Joy at Work(er) Blog

Nurturing Trust

joy research Oct 06, 2020

Written by Ed Cook

Trust shows up frequently as a corporate value, a desirable commodity.  It is inscribed on our money  (“In God We Trust”) and in our nation’s official motto.  But for something that is valued so highly, organizations struggle to explain what Trust is.  They seem unclear about how to get it,    how to nurture it, and how it erodes. They often make decisions that seem blind to the impact of Trust on their members.  

Organizations often expect their employees to think of Trust in terms of actions: 

“I can depend on you to do what you say.”

“They’ve got my back and I’ve got theirs”

“We are all in it together.”

Although these are fine statements and positive situations, they miss an important point,  an idea that has lived in the research literature about the individual but needs to expand to that of the organization --  psychological...

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Measuring Change

change Oct 04, 2020

Written by Roxanne Brown

When you’re leading change, how do you know you’re getting anywhere? How do you measure progress?

Measuring change progress does not need to be exact. It only needs to be directionally correct to lead to useful and actionable insights. The best place to start is by asking the question, what are the signs of progress? From there you can decide what data matters and what’s worth measuring.

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Change Can Grow Joy

change joy at work Oct 02, 2020

Written by Roxanne Brown

Change can grow joy. An executive we spoke with recently referred to change as the destroyer of joy. It’s such a fascinating statement when you consider some of the phrases we use in business:

  • Disruptive innovation
  • Failing fast
  • Digital transformation

These are catchy phrases but also inspire inertia, disbelief, fear and a lot of cognitive dissonance when the words and actions of the company, leaders and managers don’t match, when that’s not acknowledged.

Another executive we spoke with said they don’t use the word “change” in their company, they say “evolution” because change is too scary.

Clearly there’s fear attached to change, but there’s another way. A company can change and grow joy. It’s all about how!

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Joy Research Interview

joy research Sep 30, 2020

Written by Roxanne Brown

In every Joy Research interview with a CEO or senior leader, we always ask this question at the end…

“If we’re successful in our research, what questions would you wish we could answer?”

Here are a few they’ve given:
• Is joy the word?
• Is that the metric that will help us get the most out of our people?
• How do we help people reach this state?
• How do we know it’s happening?
• How is joy unique for our line of work?
• How do people define it?
• How is it different from happiness?
• Why are leaders afraid to talk about joy at work?
• Why does joy matter so much?

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What's the story behind that name?

change Sep 23, 2020

Written by Roxanne Brown

When Ed presented his decision analytics PhD research at INFORMS (Institute of Operations Research and the Management Sciences) conferences, no one asked about the math. What they asked was, “How did you get the organization to implement the decision?”

Before joining ACMP’s (Association of Change Management Professionals) Board of Directors, Roxanne noticed that at the annual conferences the attendees talked about their role in implementing what seemed like poor decisions. They wondered out loud, “How can we have a bigger influence on the change decisions?”

We realized decisions and change are two sides of the same coin.

Sometimes decisions don’t get implemented because the change seems too daunting.


Sometimes change implementations stop because a barrier is discovered that is too big to overcome.

It’s better to think of a change decision as a learning process because new information will be learned as the...

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Joy at Work for...

joy at work Sep 18, 2020

Written by Roxanne Brown

Joy at Work for…

  • Career path planning: How do you want work to feel? What work cultures do you thrive in? What companies, industries or types of work have these cultures?
  • Job interviewing: What tells you the company, team or job role will be a place you can thrive? What are the signs that joy at work is present?
  • Onboarding: How would you describe joy at work to a new team member? How is joy at work part of the culture? What does the culture value? What is the company working on? What does the company struggle with? What is expected of the new employee? How can the employee contribute to joy at work?
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Grateful versus Superior

joy at work Sep 10, 2020

Written by Roxanne Brown

There’s a fine line between gratitude and superiority. The subtext of “I am grateful for all I have” versus “I am superior because of all I have.” It’s all about the intent. It’s why sometimes the offer of help is seen as a threat rather than genuine support.

Gratitude is thought to lead to joy.

Think of a time when you were offered help and it felt like genuine support. You felt mentally, physically and emotionally strengthened by the offer.

Think of a time when you were offered help and it felt vaguely like a threat, condescension or somehow took away your power.

Gratitude gives you strength. Joy gives you strength. Joy at work allows you to focus on the work rather than manage the vague threats around you.

What are you grateful for that gives you a feeling of strength that you never need to tell another soul? The next time you offer help to someone at work, try remembering this thought first and with that...

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Do You Need a Leader or a Manager?

leadership management Sep 07, 2020

Written by Ed Cook

The words leader and manager often are used interchangeably, and with that slipshod usage, their individual meanings can be lost.  Peter Drucker and Warren Bennis are often quoted as saying:

“Management is doing the things right and Leadership is doing the right thing.”   

This points to deeper insights.  Management is about making things happen. It is literally about manipulation.  The words management and manipulation both come from the Latin word manus, meaning hand.  If done well, there are efficiencies gained and improvements made in every aspect of what the manager’s organization is doing, but that success is circumscribed.  Great managers are still working under constraints that have been given to them.  They can be awesome but only with what is given to them.  Leadership is about seeing beyond the confines and setting a vision for something better.  The origin of the word is...

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Do You Need a Coach or a Mentor?

leadership Sep 07, 2020

Written by Ed Cook

The words coach and mentor are often used interchangeably making distinctions between them murky.  This is unfortunate because the value of each can be tremendous for a person’s career, but where and how that value shows up can be significantly different.  Furthering the confusion, people call themselves a coach or a mentor without even defining what they mean.  Some clarity is needed here.

“A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.”
--John Wooden

As the coach of UCLA’s incredibly successful basketball team, John Wooden certainly knew something about coaching.  But is his coaching the same kind of coaching that we would want to see in business?  The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.  Coaches honor the client...

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The Leadership Bubble

leadership Sep 07, 2020

Written by Ed Cook

Leaders, who help to develop the skills and capabilities of their teammates, are giving a gift that returns again and again. Giving it, however, is not always so easy. These brave leaders are attempting a process that can be both difficult to do and even damaging if not carefully done. What makes this such a difficult undertaking is that the process of learning new capabilities does not always happen through instruction alone. Often, it happens best through experience. In order to truly grow, people need to try these new capabilities which means they will fail, certainly in the early attempts. Those brave enough to try may suffer a loss of credibility should they fail. They may lose confidence as they see the negative impact of their mistakes on others. Decline, not growth, is possible here.

Sage Advice from an Old Salt

To conceptualize their role leaders can use The Leadership Bubble. The Leadership Bubble is the concept of a leader placing a protective...

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