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)

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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

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