Bring Your Gifts to Work: My Maverick Hangout Experience

Unlocking human potential.

It’s a manager’s most important task, but also the hardest to measure and understand. How can leaders empower employees to be free of bureaucracy and top-down management, while maintaining consistency and efficiency across the organization?

Gary Hamel, co-founder of the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX), and I discussed these issues and others during a Maverick Hangout on February 19. The MIX tackles many diverse management issues, including the Unlimited Human Potential Challenge which asks people to submit stories that emphasize the power of the individual.

I invite you to watch the video playback of our conversation. I’ve also highlighted what I thought were three key takeaways from the hangout.

  1. Think employee experience
    There is an emerging parallel between how companies treat their customers and employees. In the past, there were customer relationship management tools, but this view was too centered on the organization. No one wants their “relationship managed.” Similarly, there is no employee relationship management. There are individuals who bring unique talents and insights to a company in exchange for personal fulfillment (and yes, compensation). I’ll point to my own experience at SAP, where an internal survey shows the biggest motivator is how one’s work impacts the world beyond SAP. Don’t focus on human capital management but on employee engagement.
  2. It’s O.K. to fail
    This is a difficult pill to swallow for many managers. Empowering employees means more than providing the tools, information and capital to do their jobs. Leaders should encourage risk taking and innovating across the organization – if there are mistakes, it is better to correct them then to have never tried and stifle their creativity. As Demming said, drive fear from the workplace.
  3. Deconstructing the Pyramids
    People learn to protect the job that they have. Organizational pyramids and hierarchies exist for a reason, to provide structure and consistency. I’m not suggesting chaos but there is something to be said for a networked system where individual employees can create their own relationship between the organization’s goals and their performance. Company culture is everything, and as I’ve said before, culture eats strategy for breakfast. In a “new pyramid,” the most important qualities will be empathy, for your fellow employee and their skills and responsibilities; diversity, because who wants five workers who think, act and reason the same way; and collaboration, because in a networked economy, we are all interconnected. That means success, and failure, is a shared concept more now than ever before. It remains to be seen what this model will eventually resemble.

Employees today want more than climbing the corporate ladder. In a better run world, there may not be a corporate ladder to climb. As Gary put it, organizations must create an environment where employees willingly bring their gifts to work, for employers who truly appreciate it.

I’d to love you hear your thoughts on the Hangout, and how you unlock potential at work.

Originally posted on LinkedIn Today on February 20, 2014

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