Delivering happiness at InfoJobs

I know it’s been quite a long time since I don’t post and I know I owe you all a little explanation on how to give feedback to someone with bad performance without harming his confidence. These have been quite hard months. I promise I will go back to this topic soon.

But first, find below a presentation I did at the General Managers Gathering of Schibsted Media Group on the topic of happiness at work. We had the pleasure to listen to lots of stories from the Delivering Happiness team, the company founded by Zappos‘ CEO Tony Hsieh to “nudge the world to a happier place”. Mine was just one more story to add to the gathering. I hope you like it and I hope other companies follow our example.

(Note: Download the PPT to see my notes with further explanations)


Build you kids’ (and your team!) self-esteem and lead them to happiness

When I was pregnant of my first son I read a thousand books on how to raise a child. The best one was the Spanish edition of “Your child’s self-esteem” by Dorothy Briggs (“El Niño Feliz, su clave psicológica“). It gave me key learnings to become a mum but I was surprised to see that there is a certain parallelism when leading a team. Here’s what I learned.

“Self-esteem is the key element that determines the success or failure for every kid as a human being”.

And self-esteem is the sum of two beliefs:

  • I deserve love. Just because I exist, I have a value.
  • I have a value that I can manage. I know I have things to offer to others.

According to Briggs, parents are mirrors that a kid uses to build his own identity. If he receives love, he feels he’s lovable. If not, he feels he doesn’t deserve to be loved because he has no value. Easy and obvious, isn’t it?

The phenomenon of the mirrors

The book explains that, since I was a mirror for my son to build his own identity, I had to encourage and praise the good behaviour, strengthening his belief that he deserves love and that he has good things to offer to others. Here’s an example of the kind of language I used: “Dad, today I could cook a cake for us because our son had lunch all by himself, he did not need my help. He’s smart and a big boy, isn’t he?”. Most of the times, this kind of language was enough to build his belief in his own capabilities while having a proper behaviour.

But still, it’s in my son’s hands to behave as expected.

What could I do when the behaviour was not appropriate? Was I supposed to use the same kind of language but describing just the opposite situation? Let’s use the same example: “Dad, I planned to cook a cake today but I couldn’t because our son needed my help when having lunch. He can’t use the fork. He is not a big boy, is he?” It doesn’t look like the right statement to foster my son’s self-esteem, right? Moreover, to be coherent with the image that my son receives from me as a mirror, he will persist in this bad behaviour. To keep it simple, he might think: “Mum says I can’t use the fork and mum is always right, so I CAN’T use the fork”.

What kind of language can I use to tell my son that little by little I expect him to be more independent?

  1. First, I must tell him my expectations and teach him how to do it with tons of patience.
  2. Second, I have to show him the relevant role he has in this situation: “If you have lunch without my help I will be able to prepare a cake for Dad. What do you think? Will you do it? I am sure you can, big boy“. 
  3. Third, I can show him the effects of the good behaviour “Dad will be really happy. We will tell him that I could cook a cake because you didn’t need mum’s help“. 

Briggs explains that at the age of five most of the kids have collected enough images from their parents’ mirrors to build the image of their own value. I am happy to say that the teachers of my sons have always said that they are confident, independent and happy boys. I guess what Briggs taught me has worked pretty well, so far.

Can I apply all this mummy lessons to leadership? 

Sure. Here’s what I found from Briggs’ advice that I could use with teams:

  • Team members, at least at the very beginning, need a certain feedback (or mirror) from the leader to know that they are doing right. 
  • If the performance is good what’s required to build the person’s confidence (or professional self-esteem) is just telling her how good her job is, based on facts. Of course, no childish language required this time, but the concept is exactly the same.
  • If the performance is not good enough, the person needs a feedback that fosters her willingness to change without damaging her confidence. It looks like a difficult think to do, but it’s easy if you know how. I’ll tell you how in my next post.

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” Gautama Buddha

How to focus your energy and change your world

My coach once taught me how to focus my energy to make things happen with a quite easy-to-use tool. Since then, I believe I am able to do almost anything. Here’s the magic exercise.

Take a piece of paper and write something that looks like this:

4 quadrants

Quadrant 1: Here you should write things that you know you can change and that you accept. Here you will find everything you know you are capable of changing. You should put all your energy in this quadrant. By doing so, you are investing your energy in stuff that depends on you.

An example: you have to deal with somebody that you don’t like at all. You can’t change the way this person behaves, but for sure you can change the reaction you have when she behaves like that. Maybe this person has driven you mad for ages. Today you can start a change by not losing your nerves with her. It’s totally up to you. And the magic is, when you do so, suddenly people around you starts behaving differently!

Quadrant 2: Here you’ll find everything that you can NOT change and that you accept. When you accept that there are things that you can’t change, like the fact that your husband wants a divorce, you have peace. Although in some circumstances it might be really hard, accepting that there are things that you can’t change really brings peace of mind. Accept that you can’t make people change at your wish and suddenly you will feel relaxed and focused on what actually is in your hands (quadrant 1).

Quadrant 3: Find here things that you really can change, but for some reason (procrastination, laziness, excuses…) you believe you can’t. For instance, you’ve been willing to go to the gym for months, but you don’t actually go for many different reasons. Here there is something YOU can change but you always find a reason to avoid it. Only you and your will determine that you move stuff from quadrant 3 to quadrant 1.

Quadrant 4: This is the worst quadrant to be in. This is stuff you don’t accept and you can’t change. Being here means being frustrated and feeling useless. An example: my boss makes a decision I don’t like. I would do something different, but I am not the boss. I don’t accept it and I can’t change it, because he is the one chosen to decide about this particular topic. I might have the illusion that if I put a lot of energy I will convince him to change his mind. But this is not true. Of course I must show my point-of-view to give him a different perspective. And I have to be honest and explain why I would decide differently. But, at a given moment, I need to accept that he will probably not change his mind and therefore move this topic from quadrant 4 to quadrant 2: accept that you can’t change this and get immediate peace of mind.

Write in this piece of paper all the topics that are taking energy from you now. One by one, analyse your chances to make it change: is it in your hands? or is it in somebody else’s? Take everything in the bottom part of your paper and move it to the top: Put action in your list in quadrant 3 and get peace of mind by accepting that what you wrote in quadrant 4 should move to the top.

As one person I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of one person. – Paul Shane Spear

5 ways to know what you don’t know

These days I am defining a skills map for the business developers in my team and myself. Since my background is Communications, drawing such a map of knowledge in business skills is hard: I know what I know, I have the feeling that it’s not enough, but… how do I know what I don’t know!?

Valerie Coulton, our Internal training manager, English teacher and poet is helping me with this. Here are the 5 ways to find out what you don’t know.

Sit in you own ignorance, and:

1. Benchmark: Choose the best team or person in your category and analyse what is it that they know and you don’t. Be brave and compare yourself with the best in the world.

2. Do a thorough list of what you actually know. You will be surprised of how much it is. And then, set your level according to this five:

  • Level 1: I need training and regular support
  • Level 2: I have a working knowledge, but I still need some support
  • Level 3: I don’t need support in this to perform well
  • Level 4: I perform well and could teach others
  • Level 5: I’m an expert and a reference

Identify the key areas where your team or yourself should be in level 3, 4 or 5 and you’ll have the list of priorities to start your training program.

3. Visit departments close to you. Being in Marketing and Communications, I feel I am in between the Sales department and the Product Development Department. My team and I should have the skills to, not only understand our colleagues in other areas, but to be able to perform appropriately in their positions. I will never be the best Sales Director or the best Product Director, but I should be able to become an acceptable successor in the event of a maternity leave, for instance.

4. Ask others around you. Write down your CV and take the list of skills and levels you made in #2 and meet colleagues, your boss, your team, members of your network to ask them if they feel there’s something missing in your portfolio.

5. Do a retrospective. Think about the past 3-6 months and write down the moments where you felt you were struggling to do any given task. Analyse your performance too, and think about the activities that took too long or that required a high dose of energy and concentration.

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance”. Confucius

Managing managers

I once read this definition of what it means to be a leader, according to Bloomberg‘s CEO, Dan Doctoroff:

– Big vision
– Delegate on great people
– Relentless focus on execution

These days, Joan Pau Fisas, the HR manager at InfoJobs, and myself have been discussing how can we develop a model for managers that helps them know if they are leading according to the company’s culture and values.

We have not finished the model, but these are my reflections, so far:

Big vision: We need managers that contribute to the company’s vision and ambitions. If we want a sense of unity, shared goals and commitment, managers have to be involved in the definition of the future of the company. I would measure their performance with a qualitative evaluation, answering to the following questions:
. The 3-year-plan for the company has a clear contribution from this manager.
. The team led by this manager perfectly knows our destination and has the chance to discuss it and contribute.

Delegate on great people: First, one of the most important manager’s duties is to have the right people in the right positions. And then, she has to have the ability to delegate effectively. Being a manager is more about helping others do, than actually doing. And how would I measure?
. The team has to have a minimum (90%?) position-person fit, according to soft and hard skills described in the job description.
. The manager can be evaluated with a Net Promoter Score for managers, a concept that my boss has just invented. The team would answer with a scale from 0 to 10 to the question ‘Would you recommend your boss to a colleague?’

Relentless focus on execution: Managers make things happen. You have to actually see with your eyes their contribution. And how do you measure execution? This one is probably the easiest one:
. The team and the manager achieve their goals. You can measure the results.
. If the time frame is not long enough and it’s too early to see results, you can always measure the execution of the milestones in the plan.

3-12-3, one of the most easy and useful tools for personal planning and commitment

The 3-12-3 is a tool that, in less than 20 minutes, helps you reflect and realize what you have done, what is it that you are pursuing and what needs to be done immediately to reach your goals. It’s about being on the dance floor and at the balcony watching people dance at the same time.

I find this tool to be excellent both if you use it alone, just for you, or if you decide to help somebody in your team or a colleague to reflect, imagine the future and take actions to make it happen. And, of course, it’s useful both for your personal and professional life.

Doing a 3-12-3 means answering these three questions:

  • Look back at the last 3 months. What have you done that makes you feel proud of? It’s very important that you make a list of really good things that you feel proud of. Even on the topics that have not been so good, try to find the positive impact you made.
  • Imagine that we are 12 months ahead. Imagine that today is the 3rd of February of 2014. What are you celebrating? What have you done that makes you feel proud of? In this particular moment it’s very important that you imagine yourself a year ahead. You must see what has already happened and use the present perfect tense, not the simple future tense.
  • What are you going to do these following 3 months that will lead you to this future that you have just described? It’s very important that everything written in this list goes directly to the agenda. It has to be concrete, actionable and something that you can do by yourself.

Find below a real 3-12-3 that I have written for myself, as an example.

Look back at the last 3 months. What have you done that makes you feel proud of?

  • I feel proud of my new way to manage my time. I have more time for me, I run more and I go to sleep earlier.
  • I am happy because I have changed my habit when going to the office. I’m happier taking the train than driving and now I get more of my time when going to the office. And I sold my car and I don’t polute anymore!
  • I feel proud because I’ve read David Allen’s Getting Things Done and I’ve setup a new way of organizing my stuff that really works and I feel less stressed.
  • I feel proud of the extremely positive feedback that Gabri, David and myself get everytime we run an Innovation training at InfoJobs. I’m happy because I didn’t know I could be a good teacher.
  • I am happy with the new organization I have setup in the Marketing department and the connection with Product and I believe that we are on the way to finally find a way of being focused, effective and productive.
  • I am happy because I have met new people from the Agile community and I have broaden my network nationally and internationally.

Imagine that we are 12 months ahead. Imagine that today is the 3rd of February of 2014. What are you be celebrating? What have you done, then, that makes you feel proud of?

  • I am happy because with my work and leading my team we have reached our goals for the new revenue streams.
  • I am happy because this means that the Marketing and Product Departments have worked properly and that the Lean Startup and Customer Development methodologies that Gabri and myself setup 18 months ago have worked.
  • I feel proud because, following my boss‘ advice, I have had time to attend relevant gatherings for my professional development, I have met a lot of new people and I have learned a lot that I could bring back to InfoJobs.
  • I feel proud because I have spread the knowledge within the organisation, both with the trainings I deliver and with this blog.
  • I am happy because a lot of people (10.000?!) read this blog.

What are you going to do these following 3 months that will lead you to this future that you have just described?

  • I am going to ask the team to write down a plan for every new revenue stream that contains: 1) actions that we will take to deliver the product and start charging and 2) a new list of hypothesis to investigate and validate in the event that we are not successful with the first set of activities.
  • I am going to set aside time with the team, once a month, to do retrospectives and learn from past mistakes and successes.
  • I will ask my team to peer-review their previous 3-12-3 to check that we are all in the right path.
  • I am going to set aside time next week to identify events that are relevant for my professional development, I will write down a plan for my boss to exchange opinions by the end of February and I will attend the ones that we agree upon.
  • I will do the scheduled training sessions for Innovation and I will set aside time to prepare the Product Development course for my team next week. I will deliver the training with Gabri to Communication and Business Intelligence before the end of April.
  • I will set aside time twice per week to write articles for this blog. And I will setup the Google Analytics needed to follow up its growth.