We need to think differently about the elements that make up our working life in order to spend more time doing what we want, in the way we want. It's not possible to turn ourselves into super-happy or wonderfully fulfilled humans overnight, but we can take that first, all-important step in the right direction.
We have been seduced into believing that money is success, both personally and in our business lives. Money is not success: balance is success and achieving a proper, sustainable, equilibrium is a goal worth striving for. Here are ten tips to help you and your employees make the best of their work and personal lives.
1) Relationships. Our most important commercial relationships have a major impact on our ability to succeed and be happy. Increasing the flow of information, sharing key goals and incentivising all parties to look beyond the horizon can quickly have a positive effect. I've had great success with many entrepreneurs by getting them to outline their dozen most important business relationships and looking at how to build the level of trust, create a greater alignment of goals and produce better results. It is also important to recognise that things should be changed slowly and steadily, not search for a whirlwind solution overnight.
2) Results. Evaluating our own activities, and the people you work with, by "results only" can dramatically change our perspective. Try moving away from evaluation based on how much time is spent at the desk or the number of emails. Instead, give people freedom over their working patterns as long as objectives get met. Several companies I have worked with have tried to phase this in over time, taking one day a week first and so on. It isn't for everyone because many need a disciplined framework to work within, but most of us can achieve greater things by focusing on the results of our actions alone.
3) Culture. Competitive advantage comes from thinking differently and acting differently. Develop and foster a culture promoting new ideas and innovative solutions by allowing people the space to think. This can be achieved by motivating ourselves and others to come up with original and alternative resolutions, covering issues from all sides and removing the usual corporate guidelines.
4) Success. Identify what success means personally and for those in close proximity, both in the short and longer term. Many of us believe success only comes from the things we are good at, but this does not always add to a feeling of fulfilment, achievement and satisfaction. For one thing, what we are good at is often about what we have done in the past and this is no guarantee of progress in the future.
5) Self sufficiency. Promote individual problem-solving and inventiveness to help overcome workplace issues. Aristotle said, "happiness belongs to the self sufficient" but many of us have become comfortable relying on others, denting our pragmatic abilities. This is about developing a broader range of skills, many of which should be as transferable as possible. We all have innate strengths, but areas where we have traditionally been poor can limit our desire and ability to move forward.
6) Technology. Considerable time has been saved performing routine tasks, but many people I have interviewed feel technology is running our lives and has become far too intrusive. To overcome this, we need to identify how we want to interface with colleagues and the workplace. Knowing more about technology itself can also help: a good colleague of mine takes one lunchtime every week to learn a new technical skill.
7) Create room. Whether we like it or not, we all have finite mental resources. Clear out some of the existing preconceptions, procedures and outdated systems to create space so that new ideas and concepts can take root and flourish. Ensure there is enough room to bring change into many of the ways we work and de-prioritise activities that are of little value. We all lead busy and packed lives, so getting new things into our mindset means removing some of the old.
8) Engagement. Whether it is directly with customers, colleagues or friends after work, we need to be able to emotionally engage to improve the quality of interaction. Less face-to-face contact is putting a priority on understanding more about people far quicker; armed with better relationships we can improve the quality of our working experience. At times we all need help and being able to call on trusted allies can soon get us back on track.
9) Leadership. It is more important than ever to engender an entrepreneurial spirit to produce results and ensure high levels of self-belief. Not all of us are natural leaders or fantastic orators but we can all provide good advice and direction in a consistent and clear manner. We should never try to be someone we are not, just be the best we can.
10) Change. If we aspire to obtain more from our careers and the rest of our lives, then we have to embrace one simple concept: change is essential. Anyone who thinks they have seen the tail-end of this workplace revolution needs to hold onto their hat. Changing business and personal circumstances are a fact of life. Einstein said, "We can't create change with the same level of thinking that created the problem". Applying change to every part of the work-life relationship will bring a new, more positive mindset and profoundly affect working attitudes along with the orientation of those we work with.
Jim Banting is the author of Get a Dog, Don't Work Like One, published by Marshall Cavendish, January 2010.
Posted 11 November 2009 : Director.co.uk