The nap desk – no reason to go home any more

For most of us, having a short snooze at work would be frowned upon. But we’ve all had times when a bit of shut-eye would have been nice – the post-lunch slump, the conference call that you didn’t need to be included in, for one of my colleagues missing the last train home after too many post-work drinks left him sleeping under his desk…

I used to work for a Japanese company where one manager would regularly shuffle around the office in slippers (not that unusual in Japan) and put an eye mask on to take naps at his desk after lunch (again, not so unusual to see sleeping salarymen in Japan, but not great management behaviour).

But now Greek design company NL Studio say it’s ok to take a nap in the office with their wonderfully innovative nap desks! Now can we just get the rest of the open-plan office to be quiet for half an hour?

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Great Creative Directors – a model for great managers everywhere

We’ve probably all heard the saying that employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. And we all know full well the impact a bad manager can have on their staff, not just in being the reason for staff updating their CV and looking for the exit. But what impact can a great manager have?

There are so many theories on the subject, but a recent AdWeek article ’18 Things Great Creative Directors Do Everyday’ provides a pretty good summary of things that a great manager will incorporate into their approach to management on a daily basis. Take out the details about what is particularly needed to manage creative people, and you have a pretty good model of great management for many industries. As with most things to do with managing people, it’s all a matter of balance…

I was particularly interested in this part:

7. Give people a fair chance, but get rid of the duds

A creative department isn’t as good as its best talent. It’s only as good as its worst. If you’ve done all of the above but still have people who aren’t delivering the work that makes your organization or agency famous, they need to move on.

Of course, poor performance doesn’t always have to mean people being shown the door, but arguably it’s better for managers to tackle poor performance or poor productivity early on rather than waiting for it to get worse and drag good performers down.

Getting the best out of people – thoughts from Riverford founder, Guy Watson

The best thing about getting a weekly vegetable box delivery from Riverford – aside from the yummy fresh organic veggies of course – is the short letter included in the box from founder Guy Watson. This week, writing in response to the General Election result in the UK, he shares some thoughts on motivation and management and hits the nail on the head in his usual eloquent style:

What I find so depressing about modern post-Thatcherite Conservatism (and only marginally less so about post-Blairite Labour) is the apparent ubiquitous cynical belief that appealing to personal greed is the only way to get anything done… In the real world, where businesses have to compete by getting the best out of people, it has largely been abandoned as a piece of failed, ideologically driven dogma.

… Ultimately we all want to feel good about ourselves and at work this falls broadly into three areas: feeling we are learning and getting better at stuff, feeling some control over our lives and feeling a sense of purpose. To believe that ‘carrot and stick’ management is why a nurse will care for a patient, a parole officer will struggle to support a young offender or why a programmer would write exceptional code is crass to the point of incredulity.

I couldn’t agree more. My only hope is that more and more businesses, and leaders and workers within them, wake up to this realisation and we can build a better society that way, nevermind who is in government.

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We need to be comfortable to be productive

Where is your most ‘comfortable’ place to work? If you’re anything like me, and more on the introverted side of the scale, it’s unlikely to be an open-plan office. @GoogleforWork find that 36% of people prefer somewhere ‘isolated and quiet’, and 43% sat somewhere ‘comfortable and relaxing’. That probably explains all the workers you see plugged into laptops with headphones on in coffee shops in any big city these days. We want to be somewhere quiet where we can focus, but we also want to be comfortable. Although we like to be isolated, we don’t necessarily want to be alone.

Blake Morgan writes for Forbes.com on how introverts can thrive in an extrovert workplace and her main advice is to be clear about what you need to be happy and thrive at work. Don’t just put up with the noise and distraction of an open-plan office because others do. Find where and how you do your best work and then find an employer willing to give you that space and opportunity.

Good Leaders Care

Writing in Harvard Business Review, Rosabeth Moss Kanter writes about the four key messages a good leader should convey to their own staff while making public communications (‘Every Leader’s Real Audience‘ – Jan 30, 2014). The one that stuck with me the most is this:

“I care about your work. Your work is important.”

I cannot agree more that leaders should be able to demonstrate that they care about the work of their teams. It can very easily inspire people to feel that their work is valued by those in leadership positions. But that message can so easily get lost in the other demands on a leader’s time.

In a former job we had a visit from our CEO to a HR department meeting, which was a wonderful chance to get to know him a bit better, pick his brain, and find out what he really wanted for our organisation. In a Q&A session at the end of the meeting my colleague asked the CEO what he wanted from us as a department, whether there was anything he wanted more of or for us to change? His answer was short and simple: ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing.’ And with that faces fell around the room. It became immediately apparent that our CEO didn’t have any more of an answer than that. And that was because he didn’t actually know what we did. Which also implied that he didn’t really care.

So with one sentence all meaning and sense of purpose in our work was pretty much dashed. What’s the point in striving to do a good job if the boss isn’t really bothered about it?

As Kanter points out, leaders should be aware when speaking publicly that their people are listening very intently: ‘They want to know whether to update their resumes or renew their commitment to the work.’ Leaders should also be aware when speaking directly to their people, and take any small opportunity to communicate that they care.