Stop playing the game and start enabling your people


Having spent the majority of my career in large enterprises I have recently been pondering where loyalty comes from and who really cares about customers, brands and products and who is just playing the game using the organisations rules.


We talk alot about building high performing teams and it being people that make up a company but more and more we see conflict between the needs of the worker and the wants of the organisation and its share holders.


“Far too often the measures of success for the organisation are skewed too much towards the needs of the share holder and not enough for the customer and worker.”


I’ve worked with leaders in the past that had a notion that a high performing team could build any proposition, product or brand.  I do wonder how much we put the reputation of the leader and the brand ahead of the worker, too fixated on how we are perceived within the all too often short term goals and lagging indicators that we have set.


Whilst its not straightforward why we join organisations and has many facets (see Daniel Pinks work on Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation – – ranging from career progression, learning opportunities, salary, values, technology etc etc) it is important to understand them. If we assume things incorrectly we may underestimate people’s tolerance for change. I’ve seen people join organisations and the product, team and location get changed assuming they joined for the role, salary and the brand.


“Leaders must become enablers and not controllers.”


With average tenures dropping and mobility increasing, organisations cannot take people for granted, inline with the agile values we must provide an environment where motivated individuals can do their best work.  Leaders must become enablers and not controllers. You cannot suggest that workers are ‘lucky’ to be part of the transformation, challenge at your organisation. It’s a two way relationship that needs clear benefits for both, making goals and objectives and value clear.


Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done. The fifth Agile Principle focuses on the project team and emphasises the importance of trust, support and motivation.”


I have worked with teams recently that have done amazing work, caught up in a challenge, problem solving, great levels of team work, energy and creativity.  None of this was directly influenced by the organisation or the brand, the organisation benefited from the excellent work the team produced as customers loved the solutions.  This was tested as the team were not located in the corporate environment, when this changed the teams main comment was, it feels like work now.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”    Steve Jobs

We are in a world where there are so many opportunities in Digital that we need to try and understand what the phrase “it doesn’t feel like work” means.  Shoving brand values and tone of voice down someones throat, company values that clearly most leaders do not exhibit and enterprise bureaucracy will mean your most talented people will go somewhere else.


Professionalism, a desire to learn and loyalty to team mates will only be tested for so long by wider inefficiency and constant tinkering in enterprise companies before your top talent gets fatigue.


A well defined career ladder and impressive job titles remain at odds with alot of the recent approaches to work that focus more on intrinsic motivators, large bonuses where the bonus percentage gets larger the more senior you go will be uninspiring.


“A place where people understand the value they can add, rather than simply adding capacity to the delivery pipeline “


I was inspired in the past by the Virtuous cycle by Appirio, trying to bring together energised and loyal workers, focusing on meeting their needs and making it a place where people understand the value they can add, rather than simply adding capacity to the delivery pipeline

3 thoughts on “Stop playing the game and start enabling your people

  1. Rob says:

    Interesting as always Dave. You might want to check out this article which busts the myth that job tenures are decreasing. They’re actually going up, which is quite interesting. Not sure specifically about the tech sector, but in general in the UK and US the stats show people are staying in their jobs longer. In the US it’s gone from an average of 3.5 years in 1983 to 4.6 years in 2014. It can feel anecdotally like people are job hopping more now, but maybe we just become more aware of it as we progress in our careers. Perhaps something for a future post.

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