The Child Who Has Survived
Ursula Le Guin | Intermittent and Bursty | Trust | Factoids | Paradoxes of Engagement
Quote of the Moment
The creative adult is the child who has survived.
| Ursula Le Guin
We’ve all experienced the creeping growth of meetings, chat and other communication over the past few years, but perhaps not realized the magnitude of what’s happened. A Microsoft report published in March 2022 showed that over the previous two years “the average Teams user saw a 252% increase in their weekly meeting time and the number of weekly meetings has increased 153%.” Chats have grown by 32%. Assuming that Teams users are a fairly good proxy for the population as a whole, this is disturbing.
While the length of meetings has fallen, meetings are taking up more of our time. Much more. And the consequences of those trends are mostly negative. People’s days are fractured into small pieces, with large costs associated with shifting attention from the topic of a 9 AM meeting, just barely getting up to speed on a report shared by a team member in a chat when it’s time for a 10:30 AM meeting on a third topic, and so on, all day long.
How are we supposed to operate as high-performing teams when we hardly have a chance to catch our breath?
Go read the entire article on Reworked.co.
I’ve talked about transitioning to ‘progressivity’ instead of ‘productivity’ for years, making the difficult shift away from output to outcomes. Brian Elliott over at Charter has narrowed down the biggest impediment: trust.
The way too many organizations measure productivity today isn’t just inaccurate. It also actively reduces trust, which in turn decreases people’s willingness to go the extra mile for their employers and their customers—which, in a viciously ironic turn, reduces productivity.
Microsoft research shows 87% of employees say they’re productive, while only 12% of leaders are confident saying the same of their teams. It’s no wonder—the world has changed around everyone, executives as well as employees. But attempts to make sense of this new world over the past few years have done both parties a disservice by casting everything as an “us versus them” battle.
And since “productivity” in knowledge work is notoriously hard to define, the majority of leaders are defaulting to visible signals of inputs, not outcomes. Recent Slack research shows while productivity is the number-one concern for executives, 60% of their productivity metrics are activity-based: emails sent, hours worked. Productivity concerns are also a driving force behind the “return to office” movement: The Institute for Corporate Productivity (ic4p), a human-capital research organization, reports that 64% of respondents’ employers have policies about how many days someone needs to be in the office—essentially signaling a lack of trust.
While a lack of trust isn’t exactly surprising, it is holding all of us back—people and organizations alike.
He goes on to spell it out precisely: two-way trust leads to better outcomes and engagement [emphasis mine].
There is a formula for creating highly productive organizations, and it leads to a better world of work for people and organizations. Two big elements of that formula are: 1) building trust, and 2) a relentless focus on outcomes. Here’s what recent research shows us about the link between the two:
Top-performing organizations are built on trust. In a 2023 study, ic4p found that two-way trust in an organization was the biggest differentiator between high-performing organizations—those that were growing faster, more profitable, and had higher customer satisfaction than their peers—and low-performing ones. The differences were stark: At high-performing organizations, employees were over 10 times more likely to say they trust their senior leadership, and senior leaders were 11 times more likely to say they trust their employees.
Trust drives employee engagement and productivity. In Slack’s August 2023 survey of over 10,000 global office workers, trust was the top determinant of employees’ productivity scores, overtaking flexibility. Employees who felt trusted were twice as productive as those who didn’t. They were 30% more likely to put in extra effort at their jobs. Those that don’t feel trusted were more than twice as likely to say they were looking for a new job.
Clearly, every company should actively seek to close the trust gap.
A record number of CEOs stepped down from their roles in the past year, according to a fall analysis by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray, & Christmas. More than 1,400 CEOs of US companies had vacated the corner office as of September—up nearly 50% from the same period in 2022 and the highest rate in two decades. | Quartz
The percentage of Americans who told the Federal Reserve they were worse off in 2022 than the previous year increased by 75 percent — to the highest level since the Fed started asking the question in 2014. | Karen Petrou
While the prevalence of noncompetes is difficult to measure — and is somewhat debated — surveys show that across the nation, between 18 percent to 45 percent of workers in the private sector may be bound by noncompetes. Supporters of banning them argue that, rather than protecting companies, they allow companies to impede the free movement of labor and suppress wages. | Luis Ferré-Sadurní
In 11 experiments involving more than 700 people, the majority of participants reported that they found it unpleasant to be alone in a room with their thoughts for just 6 to 15 minutes. Moreover, in one experiment, 64 percent of men and 15 percent of women began self-administering electric shocks when left alone to think. These same people, by the way, had previously said they would pay money to avoid receiving the painful jolt. | Kate Murphy
People are unable to sit quietly with their own thoughts.
Research suggests more than 90 percent of spreadsheets have errors, and half of spreadsheet models used in large businesses have “material defects”. Given some 750 million people use Excel globally, there are plenty of errors that need attention. One prominent researcher calls spreadsheets the dark matter of corporate IT. | Nicole Kobie
Paradoxes of Engagement: Remote isn’t
This a work in progress: a restructuring of a post I originally wrote in 2018, and which will form the basis of a chapter in the planned ebook, Paradoxes of Engagement. This work is open to paid subscribers, who will also receive a free copy of the final book.
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