It was back in the 1980s when a dog-eat-dog attitude was valued at work. The key for people was to be better and more successful than anyone else and at whatever cost. There was nothing to be gained by working in a team this was the era of working hard and playing hard. It was about making money, more money than your neighbour and having more things.
When I first started work as a newspaper journalist in the early 1990s that sort of approach to work was what mattered. If you are working day after day in such an environment then it can really have an impact and shape you and your outlook on life. I have always been quite an ambitious person so this led to me being very single-minded about things. I was focused on results and getting where I wanted to be. I had no consideration for people and recognising how my behaviour impacted on them, it was of no consequence.
Now I am in a position where I can reflect on my early years and what has changed. Changed around me but also how I may have changed. I reached my goal to be the head of a communications department but at what cost? Ok so I can’t go back and rewrite any of the wrongs that I may have done in the past. What I can do is recognise that you only get the best from your team when they have the ability to be creative, feel supported and are trusted to do their job. They will do it their way and I have accepted in recent years that even though it is different to the way I may do it that isn’t a bad thing. My role has to be about being supportive particularly if things are going wrong, but also to help people to be motivated to do their best. I don’t get things right all the time because like everyone I am constantly learning.
The other key thing now is to be able to use the position I have to help other people. I was really interested to hear about how universities are putting mentoring programmes in place for underprivileged students. The aim is to help them network and learn so hopefully they will be in a better position to find a job when they graduate. It is a great idea and a real way that people who are working in different professions can support the new generation. I have been hugely impressed by the social media apprentices of the Juice Academy in Manchester and am privileged to be involved with them. So, I am now thinking that I might be able to support communication students from challenging backgrounds. The only thing I need to do is find a university operating that sort of programme.
It is all a long way from the dog-eat-dog 1980s of my formative years but that is definitely a good thing. I wonder how many other senior professionals particularly in communication roles are providing that sort of mentoring and support. Perhaps we can all take stock and do a bit more to help those around us.
I heard recently about some research that stated people needed to have a short nap in the afternoons to be at their best all day. The researcher said that it should be a nap of between five and 20 minutes every day and if you could do this every day then within three weeks you could train yourself to wake up after the required time.
The reason for doing this snoozing was to power down for a short time and then emerge refreshed for the rest of the day. It sounded really interesting and although I can’t imagine ever being able to achieve it the reason behind it was clear.
We are all looking for ways to improve our productivity at work but more importantly to be able to think differently, try new things and above all develop innovation and creativity. While a short nap may help by recharging the batteries what it won’t be able to do is encourage the creativity. So what can?
For me there are a few things that can support creativity in the workplace. Obviously, you need to have a majority of the right kind of people within the team. The people I mean are those who are interested in trying new things, who like to come up with ideas and will think in different ways. You need a majority that have this mindset so they can then spread their enthusiasm to others in the team.
Modern companies will provide an environment where innovation and creativity are rewarded. Even when things might not achieve the right results the fact that new techniques or products are tried will be given praise. There will inevitably be things that fail but there may be others that don’t and those can help to transform any business or company. Each attempt receives equal praise and support.
To harness ideas you have to make sure that everyone in the team feels able to share their views. From top to bottom everyone’s views should be considered as equally important. The best idea may come from one of the most junior members of staff and if they don’t feel able to speak then the development will never be known. Innovation and creativity is a real team effort and can’t be the exclusive playground for the managers or team leaders.
Remember creativity and innovation can be contagious. Once you have started to try new things and look at things differently you can’t stop. If something works then great as the rest of the team will feel the desire to look for what can be the next big thing. You are then on a cycle that should ensure you are productive, creative and on top of your business. So, nap or not there are things we can all do on a daily basis to get the culture we want.
I am a keen observer of the events around me. This includes how people act, how people interact and how society evolves and develops, or doesn’t. In recent months I have become increasingly aware of something that appears to have taken hold particularly within the media. It is also evident in wider society and it shows no likelihood that it is going to go away, disappear or be replaced by something else. What is this thing?
It seems that we are now living in a pantomime. There are the good people and the bad people. The good people are always good and the bad people are always bad. Bad people do bad things, well…because they are bad. Good people obviously are good and try to make sure the bad people don’t hurt or impact on them. This is the same for organisations. They are either good (paying their tax bill and helping customers) or bad (just after the profit at any cost).
There is only black and white, no shades of grey. In reality the world is made up of shades of grey and we are all a combination of good and bad things. Good people can, and often do, do bad things. Bad people have been known to do good things.
I am not going to talk about specific incidents or issues. I don’t need, to the phenomenon can be seen every day of the week in some way or other. Open the pages of a newspaper, turn on the TV or radio, and there will be some story about something that has happened and who is to blame. They key element of any incident both natural or man-made is who can we blame. Who has to take responsibility and how can we make them pay?
Was this the case many years ago? I don’t think so. Things happened and it was accepted that there is not always someone to blame – the ‘acts of god’ were just part of life. I wonder if this meant that there was a more analytical approach to things, more of a desire to understand what had happened and more chance of learning. If we are constantly looking for someone to blame is that where we are putting all our effort? Has that stopped us learning and developing our society?
Next time we are watching some events unfold perhaps we shouldn’t just scream our ‘boos’ at the person we see as the villain and instead we should try to understand and analyse the situation.