WORKING WITH HUMANS: THE SECRETS EVERY LEADER SHOULD KNOW

when we see our business enterprise as a human enterprise, and our human resources as human beings, a new range of possible futures is revealed…

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In September 2018, I was invited to speak at the CIO Forum in San Diego. Here’s a summary of what I shared on the secrets of Working with Humans.

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The Richmond Events CIO Forum is a gathering of CIO’s from some of the largest corporations in the USA and this year’s event addressed topics ranging from cyber threat intelligence and data analytics to the needs of the digital customer.

Futurist Rohit Talwar set the context for the conference by illustrating the ways in which artificial intelligence (and the emergence of ‘super-intelligence’) is radically re-shaping the way we work. Of course we all know that computers can replace the person at the check-out, but did you know that they are now being used to draft legal contracts and prompt us when our clothes need replacing? Leading the charge is an insurance company in the Netherlands, who are offering a full service with zero employees. We used to hope for a caring person to be handling our insurance claims, now we just hope for a person, period.

The vision that Rohit painted was disturbing. And it was a vision that seemed to be missing one fundamental element to accompany the emerging super-intelligence - super-wisdom. So I was pleased when our futurist’s lecture concluded with some words that rang very true to me and my work. What’s key, he asserted, is that throughout these changes, we must learn to remain human.

My keynote, Working with Humans, called the audience into a hero’s journey. I asked them to manage the introduction of new technology and AI into their organizations in a wise and mindful manner. If we are to ensure a thriving future, we need to tread carefully as we introduce new technologies with unknown consequences. For evidence, look no further than the climate changes that our “old” technologies have caused, or the rapid changes in communication and thinking ushered in by social media.

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So how do we engage the full humanity of each of our employees? Here are some simple but practical ideas.

The way we stay human, the way we are human, is to see in ourselves three of the enduring aspects of all human beings. To make it memorable, let’s call them the 3 F’s.

We are simultaneously Fabulous, Fallible and Frankly Strange

To be aware of these aspects, and to act in accordance with them, is to honor our basic humanity. To see these features in each other, respectfully, allows us to recognize and protect the dignity of everyone in the workplace, whatever their role.

Sounds like a good thing, huh? But you might be asking yourself, what does this really mean?

To start with, let’s ask;

what are the ways in which each of us are Fabulous?
where are you and I Fallible?
how am I Frankly Strange to you, and vice versa?

When I coach leaders to create this culture in their workplace, most report that they start to notice a significant impact in 4 areas;

1.    Ease. Yes that’s right, a more ‘easy’ atmosphere. If we can see each of these characteristics within each other, and acknowledge that they exist, we can drop the pretence that takes up so much of our energy. It becomes OK to drop the posturing and be our authentic selves. Without judgement we can show up just the way we are and conversation becomes easier, collaboration becomes easier. Dignity is protected for all, which enables the next area of impact.

2.    Engagement. Dignity is the entry ticket for the highest levels of engagement. So after ease is accomplished, clients start to see their people become more emotionally connected to their work, and to the overall success of their organization. They see their people going the extra mile to make sure a customer is satisfied, or to see a task completed.

3.    Imagination. Once employees are engaged, we can tap into their imagination, giving us access to multiple perspectives and new possibilities. I remember the group of fully-engaged financial services managers I worked with, who stunned themselves generating implementable new initiatives worth $250m to their annual profits in just a day.

4.    Impact. Experience has taught me that people everywhere have one thing in common, we care deeply about the future. And I don’t mean an abstract future. I mean the future for our children and our grandchildren. A future for the Earth on which those grandchildren will live. We are coded to care. At work, when we create conditions where our deeper human values are respected, then that care can surface. With an activated sense of social responsibility, the employees in any organization become the custodians of its impact on people, planet and profit.

These elements combined transform the workplace

In busy times we need ease. In distracting times, we need employee engagement. In competitive times, we need employee imagination. And in times where our future is in doubt, we need to evaluate and mediate our impact. We need humans at work.

If you’d like to know more about how specifically to implement these ideas or my consulting work in general, please get in touch or subscribe using the form below.

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