Guest post by Dr Jason Fox
A big part of my work is in culture-design – deliberately crafting the structures, rituals and artefacts to trigger and support the behaviours we want to see more of.
Culture is fuzzy territory, and often lacks deliberate effort because of it. When we bring it back to behaviours (and the motivation design that influences them) – things get more real, more measurable, and more tangible… but it’s still fuzzy. And so a big part of the motivation design for culture involves talk of narrative and emotions. In fact, it’s critical.
Emotions at work
“A huge mistake all businesses make is that they market and storytell outside their business – but don’t work hard enough to market and storytell inside their business.” Darren writes.
Unearthing or developing a narrative that truly resonates with people is bloody hard work. But, when done well, it can tap into some pretty powerful emotions at work.
Note: by emotions I mean the subjective, conscious psychophysiological experiences of people.
Here’s a list of the emotions Darren shared in his article. I like to think of these as ‘the vibe’.
- Affection: an expression of fondness for another
- Care: anticipating another’s needs; to look after
- Courage: feeling uncomfortable – even fearful – yet choosing to act
- Joy: deep feeling of pleasure or happiness
- Optimism: confidence for the future; that tomorrow will be better
- Pride: a deep satisfaction of achievement; a high self-esteem
- Surprise: to deliver the unexpected or unusual
- Zest: to show great enthusiasm or energy
I frowned thoroughly but couldn’t improve it. These are brilliant, distinct, primary emotions that we’d want to strive for at work. And while we’d want a bit of everything, some are more appropriate for some work contexts than others.
So, what primary emotion should drive the culture at your work?
I’ve taken these emotions a step further and had a crack at what great work cultures driven by each emotion might look like. Have a look at the following and see what resonates most with you.
Affection at work
- Colleagues have deep respect for one another.
- It’s safe to be funny here – people aren’t crippled by a fear of offending one another, because they genuinely like each other.
- Competition is incredibly healthy – individual achievement is celebrated just as much as collective achievement.
- Collaboration is relatively effortless – when it feels like you’re working with friends, great things happen.
- There’s no gossip, no bitching and no whinging – the topics of conversation are nearly always positive and proactive.
Care at work
- Teams are tight, but open.
- When people ask how are you? – they mean it, and they’re prepared to go deeper.
- Workmates know what’s going on in people’s world outside of work.
- People have empathy for each others’ world – there’s no ‘us and them’.
- If issues are raised, people know they’ll be followed up.
- People will go out of their way to make things safer (physically and emotionally).
- Care extends beyond the team – staff care about company progress, the customer experience, and the wider environment and supply chain.
- Companies and teams that care, show leadership beyond their own turf – for example, if suppliers are mistreating their own workers, they’ll either try to change things, or they’ll switch suppliers. Organisations that care think about longevity too – they’re not just around to make a quick buck… they have customers (and staff) for life.
Courage at work
- People don’t ruminate or procrastifectionate over risks – they embrace them with consideration and mastery.
- Everyone is always learning and sharing – there are good platforms established for this.
- Concerns are expressed early – not hidden.
- People will give everything their best shot – but they are not afraid to ask for help when they need it. Everyone is trusted, and can work with a high level of autonomy.
- Everything is open to being questioned.
- When decisions are made, the team has each other’s’ back.
- Failure is a healthy and natural component of work – apathy is the real enemy.
Joy at work
- The happiness is infectious.
- Laughter happens, often.
- Customers and colleagues finish every call in a better mood.
- Corporate Social Responsibility activities are integrated into everyday work – there is shared value, and all profit has meaning.
- People are not only present, they are present.
- Workmates are also mates (and the relationships with clients are strong – there are no facades or artificial boundaries of ‘professionalism’).
Optimism at work
- Optimism can be blind or merely hopeful, but truly optimistic cultures invest in their futures. Organisations with optimism embedded in their culture create options and contingencies for the future.
- They invest heavily in mentoring and talent development.
- They ensure that success stories (internal and external) are trumpeted, and all progress and insight is shared.
- Learning is incredibly rich in these organisations – many staff attend conferences and engage in extra learning on their own accord.
- There’s an eye on the future, with an appetite for opportunity.
- Relevancy is a constant topic of discussion, and people are willing to play with the business model in order to stay ahead of the game.
- When things do go bad, the optimism is genuine because there is an inherent resilience and agility, and an ability to bounce forward.
Pride at work
- These organisations almost make arrogance an art – and a deserved one too. They work bloody hard to produce great products or services. By the time something leaves the door, people can stand by it.
- These organisations put their customer at the heart of the experience – they’re not too concerned with trends and what’s popular. They’re concerned with what is best.
- These organisations create cults. They are the pioneers in their categories, and the bastions people turn to.
- These organisations invest heavily in their brand and reputation – by doing great work. The status of working for such a company is currency in and of itself.
Surprise at work
- Organisations that surprise and delight their staff and clients have a high level of creativity. Lateral thinking is willingly embraced.
- There is no ‘death by committee’ here – teams have the autonomy, gumption and internal checks to progress great ideas without fear of censure.
- People are both encouraged and inspired by their co-workers.
- There is a sense of urgent optimism to do more, to reach further and to push the envelope of what’s possible.
- These organisations harbour the innovators and earlier adopters. In many ways, they are the trendsetters in their field.
- Competitors try to imitate – but by the time they’ve caught up, this company has already created something new.
Zest at work
- The enthusiasm is contagious.
- People are always moving – they throw themselves into tasks willingly.
- “Less talk, more do” – there’s little patience for circular conversations.
- Teams are very good at prototyping ideas rapidly.
- People want to ‘bottle’ their culture, or find the source of their kool aid.
- The company is always moving – always alive.
- There’s no need for “Chief Energy Officers” – people front up in their best state, every day (or are elevated to their best state by their co-workers, quickly).
Get deliberate about how your company or team is growing
These things don’t happen by accident – they happen as a consequence of design. Of course, the diversity of your company or team – the people you bring on board – plays a significant part in the culture you create. But the motivation strategy and design – that takes care of the rest.
Dr Jason Fox is a motivation strategy & design expert who shows forward thinking leaders how to influence work culture, drive progress and build for the future of work. Jason is the author of The Game Changer – a new book published by Wiley that unpacks the science of motivation, gamification and agile management to drive change within organisations, teams and work.