If you've been here before, feel free to go right down to this week's post.
If this is your first time reading about Amy & Matthew, here's a little intro: Our education doesn’t stop when we finish school/university anymore – and to be honest for successful people that was never the case anyhow. However, now - more than ever – knowledge is key to career development. There are other components too, though; emotional intelligence, soft skills, ICT skills, a different approach to management and leadership.
In this column, we would like to have a look at these changes from a new angle and in a new format – that of a discussion between Matthew, a man in his early sixties, and Amy, a young woman who is just taking her first management position. They have been paired to exchange experience and knowledge, to further their understanding of how career development works nowadays. It is a mutual mentoring set-up, where each is learning from the other. The main medium is open dialogue but articles and videos are used to illustrate some points and/or give more in-depth insight.
Along with the column, we provide tips, exercises, surveys and resources, to empower you to update your own career development wherever you feel it would be beneficial.
All these resources will be combined, week by week, into one e-book “People & Co Career Growth Manual - Your Guide to Career Development in the 21st Century”
If you would like to read last week's post in the series, click here.
Now, let's start the eighth and last session:
A: So, as our topic for this last session I chose the question 'Is collaboration the new competition?'
M: That's an interesting question. I'm not sure of the answer to be honest...
A: Have you noticed any difference in how competition is handled?
M: There has definitely been a change in the last few years. Competition used to be seen as a straightforward zero-sums game but it's not that anymore... Yet, I feel competition still exists. I feel it's something within us, how shall I say? Maybe 'primal' is the word...
A: I think I know what you mean. It's like the two-year-old inside of us screaming 'Mine!'
M (laughs): Exactly! It's like the other person - i.e. the competitor - has taken something from me, even though in most cases it wasn't really mine, I just bid for it too...
A: Well, luckily we have the more advanced part of our brain which can override this feeling. Even in hunter-gatherer times some collaboration was already happening to enable hunters to catch bigger game, for example. The more our society advances, the more we value collaboration over competition. We are evolving more and more into collaborators, working together as teams, as joint ventures, even as nations. Many of us have learned that hitting each other over the head (figuratively) and advancing our own agenda only does not serve us in the long run.
As we have discussed before, when we were talking about employee engagement, motivation is not really based on 'winning' as much as we thought it was. Especially when we are looking at tasks that require creativity rather than just a mechanical approach, we find that what motivates people are autonomy, mastery and purpose. The old 'carrot and stick' approach not only doesn't work but in many cases actually does harm. Dan Pink has done some very interesting research on the topic, which he presented in his popular TED talk. Did you get a chance to watch it?
M: Oh yes, I found it quite fascinating and surprising, I must admit. Although when I thought about it, I realised that I always did badly in exams when put under pressure. I suppose it's a similar thing... So to come back to our topic: collaborative environments are good places to cultivate an atmosphere of autonomy, mastery and purpose, I guess?
A: Exactly. When given autonomy, many people naturally choose to work together to further their projects. Plus these traits can best be expressed in an environment of trust, as we discussed a few weeks ago.
M: So how do you suggest we motivate people to achieve more then? How do we ensure collaboration and create an atmosphere of autonomy, mastery and purpose in our company? On a very practical day-to-day level?
A: Sure. This is where everything we've been talking about comes together - which is why I left this topic until last. In the knowledge economy, we need to maximise employee engagement, so as to attract and retain the best talent and thus have the experience and expertise for the all-important innovation. We want to use empathy and emotional intelligence to further diversity in our organisation. Because that, again, gives us an edge. Especially if our experts and multipotentialites collaborate and use design thinking to create innovative service offers and CSR projects.
On a practical, day-to-day level this means cultivating trust, transferring ownership of projects mindfully and really listening to what employees have to say.
M: Ok, let me go through these points one by one: cultivating trust means taking the first step, showing trust and giving employees more autonomy, right?
M: Transferring ownership of projects mindfully is all about determining together with the employee how much they can manage, how much responsibility they can take?
A: Yes, and we need to use our judgement here to see whether the respective employee is more likely to overestimate themself, in which case we'd need to caution, or underestimate themself, in which case we'd need to encourage them to be more courageous.
M: Fair enough. And really listening is about giving people a chance to speak up, in an environment where there are no hidden threats. Maybe create a forum where suggestions can be made anonymously?
A: That could be a start. Although the more effective thing to do is to foster an atmosphere of true openness, where everyone feels safe to say how they really feel...
M: Great! Got it!
A: So, how do you feel now at the end of our sessions together?
M: Grateful, mainly, and much more informed. It was really interesting to learn about all these trends in more detail. How about you?
A: I feel this has really helped me to understand more about where the organisation is at. Now it'll be easier to do my job here. Thank you very much.
M: Thank YOU for all your research and the valuable information. It's been great.
Think about how you could get a couple of colleagues involved in some of your projects. How about a brainstorming session for a start?
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