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Are you coping or creating? How healthy is your organisation?

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

Two of my clients this week -from totally different sectors- had similar questions around colleagues who are struggling with burnout. They asked me how to deal with this.

In my view, there are basically two routes to approach this on an organisational level. One way is the typical managerial route: let’s get out the metrics and measure where our organisation is at. Then we define KPI’s and set up employee assistance programs (i.e. let’s fix the organisation).

A second way is to design a context in which people’s energy does not get drained. And then we talk about totally different metrics:

-      Is there room for laughter in the hallways? (or are laughing colleagues snapped at for disturbing the working atmosphere?)

-      Do people have time to brainstorm about new ideas? (or are brainstorming meetings cancelled due to “firefighting”?)

-      Is there room for creativity? Do your employees have time to pick out funky colours or come up with crazy ideas to communicate the results of a project? (or do you systematically “forget” to communicate to the organisation about project A, because you are already busy launching project B?)

-      Is there room for fun on the agenda? Is it possible to talk about weekends, hobbies, families and take a walk during lunch?

-      Does the leadership have time to talk about where they want to take the organisation? How they want to grow and develop their people? Do they even have time to talk about their own team and what it would take to get to the next level of collaboration?

-      Do the employees know how their tasks contribute to the overall goal? (or do they just get tasks piled on to their other responsibilities?)

-      Is there room for playfulness and humor in the board meetings? Or is the reality in the office one of hurrying around, ticking off boxes, comparing to do lists, snapping at colleagues and not having time to sit down for lunch?

I talked to one of the execs about how his colleague is having a weekly breakfast with her team. His first response was: “Does she have time for that?”.

Well, if that question implies: “Does she have all of her to dos covered, before she heads to the breakfast table?”, the answer is NO.

But then again, to do lists are never ending. The question is, how do you prioritise “creativity”, “team formation” or “people development” over rushing and attending meetings to gather more to dos?

In order to design the context for an organisation that is able to “create” (read: innovate), it is important to:

-      Build in time, structurally and culturally, for cross-silo discussions as an ongoing effort, not a one off.

o  How? Block micro-slots every week (one hour, half a day,…) and macro-slots every year (one or two days per quarter, per semester,…) for the big themes. The frequency matters more than the length: rather every week one hour than one week per year.

-      Build the capacity of teams to learn how to use this time for the benefit of growth and innovation.

o  How? Read books, articles, blogs on the theme. Gather best practices in the organisation, learn from a mentor, engage a coach,…

-      Teach leaders how to manage their own energy and how to teach others to manage theirs.

o  How? Similar to the previous point :)

Let this be a plea for more “white space” in our agendas and in our organisations. Time to connect with our colleagues. Time to understand how our teams work. Time to release our creativity and try new things. So we can learn how to fail and develop new ways of working. Let’s spend some time, collectively, talking about what drives us and gives us energy. How can we, collectively, make sure that we create this environment for each other?

And let’s use fun and creativity as metrics, instead of retention, number of burn-outs and speed of re-integration.

Thoughts, questions, ideas? Feel free to contact me!


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