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Who wants to work and who wants a job?

I had a great meeting this week with Chuck Blakeman, entrepreneur and best-selling author of ‘Making money is killing your business’ & the soon to be released ‘Why employees are ALWAYS a bad idea’.  I recommend his first for business owners, but it is the latter book that I am really looking forward to getting my hands on and is the discussion point for this post.

Chuck talks about the ‘participation age’ and the importance of having stakeholders rather than employees – put very simply; having people that want to work and have purpose and meaning in what they are doing (stakeholders), as opposed to people who simply just want a job.  I could immediately relate to this as it links directly with my own personal beliefs about why Block exists.  As I have said many times, it is not about making money, it is about doing the right thing by the people we provide our services to. If we all do that well, the money is the result that provides us with the freedom to reward our people and re-invest and grow a business that we all really care about, which in turn allows us to provide our services to more and more organisations….and so the cycle continues…

This subject really excites me and made me realise what an opportunity we have at Block - and other entrepreneurs have with their own businesses - to shape the how businesses run and operate in the future.

As we leave behind the ‘industrial age’ (that lasted about 150 years!) we should not underestimate the influence that it has had on us all and the businesses around us, but we need to move on, and with the help of new generations, we will.  If we look back at the 20th century we have had two huge world wars (which we should never forget), depressions and recessions to overcome, so who could blame parents post-WWII for encouraging their offspring to aim high for the sanctuary of the large corporation - the larger the better -  and in the process provide stability and security for their families.  But big businesses became money making machines.  Thankfully, we are entering a new age where, for the first time, many people are born into families with a degree of stability and security already in place, and as a result, the ‘millenials’ as they are termed, are looking for more meaning and purpose in their work (I don’t relate the definition of a millennial with birth date BTW in case you were wondering...).

Unfortunately, most of the business literature and management theories until recently - process-driven, task-based management diatribe that tells people what to do and how to do it – probably don’t mean to, but assume that people are pretty ‘stupid and lazy’ and basically should be treated like children!  Not very motivating I think you’ll agree.  The first thing we need to do is shift our mind-set to one where people are ‘smart and motivated’ and want to be treated like adults. Easy…well not quite….

Ownership is widely proven to be the most powerful motivator – so you the need people who want to own and be responsible, then leaders to trust and let go…and this does not mean we lose control BTW!  Stakeholders and our people who believe in what they are doing will identify problems, solve them and importantly report back.  This doesn’t mean they are perfect as individuals (who is?) and won’t make mistakes, but 9 times out of 10 they will make good decisions, and if they make a mistake they fight like hell to sort it out if they ‘own’ the problem.  I want to share with you, two great expressions that Chuck provided – ‘stakeholders ‘OWN’, employees ‘RENT’ i.e. one is bought into the beliefs and culture of the company and wants to do good, as opposed to one who rents a desk, laptop and mobile to do a job.  And the final one, ‘make decisions at the level they have to be lived with’…  We shared a laugh talking about how he has CEO selected the new photocopier on behalf of his business manager…who was best placed to make the choice and live with that choice every day?!

Luckily at Block we do have many stakeholders who are highly valued and who embody exactly what we are about.  As a leader I also need to take responsibility and ensure others are provided with the opportunity to ‘own’ and get more fulfilment from their ‘work’.  But it also starts with a ‘why’ – Why do you want to work here?  What do you believe as an individual? What do you want to achieve? The more detail oriented CV analysts among us might disagree (I was one of you don’t forget!) but contrary to what we are told, the CV should often come at the end, not at the start;  you can teach skills, but it is much more difficult to change the person, their belief structure and their behaviour.

The last thing I want to say before I close (and believe me I could go on…) is there is also momentum gathering around moving away from time-based to results-based working, with many great examples  out there of organisations who have already taken this step.  Think about it for a minute, a business where everyone is paid based on the IMPACT that they have in their work… sharing in the responsibility for achieving success (and taking responsibility for the failures if there are any), and sharing in the rewards that the successes bring.

My intention was to get people thinking and I thank Chuck (read his book!) for the conversation that motivated me to write this article.  I hope it is has given you plenty to ponder, and not least to think about who’s ‘owning’ and who’s ‘renting’ in your team. Would be great to hear your thoughts.

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