, if we don’t have human energy about what we are doing. One might question, “Well, what does he mean by human energy?” But you can walk into a company and literally feel the human energy of the place. It either sucks the life out of you, because there’s no energy at all and you don’t even want to be there. Or you walk in and you can be like, “Wow, I want to work here.” Imagine what an attractive force this is everybody’s struggling with. How do we get new people to join here? How do we solve the talent war that’s going on around the planet, and lift up the human energy of your team? 

One of the ways to get there is to decrease the bureaucracy of our organizations. Don’t form committees to write policies; take action versus take the news, be clear, unambiguous, give people a chance to go to work, and get meaningful things actually done. 

The other force is the force of work on an airplane as the analogy for this. So, there is the lift of human energy, overcoming the weight of bureaucracy, and then the thrust of purpose. An externally focused purpose, it’s clear to everyone why we’re doing what we’re doing. Who are we doing it for? What would delight look for the people we intend to serve? That thrust of purpose overcoming the drag of fear is how most organizations operate.

Is Fear a Source of Motivation?

 “The thrust of purpose is going to overcome fear.”

Gaurav: When you’re talking about the thrust of purpose is going to overcome fear. How can we actually help our teams to imbibe the purpose that could allow them to overcome the fear, which might be created by bureaucracy?  

Richard: Think about how many of us, including me, were led within our organizations. It is often with fear. We use fear to try and motivate people. There is this famous story of some boss that just fired 900 of his employees through Zoom, you don’t think that generates fear within an organization? So the next time the boss invites you to a meeting, you’re like, “Oh my gosh”.

We often invent fear in order to motivate people. We artificially motivate people. I had a boss once in my cubicle days, who would pop into my cubicle on a Friday afternoon, around 4:45, just before quitting time, and say, “How’s it going? What are you working on?” “You should know what I’m working on.” We give a status report every morning. But then he asked the key question, “You almost done?” And  the answer was, “Well, I’m a little bit behind.” “Are you coming in this weekend?” And of course, the answer had to be “Yes, of course, I’m coming in this weekend (which I had no plans to do because I wanted to spend the weekend enjoying with my family)”. 

When I left the office that afternoon, I could feel this heaviness in my chest, because he was able to deliver that fear on a regular and consistent basis. And now all I’m thinking about is, how do I get him off my back? Because that’s not the way you motivate people. 

Storytelling in Leadership

“Storytelling is as old a tradition as humanity.”

Gaurav: How as a leader, do you ensure that the complacency does not seep into the culture?

Richard: Storytelling is a big part of leadership because often, the reason people get complacent is because they become disconnected from a purpose. They no longer relate to that purpose, they cannot see themselves making a contribution to the purpose they are trying to create in the world. And typically, this happens when every quarter the top leaders, the CEOs, the executives are presenting PowerPoint presentations with bar graphs, charts, and spreadsheets, and they are trying to improve performance and key performance indicators. They think they can’t make a contribution to make a difference and then they start becoming complacent. 

Through storytelling, we can start to tell stories of the people we intended to like, we can tell a story about the future deliberate innovation. Storytelling is as old a tradition as humanity. Every culture on planet earth has stories of their founding, of their civilization, their accomplishments, of their failures. We need to keep track of all these stories. And in history, we tell these stories again and again. 

What are we doing? We are telling stories about what we do, what we believe about ourselves, as a people, as a nation, as a community, as a team. What do we truly believe? As a leader, if we can connect to our soul, and spirit, through the words of a story, then we can motivate our team. 

“It’s less important that you remember the stories, it’s far more important about how the stories made you feel.”  

About the Speaker

Richard Sheridan is the co-founder, CEO, and “Chief Storyteller” of Menlo Innovations, a software and IT consulting firm that has received multiple awards and news coverage for its innovative and positive working culture.

Richard became disillusioned in the course of his career in the tumultuous technology world. He was consumed by a single thought: things could be better. Much, much better. He had to figure something out. Why can’t a workplace be brimming with friendship, human vitality, creativity, and efficiency?

Richard co-founded Menlo Innovations in 2001 with the goal of putting an end to workplace hardship. Richard’s passion for building happy workplaces inspired him to write Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love, which became a best-selling and generally acclaimed book. His second book, Chief Joy Officer, proves that a pleasant and engaging leadership style is genuinely beneficial to a company’s bottom line.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most important pillar of building a culture of workplace people love?

The most wasted energy source on planet earth today is the human energy of the people who worked for us in our organisation. So, the most important pillar of building a culture of workplace that people love is to do whatever you can to keep the human energy of your team high.

How do we solve the talent war that's going on around the planet, and lift up the human energy of your team?

We solve the talent war that’s going on around the planet, and lift up the human energy of your team by decreasing the bureaucracy of our companies is one way to get there. Don’t develop policy committees; take action rather than reacting to the news; be straightforward and unambiguous; give people a chance to go to work; and get significant things done.

Is fear a Source of Motivation?

Within our organisations, we are led with fear. We try to motivate people by instilling dread in them. Fear is frequently used to encourage people. People are artificially motivated. Fear can never be a source of motivation because it can work as a temporary aid but will not help in the long run. According to Gallup, which has been tracking organisations for decades, 60-70 percent of employees in most organisations are literally disengaged at work. Imagine a world without anything: a lack of work, output, and concern for what we’re doing.

What is the role of storytelling in leadership?

Because people often get comfortable because they are separated from a goal, storytelling is an important aspect of leadership. They can’t picture themselves contributing to the purpose they’re attempting to build in the world because they can’t relate to it anymore. They believe they can’t do enough to make a difference, so they become complacent. We can begin to tell tales about the individuals we want to like, as well as a storey about future deliberate innovation, through storytelling.

Who is Richard Sheridan?

Richard Sheridan is the co-founder, CEO, and “Chief Storyteller” of Menlo Innovations, a software and IT consulting firm that has won numerous accolades and earned media attention for its innovative and happy work environment.

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