Thursday, 26 July 2012

Empowering employees

It's a year since I returned from an amazing one-week management retreat at Ashridge Business School. As a second group of colleagues also returned just a week or two ago, several of us have been reflecting on what we've achieved a year on.

The week I spent at Ashridge was intense, on many levels. One aspect was the challenging hours - straight into work from 8 in the morning or earlier through to 10.30 or 11 at night (working, not socialising, which is rare in my industry!). 

Another was the sheer level of immersion in business theory, from considering the global business environment and challenging assumptions we held about our industry, to change management and finance. 

Then there were the real hands on exercises, including a full business simulation, running a pretend company over a period of seven years (where each year lasted only a few hours). Having no experience previously outside my own area, this was thrilling, and fully absorbing.

Lastly there was the personal journey that we all experienced. From watching ourselves on camera, to engaging in detailed feedback from our colleagues, and a self assessment scoring, I came away with a much clearer understanding of my work style, how I am perceived by colleagues, and how to be more effective both with my team and within my organisation more broadly. I came back brimming with confidence in my abilities, with drive and motivation to be a better manager, leader, colleague.

It was timely that econsultancy posted this article a few days ago, looking at employee motivation. Amongst the great suggestions were having a clear career path, having flexible working, having time to pursue personal projects, and ensuring people found their work meaningful. I wonder why some of the following didn't come up:

- Fostering a keen sense of self
One key takeaway from Business school was how much more effectively we work when we understand our colleagues better. Investment in culture is important. Find out how each team member likes to work- either through psychological profiling or other means. Having this knowledge empowers individuals to communicate better - for example as an introvert I am most effective if I have had time to digest information ahead of a meeting).  Knowing how my peers like to work enables me to respond appropriately to their needs, building a stronger relationship and better work. Inevitably, that makes me happier!

- Building strong teams
Motivation,  I'd say, is closely tied to how able a team is to rely on each other. 
The stronger the bonds between a team, and the more honest they can be with each other, the more effective the workplace. 

- Training and development
While the article pointed to career paths, what can often be missing is the tools and guidance to navigate the route. Investment in training, as I've been fortunate to have in both my current and previous workplace, can be hugely motivating.