‘’I think the role of the leader now is to create that environment where everyone can feel deeply connected and motivated, where they feel that they’re able to bring their full talent and potential to work under a clear organisational direction.’’ – Sharath Jeevan.
Joining Aoife on the podcast this week is Sharath Jeevan, chairman, author and a world-leading expert on intrinsic motivation, direction and potential. Through his work and writing, Sharath is on a mission to solve motivational challenges, support leaders to build workplace cultures worth bottling up and celebrating, and help leaders navigate direction and unleash people’s fullest potential.
In this episode, Sharath explores the journey to self-mastery and success, how the most powerful motivation comes from within and how organisations can stand out and create wonderfully unique cultures. We also learn the importance of creating emotional safety and showering kindness on ourselves and others. Listeners will receive valuable tips on establishing deep customer relationships and client retention along with brilliant advice on how you can become a positive role model not just in business but at home too. Key points throughout the episode include:
– An introduction to Sharath Jeevan.
– The difference between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.
– Tackling a motivational crisis with three key pillars: purpose, autonomy and mastery.
– The power of SME: How smaller businesses can compete with global giants.
– The extreme approaches to micromanagement.
– A breakdown of purpose: the Big ‘P’ and Little ‘P’.
– Translating a business role into a mission statement.
– The nurturing approach to leadership and the importance of empathy in the workplace.
– The wicked issue of a performance-based workplace culture.
– The benefits of continuous learning through reflection.
– The art of self-mastery: how to become the master of your life.
– The zigzag of life: Redefining failure and growing through setbacks.
– The relationship between mastery and feedback.
– What Happier at Work means to Sharath.
Sharath was awarded an OBE in the 2022 Queen’s New Year’s Honours for founding and leading STiR Education, arguably the world’s largest intrinsic motivation initiative. STIR re-ignited the motivation of 200,000 teachers, 35,000 schools and 7 million children in emerging countries.
THE LISTENERS SAY:
Do you have any feedback or thoughts on this discussion? If so, please connect with Aoife via the links below and let her know. Aoife would love to hear from you!
Listen back: Why delivering effective and constructive feedback at work is so vital with Aoife O’Brien.
Book: Intrinsic – A manifesto to reignite our inner drive by Sharath Jeevan.
Book: Drive by Daniel H. Pink
Article: Business Insider on Mark Zuckerberg and Meta
Connect with Sharath Jeevan:
Connect with Happier at Work host Aoife O’Brien:
Aoife O’Brien 00:00
Are you looking to improve employee engagement and retention? Do you struggle with decisions on who to hire or who to promote? I have an amazing opportunity for forward thinking purpose-led people first organisations to work with me on the first pilot Happier at Work program for corporates. The program is entirely science backed and you will have tangible outcomes in relation to employee engagement, retention, performance and productivity. The program is aimed at people leaders with responsibility for hiring and promotion decisions. If this sounds like you, please get in touch at Aoife@happieratwork.ie. That’s A O I F E at firstname.lastname@example.org. You’re listening to the Happier at Work podcast. I’m your host Aoife O’Brien. This is the podcast for leaders who put people first, the podcast covers four broad themes, engagement and belonging, performance and productivity, leadership equity, and the future of work. Everything to do with the Happier at Work podcast relates to employee retention, you can find out more at email@example.com.
Sharath Jeevan OBE 01:11
I think there’s a two way street, almost a marriage now when we work, where we are there to obviously help the organisation achieve its own mission, but the organisation is here to also achieve ours. And it’s that second point, I think leaders especially those who grew up in my generation, really struggle with.
Aoife O’Brien 01:27
Hello and welcome back to this week’s episode of the Happier at Work Podcast. I’m delighted that you have decided to tune in today. This week’s guest is Sharath Jeevan, Sharath is one of the world’s leading experts on intrinsic motivation, direction and potential. His groundbreaking book ‘Intrinsic’ has received glowing endorsements ranging from leading smart thinking writers like Dan Heath and Nir Eyal to business and education leaders to the former prime minister of Greece and I know certainly I’m a big fan of Nir and of Dan. So I’m delighted to read that. And Sharath was awarded an OBE in the 2022 Queens New Year’s honors for founding and leading stir education. arguably the world’s largest intrinsic motivation initiative, stir reignited the motivation of 200,000 teachers, 35,000 schools, and 7 million children in emerging countries. Sharath is the executive chairman of Intrinsic Labs, which supports organisations and leaders all around the world to solve deep motivational challenges from governments to leading universities and high profile corporations, from L’Oreal, to the London School of Economics. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Economist, the telegraph, Financial Times, NPR, CNN, CNBC, the Hindustan Times, and The Times of India. Now, myself and Sharath have a wonderful conversation all about intrinsic motivation. And we go into a bit more detail explaining what that is, and the impact that it has on external motivation or extrinsic motivation, things like money and rewards and things like that. We go into a bit of detail around this whole idea of purpose, autonomy and mastery. We talk about things like curiosity, having a curious mindset, leadership role modeling. And we also touched on this idea of emotional safety. Now, as always, I will be doing a synopsis at the end, pulling out some of the key points and really questioning you and what actions you can take as a result of listening to today’s podcast episode. I love to keep things really practical. So I will challenge you and you know, what will you do differently as a result, it’s not just about taking in the information, it’s about actually taking action on it as well. I also love for the podcast episodes to be kind of like a dialogue. I’m speaking at you right now you’re listening to me, I can’t read your mind. So do reach out to get involved in the conversation, you can send me an email directly and you’ll find that out on my website happieratwork.ie. I also do a little bit of posting on Instagram and the handle there is happieratwork.ie as well or feel free to reach out and connect with me. Send me a message through LinkedIn and you’ll find me through Aoife O’Brien. Welcome Sharath, to the Happier at Work, Podcast. I’m absolutely delighted to have you as my guest today. And I know that we’re going to have such an interesting conversation. I think we might nerd out on research and all sorts of interesting topics that we’re going to cover today. Would you like to introduce yourself to listeners give a little bit of a feel for what you do and how you got into what you’re doing?
Sharath Jeevan OBE 04:46
Yeah, thanks Aoife. It’s been such a pleasure. I’m an expert on these areas of intrinsic motivation. So this is how we motivated ourselves from within and reignite our motivation. And then also on intrinsic direction, how do we find our real path as leaders? And finally, in terms of intrinsic potential, how do we try and harness the best out of others in our teams and our wider lives as well. I wrote a book called ‘Intrinsic’ which came out last year. But my my day job, I really advise a range of organisations from L’Oreal and Shopify, on the one hand, all the way through to governments, in places like India, in Kenya to nonprofit organisations that Teach for All to universities, like Cambridge University, for example, around these questions. And I have a lab which tries to practically apply journeys with organisations needs to figure some of these questions out and share the knowledge more widely, but fascinated by all aspects of this everything from our working career lives which we’re going to focus on today. But also the spillover into our personal lives, which we can also touch on.
Aoife O’Brien 05:54
Some really interesting things to dive into from that introduction, there was a couple of things that I picked up on specifically was the use of the word journey. And in working with organisations, it’s more about the journey. And I think a lot of organisations these days tend to be tempted to have kind of a quick fix, or they have like a, they invite people as part of a wellbeing strategy as one off. And I know certainly I get invited a lot of times for one off sessions and the more I think of it, I’m like, I’m still offering them for the time being, but actually, in the future, we’re like continue to offer things that are one off, because I’m not sure of the the impact that it necessarily has in the long term. Or at least I can’t measure that. So that was one interesting thing. The other interesting thing I picked up on was your use of the term lab and I love that sounds so official, it sounds so like kind of data nerdy, you know, we’ve got people tapping away on their computers to try and figure out what’s going on or doing experiments and things like that. And I wanted to pick up as well on the title of your book Intrinsic. And maybe maybe as a starting point, we can talk about some of those points. But But would you like to explain to people who maybe don’t know where the term intrinsic comes from? And what it means in the context of your book?
Sharath Jeevan OBE 07:08
Yeah, thanks. So the whole idea of intrinsic motivation is the idea that we know from a lot of research, our 30 years of research that the most powerful motivation comes from within. So I think we’ve lived our lives and structured our working lives, especially in our careers, in very extrinsic or external ways, right? So often we think about appraisals, you know, like what score to get an appraisal entity here, or if you’re running a business unit, what’s our what are the results gonna be, and these things are important to a degree, they give us some level of accountability. But I think what’s happened is we’ve overdosed on those elements of accountability. And we’ve, as a result, undermine that intrinsic motivation. So what a lot of our work is trying to do is trying to find a new set of motivators, in organisations in our lives as individuals at work that are as much about who we are as people. And I try and think of it in terms of three, three key pillars. One is around purpose, how what we do our work helps and serves others. I think most jobs have are intrinsically purposeful, right? We’re very few jobs out there that don’t have that, but sort of sliced and diced our jobs in such a way that we often don’t see the ultimate purpose. So what I’m doing all the way down, I wrote the book I took to head teachers, principals of schools, I would say, in the UK, for example, I no longer ask what’s right for my, my community or for young people, I asked what Ofsted our school inspector would say or how this would mean, for my position in the table. Doctors who now no longer think of patients, but are just stressed to death about, you know, waiting lists targets, or attendance targets, those kinds of things. So how do we try and bring that that sense of how work helps us? So that’s a key part of what I do. My local sort of this, this pillar of autonomy, that sense of being in the wheel of our lives. So we were just chatting here, I know in the pre chat about the idea of can there be a sense of guided autonomy, is there a middle ground? We can’t be awkward but we also don’t want to be micromanaged either. What’s that middle space? How do we create that in our lives as leaders and also in our organisations and our teams? And then I look a lot of mastery, and how do we try and become better and better at what we do. But try to move away from the technical aspects of mastery, because we’ve done a lot of that to death. But some of the human skills that are much more important to succeed in the workplace today, we’re not so good at identifying what those are, and really codifying them and then being able to improve them over time as well. Those have been some of the key. The key three pillars I found very helpful to think about this motivational crisis.
Aoife O’Brien 09:57
Yeah, I mean, and it’s, it’s so funny. We did have a chat before we started recording and I shared a little bit kind of a synopsis of the research that I did. But it ties in very heavily with what they looked at in relation to our needs at work and what drives their sense of, well, from my perspective, it was looking at fit and how we fit in at work and the importance of needs satisfaction. So we’ll come on to that in a minute. But I suppose I just want to illustrate again, this concept, I think a lot of people tend to be focused on extrinsic motivational factors. So that can be things like pay, it can be things like rewards that you give people, which are valid and are a way to satisfy people’s needs. But if you want people to be intrinsically motivated, then it’s not about paying them more money. It’s about tapping into exactly what you talked about, Sharath, with this idea of purpose, autonomy and mastery. I know there, I recall and I don’t know if you’re familiar with this, but there I’m sure there was research done. And it was about cleaning up a park and something like they they paid people five pounds to clean up the park and people were like, No, that’s not enough money to clean up the park. I deserve more money than that. And then the offers another cohort and I could be butchering this completely. But my understanding is they offered it another cohort to do it for free. And to do it for no money, no exchange. But they took great pleasure in doing it because it was for the greater good. I mean, maybe Are you familiar with that? Or have I completely butchered what I’m talking about?
Sharath Jeevan OBE 11:36
One study, there’s another one, an even more famous one, where, you know, kindergartens in Israel. And she where the kindergarten were getting a lot of parents were late, they started to charge parents by the minute to how you know how late they were, interestingly, actually, parents that are coming in very late just thinking of this like a bit like an extra childcare charge. And so yeah, completely free the the poor caregivers had to stay even longer in those facilities. So I think what exactly as you said, we’ve overdosed on those extrinsic pieces, I spoke to a trader a few months ago, been given a 20 million pound bonus for the year. And I asked him what his first reaction was. And he said, I’ve got to work harder next year, because someone else I’ve heard from the virtual water cooler, got paid 21 and a half million. So what we’re thinking about things like pay, you know, how fancy the offices are, how nice the coffee is, and job titles, they’re what we call hygiene factors, they are important for sure, we all need to put bread on the table. I know, we have, of course, the cost of living, you know, concern around the world, we also need to all feel fairly paid. So you know, issues on equity, for example, between men and women in the workplace are definitely not on but these things can reduce the motivation. They’re not deeper motivators in themselves. And it’s almost like we’ve got to switch gears and move to that more intrinsic place using these these points of purpose, autonomy and mastery in the workplace to bring up deeper motivation and a real engagement in work as well.
Aoife O’Brien 13:08
Yeah, yeah. Now, it’s, you know, I think, I always think of this idea of pay people enough to take money off the table and make sure that pay is fair. And, you know, I’m a huge believer in transparency of pay as well. Now, I think in a lot of organisations, we’re a long way from achieving transparency and pay simply because of how things have always been done. And, you know, Johnny over there got a x percent pay rise, because he was good friends with the boss, or whatever it might have been. And I think we’re, we are still a long way away from that. Now, when you’re talking 20 million, and that’s just in the bonus, you know, whatever the salary might be. And I’m thinking, I wouldn’t even know what to do if I had that amount of money. And here’s someone kind of going, Oh, now I have to work harder next year, because someone else, you know, got 5%, more or whatever, you know, so it’s like, it’s really incredible when you’re, you’re thinking about that when you’re thinking about those numbers and and how people kind of judge themselves on how they put all of their focus onto those extrinsic factors. So, you know, maybe part of this podcast and anyone who’s listening today is a call to action. If you’re an individual, it’s thinking back to those three things, and we will talk about them in more detail, and the idea of purpose, autonomy and mastery, but also if you are a leader, it’s thinking how can you utilise those more effectively in organisations so that you can use them so you I was gonna say, so you don’t have to pay people more. But I don’t mean it in the sense that oh, you can save money by not paying people more people still need to be paid fairly equitably. You know, all of that kind of thing. But it’s more thinking about other strategies. So that you know, and one concern that I know a lot of my clients have is when it Dublin is a the media hub for a lot of large tech organisations. And I know the likes of Google, the likes of Facebook, they’re competing pretty much with all types of businesses, and especially those medium sized businesses, they’re losing staff to those bigger organisations, largely based on pay, and the marketing of the culture that those organisations have as well, and how they market themselves as this amazing place to work. It may be different, I don’t know, I don’t have first hand experience of working in any of those large technology companies. But is that you know, what is the reality? Once you once you enter that? And is that the same? And? And how, as a, as a smaller organisation? How do you differentiate, differentiate yourself to compete with those?
Sharath Jeevan OBE 15:44
Yeah and I think it’s really good point. And I used to work at eBay. And actually, the number of times, so my period there, but one things I think that we can think about. So a lot of times I do think some of the marketing is right, it’s not that it’s disingenuous, but what you know, if you’re a small employer, let’s say or medium size, when I work with groups across that spectrum, where can you stand out, I’m a big believer in not trying to compete and try to go head to head with Google, if you’re, if you are an employee, it’s a pointless exercise. But how can you use and build a culture that really uniquely draws people to you, especially the people you want to be drawn, not just anyone, but who’s really aligned with the culture you’re building. So I talk to a lot of founders and those who are building companies, the CEOs about the idea of bottling culture, I think you’re like a vintage, a wine vintage, you want to put the stamp on it, put the cork on, and really, you know, put it and celebrate it really make it explicit, what happens a lot, I think in when we’re in sort of younger organisations, or ones that are smaller event size is that we were running around so often we don’t put the time in to destill that, that cause of celebration. But if you imagine, let’s say you’re a relatively young recruit to the workforce, it’s so exciting to be able to work with directly with director of a company to see all the aspects of the compant, not in a tiny niche, in a big tech company, you can see it all, you can get much wider exposure to clients, for example, you can see how a small business works, you can feel a much more direct impact to purpose, what you do every day, how it leads to the company’s own success. The only thing that I’d say is that it takes, as he was saying earlier, some effort with a leadership team to to take a bit of time, it doesn’t cost anything, but put the time into make those connections possible and visible, especially for a younger generation who are very, who really value a feedback rich culture. I think that’s what a lot of tech companies do really well. And I think if we can emulate that, but in a way that’s real authentic to us, if we’re smaller, that can be really powerful aswell.
Aoife O’Brien 17:46
You’re definitely speaking my language and everything that you’re saying there Sharath. And maybe we can go into a little bit more detail on each of these specific areas. And I know from Daniel Pink’s book Drive, he uses the same the same terminology as well, purpose, autonomy and mastery. And I, in the research that I did, as part of my master’s, we did kind of talk a little bit about that before we started recording. I based my research on what’s called self determination theory, which is intrinsic motivation, by way of needs satisfaction at work. And what I talk about is autonomy relatedness and competence. And so the autonomy piece, and we’re kind of maybe talk a little bit more detail about that. And this idea of guided autonomy, is our sense of choice and control over what we do and how we do it. Relatedness then, I think ties in with your idea of purpose. So in the research I did, it was very much focused on the relationships you have with other people at work and how you feel the sense of belonging Do you get along with the other people you work with, but the thing I kind of add on to that is that sense of purpose. So it wasn’t explicitly called out in the research. But what I also talk about is making that relationship between what you do on a day to day basis, and what the organisation as a whole is trying to achieve, so that you can see, the part that you play can relate very clearly the role you play in the organisation success in contributing to those objectives. And, again, we can talk about that in a little bit more detail. Maybe in the context of First of all, understanding as an organisation, Why do we exist? And why what is it that we’re trying to achieve here? And then there’s this concept of mastery, which I call competence, and how you how whether or not you feel like you’re competent at actually doing your job. And I think that’s where this feedback piece really ties in. So in addition to us humans wanting to grow and develop in our careers, it’s really important to get that feedback. And you know, you may argue that feedback is external validation, but it’s, it’s kind of it’s how maybe we translate that feedback into something It means internally to us in order to be intrinsically motivated. Any any thoughts in the kind of synopsis before we dive into each one of those in detail?
Sharath Jeevan OBE 20:10
Yeah, so it’s a great summary. So when I was thinking a lot about this, I also spoke to Daniel Pink when writing a book. And also Michael Gladwell. And so I really tried to look at what was going on. There was a lot of drivers of a great book, it’s a great summary of the research. And I talked to Richard Ryan, who is the founder of motivation theory. And so yeah, what they felt, though, is that the gap that was there was that the research was there, and I loved it. But I got into this by running the world’s largest intrinsic motivation initiative and education, that should have reached about 35,000 schools, about 1000 teachers, about 7 million children in India and Africa, and Indonesia, and so on. And it was an obsession for me to how to use that theory and actually apply it to real life.
Aoife O’Brien 20:53
Yes, the application of it not just reading, it’s like, how do I take this information? And do something with it? How do I do something differently? What is it that I need to do?
Sharath Jeevan OBE 21:03
Exactly, and that was the plan. So that’s what inspired intrinsic, the book is, is that we know the theories, I didn’t spend more time recapping the theory, but how do we think about it today in a world where, you know, we are in a bit of a mess overall? And how do we try and bring those elements together? So a lot of the focus I do is how to take those psychology concepts, which are now really strongly validated to describe but how do you put it into culture? And how do you help leaders really put their arms around those concepts and make it real for themselves and their teams.
Aoife O’Brien 21:34
Yeah, brilliant. Yeah, I love that. And I think listeners are gonna really love that. I mean, I’m, I always like to share practical things. And I always, you know, I’d like to encourage people to do something differently as a result of listening to the podcast episode. So we’d love to kind of dive in, maybe we start with this idea of autonomy, because I know it’s cut that was kind of a shared thing that we talked about before we started. And, you know, one thing that that I was saying that you that you agreed with, as well, that’s kind of you looked at in your research, is this idea that oftentimes we think that it’s, we just give people more autonomy, and then that’s it. But actually, it’s finding that balance between having too much autonomy and having too little so too little autonomy. And I know, there are a lot of people who can relate to this and myself included, too little autonomy is when we’re being micromanaged. It’s when we’re being told what to do, how to do it, sometimes when to do it, you know, and there is a place and a time when you need that kind of direction, maybe very early in your career. But if you’ve ever had that experience of being micromanaged, you feel very caged in you feel like you’re being controlled by someone else, essentially. And then at the other extreme, you have kind of very laissez faire, that you’ve just been left to your own devices that you’re not really clear on what your objectives are, what your role is, what your contribution is, what you’re supposed to be doing, and you’re a bit directionless, and maybe you’re floundering a little bit, and any anything to kind of build on that. Any any discussion points around that. And then we can talk about what what we can do.
Sharath Jeevan OBE 23:12
Yeah. A real example in my own country and I’m in the UK right now, our prime minister just resigned about an hour ago. So I spent, I looked at leaders of different types of the book placement, type, political route. It’s a really interesting encapsulation of the world we live in right now. And so I talked to leaders our our house of commons, house of lords, upper and lower house, and the level of de-motivation was really striking. And I think what was happening was those two extremes exactly as you described it, just to give a real example, one was the kind of the UK where I think we had this incredible micromanagement of politicians. And so, you know, ministers would basically there’s a kitchen cabinet in most governments were three or four people run the whole country. We have 100 ministers in the UK alone. And many of them told me things like they would watch a policy enrolled up the TV, before they even knew about it, for example. So real sense of sort of it was over centralised, right. And so each MP had very little autonomy to make a difference. And mostly people went into public service for the right reasons and very deep reasons to wanting to change things for the better for people. But the structure and the way we were leading, was not enabling them to do that. So that’s the one extreme of what I call a kind of micromanaging approach and the way that the Trump body whip goes around and tries to keep everything under control. It’s all tightly managed and scripted. That’s not great. If you look at what’s happened in US politics over the last few years, not sure where you’d say Ireland falls into these two extremes, but
Aoife O’Brien 24:46
Well, the thing is Ireland is between countries country’s so you know, we’re influenced I think by both and so it is interesting, you know, and I’ve seen some memes not to cause offense to anyone but it’s like clients leftovers jokers to the right and I’m stuck in the middle with you being in Ireland.
Sharath Jeevan OBE 25:04
The US extreme was the other one where almost every someone used the word sort of these it was like every MP, every congressman, for example was like an excited molecule in a gas chamber, they were completely off their own devices. And they felt their attempt their their loyalty was only to their own donors and their, their home state, for example, that was kind of chaos. We saw some of that under Trump administration, so that middle ground where you know, you are, you’re generally believe in your party, you understand there are certain things you’ve got to align with, right? If you’re you can’t have a la carte, you know, choice of every policy. But at the same time, you also have a fair amount of room to be yourself to be authentic to be open, even when it means disagreeing with power about what things are important to you. And also being able to have enough control and enough alternative to make a difference in your people’s lives, your own constituents. But beyond that, that’s that middle ground, I’d say in a political sense would be called guided autonomy. Yeah, I think it’s very similar to companies as well, as we know that we’ve got to find that middle ground and, and carve it out. I think a lot of it’s about leadership role modeling that as well.
Aoife O’Brien 26:11
And I think I mean, there’s a lot of things to be said, for role modeling from a leadership perspective that we can’t tell people what to do, and just expect them to do what we need to show them what that actually what that looks like, and demonstrate what that what that means in reality, I think so. Really, really important part of that there. And when it comes to purpose, and and I see purpose being talked about an awful lot more in the context of organisations and what we stand for, especially in light of COVID. And we’ve just come through and probably not completely through because, you know, there’s still some reasonably high numbers here, I don’t pay too much attention to the news when it comes to that sort of stuff. But, you know, we’re not kind of fully out of the woods completely yet. But I’ve seen more and more companies starting to talk about purpose. And I’ve seen more and more individuals starting to talk about purpose as well and supporting companies with defining what their purpose is, and, and supporting them to to, you know, get behind that purpose as well.
Sharath Jeevan OBE 27:17
So there are two things or two mistakes, I’d say that we’ve made the mistakes and in terms of purpose, one, I think, is to confuse the big P purpose with a small p purpose. So I think what’s happened is is incredibly grandiose statement. So Unilever was a journey, a huge fan of what they’ve done. But this is one area where I think they have gone a bit too far where even you know what mayonnaise, for example, to try to create some lofty levels, it’s, it’s more than I think what you know, let’s say you produce a household good like that, you’re creating a lot of joy to people every day. We don’t need to create these incredibly grandiose narratives around things as well. So I think what small P purpose when again, about every job, it helps us serves others, of corporate, the challenge is we often slice and dice organisations in a way that helps almost makes everyone forget that point and forget their wider purpose. So a lot of it’s not trying to create some, you know, comms strategy or PR campaign, and it’s usually a waste of time, but just trying to get people to remember why they were doing that job in the first place, and the human impact of that job. And so if we can spend that time in the right way around that, that’s a really powerful place as well. So that’s one mistake, I just or one sort of banana skin, I’d be careful about.
Aoife O’Brien 28:31
Banana skin, I love that description.
Sharath Jeevan OBE 28:34
The other thing is that you could have a great organisational purpose or a company purpose, but it’s unclear to the individual of how their work fits into that. I see this time and time again. So I run an exercise with many companies where I ask leaders and employees to share, develop what they call a personal mission statement. And I like to use these helping words of I help to and by some my one, for example, I help leaders to find that true direction, motivation potential by writing, coaching and advising. So I help to and why it would be great if everyone in a company had that sense of a personal mission statement. And if the more what I found, in my practical research, working with everyone, from large charities, to governments, to companies, that if we can spend more time aligned to that personal mission statement, that the more motivated we’ll be, the happier we’ll be, back to the core of this podcast, but also the more impactful and successful we’ll be as well. So I think that piece of leaders really saying look, let’s help everyone find out what drives them at the core. And I think we’re modern work is gone. And that’s why I think there’s a generational challenge with this that I think there’s a two way street almost a marriage work where we are there to obviously help the organisation achieve its own mission. But the organisation is here to also achieve ours. And it’s that second point I think leaders, especially those who grew up in my generation, really struggle with the idea of a two way street, a marriage. I think if we can embrace that mindset, though, we’re going to have much more productive engagements, much more productive marriages at work. Even if we stay for 2, 3, 4 or 5, whatever, 10 years, whatever it might be the job, those years will be far more exciting and fulfilling.
Aoife O’Brien 30:24
Yeah. And that kind of, you know, that last point sort of ties in with this idea of general needs satisfaction. So how it’s kind of clear to me how I’m satisfying the need of the organisation, or hopefully it is, but how is the organisation satisfying my needs? And if I think of my needs in the context of organisation, then it is how am I progressing in my career or what steppingstone is this organisation providing for me, in order to develop and grow and contribute in a way I want to contribute and all of those things, and I want to pick up Sharath on on this idea of the big P versus the small P. And this is something I’m becoming more and more aware of myself, and I listened to loads of podcasts, and one of them recently, and I can’t recall which one, but I think it was Adam Grant talking about this idea of people think that when you have this purpose, that needs to be exactly as you said, grandiose this big P purpose, you need to be saving the whales, and you need to have a global impact. But when you bring it back down, you can say, you can have an impact on those people around you, you can have an impact on those in your community. And also things like, you know, I think banks and financial institutions get a hard time, a lot of the time but but for workers there, it’s like I help people to buy their first home, that can be part of your, you know, this mission statements that you’re talking about. And by by lending their money, I help them to buy their first home by lending them money, or I help them to do whatever it might be. So I think thinking back to why it is that you do, what you do. And what brings out the best in you, I think, can make a huge difference. And I love this idea, as well of you know, what we just touched on like the the two way street, or I’m helping the organisation to achieve its goals. But sometimes it’s we need to be really, really clear. And people sometimes feel like they’re just a number, or that they’re just a cog in a wheel. But if we can make it really clear that they’re a really important part of that machine overall. And if they if they I was gonna say if their role didn’t exist, but I kind of want to bring that very much down to the person, if that person was not doing that role, then it wouldn’t be done in the same way or wouldn’t have the same impact, or our organisation wouldn’t be able to reach their objectives. And I would question, if that’s not the case, then then why does that role exist? Or why is that person doing that role, as well. So I think as leaders making that really clear connection between what someone does, and the business outcomes that are being achieved, I think it’s really, really important to to, you know, to really, really highlight that for people and highlight it again, and again, and again, just to remind them, like you are important, here you are, and you are important to our business.
Sharath Jeevan OBE 33:25
We think you know, in a way, what I try and do with companies often is start with a person on the front line. So think a bank, we start with the bank teller or someone in the branch. And I think, you know, I’ve had a few mortgages over the years, and it does make a difference how you’re treated, and that it was a financial advisor, you know, whatever example you want to use, but if the CEO of that company is general as helping that person be successful, I think it’s going to be a very, very productive company, that person, it’s what I call the law of proximate impact, right. So what often happens is CEO thinks about the customer, he or he might have, you know, 5 million customers, the challenge is, they are like at least five, six, maybe eight steps removed from any customer at all, what they need to be focusing on is who is the person in my organisation who’s dealing directly with the customer, who’s the front line, if we can empower them and motivate them and create the right culture around them to help them be happy and successful and motivated. We’re going to have very, very deep customer relationships we’re gonna have client retention we’re going to have also low job turnover within the company as well. If we can switch my role from being the boss and this kind of you know to I’m here to serve them, I need to understand their realities. What’s frustrating and what’s causing them challenges? How do I spend all of my time in my leadership team’s time, helping them have a better and better experience and achieving and helping them achieve their personal mission statement? It flips the power dynamic around but all centers back on the customer but through that key lens of our of our staff on the frontline.
Aoife O’Brien 34:53
Yeah, yeah. I love that approach. I think it’s brilliant putting the focus back and kind of flipping the script on regular leadership, let’s say to servant leadership. And my purpose is to serve you to make sure that you’re happy that you have all the tools that you need in order to best serve our customers. Because if we didn’t have customers, we wouldn’t have jobs and we wouldn’t have a business, essentially.
Sharath Jeevan OBE 35:16
And I think I’ve got to, I think we’ve had a big mission to think about reinventing leadership. And one of the challenges I think, you know, that for me when I went to the top business, school, and so on, but the image of a leader was very much a great manager, right? My job was to select talent in the company or organisation, develop a bit, but really select them, hold them to account, put some performance metrics in, and we’re getting great outcomes. That was the sort of mental model of leadership that I was sort of trained in. I think leadership is moving much more is what I call in the book nurturing, where it’s not mentoring and saying, This is what we should do. But it’s that in between space where I’m trying to help you become the best version of yourself as you can be, and I’m also trying to help you get to a place you wouldn’t have got to otherwise, I value that as a leader. So in that kind of area, can I ask the right questions at the right time? Am I deeply empathetic, I really, again, as you said, you tried to build everything around your experience at work, it’s a really different way of leading when coming across as a lobbyist will want to move in that direction. But I’m not quite sure how I think my, my mission in this chapter of life is to help make that transition as well.
Aoife O’Brien 36:35
That’s a really great way of looking at it. It’s, it’s empowering leaders to make that transition to be more empathetic, to be more focused on the coaching and mentoring skills that uh, you know, kind of combined will create a nurturing environment rather than this kind of telling environment or this performance management, and I’m here to, to judge you on your performance. And, you know, rather than focusing on the development of the individual at work.
Sharath Jeevan OBE 37:03
It maybe worth talking about, why is that performance culture not really going to work today? A lot of it’s because a lot of the value in work is moving from what I call the kind domain, you know, the technical solution to what I would call the wicked domain, where there’s no easy solution. So two examples are SpaceX, Elon Musk, huge achievement to get civilians into space, but ultimately a kind problem, Black Lives Matter, which happened within days of that, you know, ultimate questions about, you know, inequality, racial injustice and entity that, of course, stormed around the world. And I think more and more the problems that leaders are going to have to face are wicked problems. And the value of work is moving to those human dimensions where it’s messy, it’s fuzzy. The challenge with performance, we take performance to its extreme. What happens is managers spend their time gaming those targets, what are those targets are? And they don’t, they don’t bring their whole selves to work? In that sense.
Aoife O’Brien 38:00
Yeah. And I’ve been in that environment as well, where it’s like, we have quarterly targets, therefore, you’re going to try and move stuff that you maybe have planned for next quarter, you’re going to try and bring it in a quarter early, which puts more pressure on the following quarter. And it’s a very short term view. And this has come up once or twice on the podcast in the past where we talk about, yeah, exactly this short term view, someone needs to answer to Wall Street and the CFO needs to be on a call to Wall Street explaining why the numbers were because we’re answerable to shareholders, as opposed to being answerable to our employees and creating a great environment for them to succeed, and yeah, really, really interesting point there as well. And love that. There’s one kind of final area that we haven’t really talked about yet. And that is the concept of mastery. Any, any kind of insights to share around that? And my first question, or what springs to mind is, and again, this is something that I’ve kind of touched on, on occasion on the podcast, this idea that like, does everyone wants to grow like as humans? Are we naturally kind of born with this desire to grow and to progress? And the reason I asked that is because I see some people who are highly ambitious, and who want to kind of grow and succeed and all of those, and I see other people who are just they’re kind of just happy enough where they are, and they don’t have that same desire. Now, I don’t know, is that a case of it’s just a different level of ambition? Or is it that some people just don’t have that desire to grow? Are they growing maybe in a different way? Or maybe outside of the workplace?
Sharath Jeevan OBE 39:36
A great question. If you look at studies of kindergarten kids are quite a few now around the world and kids are naturally curious to always want to learn I’ve got young kids myself over their toddler years, and they’re always playing, looking around, trying something trying to build something etc. No one no one teaches how to do that. It’s innate in the human spirit. What happens I think, is that natural curiosity, a desire to keep learning, which is really at the core of the mastery, mastery is becoming the best version of ourselves, we can be that road of constantly improving. It’s beaten out of us because of two things. One, I think, is that this idea that mass competition tends to drive and strive, we’re constantly worried about, how do I compare with others, and social media and so on has made it incredibly easy to feed that comparison culture. So that makes us nervous about trying, because we feel like, I’m never going to be as good as X or Y, or Z out there, that’s one barrier. The second barrier thing to that natural growth is that sense of being of being labeled in a way and a feeling that sometimes, you know, people get into these very comfortable plateaus, especially middle towards the middle of our lives. And I think the world we’re in, it’s a world of unknown unknowns, we’re gonna have to constantly reinvent ourselves. This is my fifth career since university. And so I’m sure that maybe one or two more incarnations left. And that is what most of our young people are going to live in. It’s how do you embrace that. So it doesn’t mean you have to be changed all the time, of course, and we want some stability. But at the same time, we’ve got to keep evolving and growing in our in our current thoughts. And I think a lot of the, this requires us to be much more open and more vulnerable, more risk taking in some regards, but being less judgmental, at the same time. So realising that this is all the journey that as we develop these new new areas of mastery, we have to be quite compassionate with ourselves. And we also have to be open to asking others for help and, and feedback also. So again, if I think what that requires in an organisation is a high degree of emotional safety. And what we know is there’s a high degree of very high correlation between emotional safety and, and organisational performance in that way over the long term. So how do we create that where every employee does want to be curious, doesn’t want to grow? They’re not scared of making mistakes, and developing and that we, that will lead to better success over the long term as well.
Aoife O’Brien 41:57
Some really great insights there. Yeah, this yeah, definitely competition. And it’s not, it’s not really a relationship I have made before but it’s constant, isn’t it, you see stuff on LinkedIn, on Facebook and Instagram, this person has got married, which is kind of out of the organisational context. But you see if people got promoted, or the perception is that someone is doing really, really well, when that’s the, that’s only what they post on social media, they don’t post a struggle, they don’t post what what kind of goes on behind behind the scenes in order to achieve what they have achieved, or they have they’ve achieved something. But actually, that’s not really what they wanted at all. And they’ve done it at the expense of their personal relationships, and all sorts of things like this that we don’t necessarily see. And I do do see some people being really open and honest about those things on social media. But I think the lesson here is don’t take what you see, at face value, especially if it’s just broadcast publicly, people are not going to necessarily talk about all of the struggles that they’ve had in relation to that. I love what you said about emotional safety is that it’s slightly different maybe to psychological safety, which we’ve we’ve spoken about on the podcast before. Is that similar? Or is it exactly the same? Or is it slightly different?
Sharath Jeevan OBE 43:10
It’s related, I think, as well, I think we’re just seeing more generally, its sorta something to take out of our work lives into our home lives as well. And just give you an example, I had a very close friend, who was made redundany, and he’s in his 50s. And he didn’t tell his own son for about two weeks. And I was thinking, look, what is the same, you’re basically Romanies going to find out at some point, basically, role modeling that it’s not okay to have to have setbacks in life. And I like to use the word setbacks rather than the failure implies there’s a chance to, to come back on these things. And so I think what we could do one tip for every listener, if you’re a parent, for example, role model with your children, so I talked to my son, they’re 11 and 9, but days didn’t go well at work, what didn’t happen? Well, why was I frustrated, what did I learn from it. So they learned that life is a zigzag, it’s not a straight line. And that’s how they think about the idea of mastery. It’s a journey that we keep getting better. We never attain perfection whenever we don’t have the day where everything is gone, right. But it’s that sense of everyday candy a little bit better than as a deep motivator. And that reflection time to keep learning. That’s the most powerful motivation out there for and working, also in life.
Aoife O’Brien 44:24
Yeah, that’s something that I’m highly aware about and probably don’t give enough time to at all is that reflection piece, reflecting on what went well? What could have gone better? And what would I do differently tomorrow? Just some simple questions, to ask yourself at the end of the day, and even taking time at the start of the day to reflect on like, what is it that I want to achieve today? And going back to that idea of purpose? Like why is it that I want to achieve this today? What’s this going to do? How does this relate what to what I want to achieve or what the business is trying to achieve? Yeah, so some really interesting insights. I want you to just before we kind of wrap things up, talk about this concept of mastery in the context of feedback, which we, we did touch on at the start of the episode. Any thoughts on the relationship between mastery and feedback?
Sharath Jeevan OBE 45:13
I think it’s critical. So I think the idea really what we’re learning about feedback is that it’s got to be as immediate as possible those days of having appraisals every year. And what a waste of time most cases, sorry, I should replace that reflectiveness as if it’s done well. But I think what that needs to sort of supplement is daily or even hourly feedback. So if you’re in a meeting with a colleague, let’s say you’re the senior person, you’re meeting a client, and you’ve got to a more junior person along with you today to help you with the presentation, etc. It’s that five minutes in the taxi on the way back, or the end of the Zoom call, or whatever, to say that how did the meeting go? What What I noticed these have this, it was great, but what about what about pitching it this way? Why do you think I closed the meeting with these words? What was I trying to do? Those five minutes make that whole hour worthwhile. But if we go straight from that to the next meeting, which is always a temptation with hybrid work, that’s where sometimes, you know, we have to be more intentional about it now, that can make that day for that more junior colleague feel really worthwhile and motivating. And they can see why they did all the hardwork that led up to that meeting in the first place. So I think you know, when you talk to about co working spaces in the beginning of this conversation, I think one of the things that happens there is we have a sort of transition routine where we go in and when we go out. If we’re working from home, I think it’s even more important to take a chance go for a quick walk or just stretch. But in those 15 minutes, put you’re putting our stuff away, moving to different rooms, so it symbolizes the end of the day. That’s the time to have that close of how did the day go? What’s my, what’s my big goal for the next day? So just thinking, you know, the hybrid work has made us incredibly thanks. I’m very jealous for your time in Spain. But, but as a result, I think we have to be much more intentional about that feedback culture, it’s not quite as easy as it was in in a more traditional work environment.
Aoife O’Brien 47:06
Yeah, yeah. No, that’s brilliant. And I love this idea. It’s kind of more acting like a coach, like asking someone how they thought things went, because oftentimes, we can either miss something completely because we didn’t understand it. Or we can be brutally hard on ourselves and say, Well, I think it went terribly, because I forgot to say this, or I did that. And I think that opens the discussion in a really nice way. So someone’s actually aware if they’ve done something wrong, or you’ll realise soon, whether they completely missed something that they should have been aware of, but weren’t. And I think that really helps to start the conversation around providing feedback. And, you know, I love the phrase, and again, I heard it on a podcast, could be even a year ago at this stage, but it was this concept of saying, I really liked what you did, it will be even better if you did it this way. So using the like, that was good. And this idea of emphasising positive feedback. I thought I was concerned the worst, I don’t want to be putting myself down. But I’m very detail oriented. And I can pick mistakes straightaway. And I noticed when things are wrong. That’s how I operate. It takes a huge amount of effort for me to see, okay, what are what are the things that have gone really well, because I can easily spot the things that haven’t gone so well myself.
Sharath Jeevan OBE 48:24
You want to be rich in feedback, but also compassionate about ourselves. That combination, provides ingredients to mastery.
Aoife O’Brien 48:30
I love that idea. And just in terms of wrapping things up, the question I asked everyone who comes on the podcast is what does being happier at work mean to you?
Sharath Jeevan OBE 48:42
I think it’s really that sense of my full potential being realised. I grew up as an immigrant to the UK. And there were so many parents, less for me, but so many glass ceilings and barriers. That idea think of things from a scarcity mindset where there are only so many good jobs out there or so many so many chances to be a leader an organisation or to do cool projects, that’s largely rubbish, we can now create opportunities for everyone to grow and develop. And I think the role of the leader now, those of us in leadership is to create an environment where everyone can feel deeply connected and motivated. And where they feel that they’re able to bring their full talent and potential to work under a clear organisational direction. I don’t think that’s I don’t think it’s easy, but I think it is attainable whether you’re a Google or a smaller mid sized company. I think that’s that’s why I think leadership is such a noble art and the idea of reinventing leadership is what I’m really excited about. So I get a lot of fun and satisfaction working with leaders on these topics and seeing them grow and develop and and bring their their colleagues and stakeholders with them.
Aoife O’Brien 49:48
Yeah, love that. And if people want to reach out if they want to find out about the book, what’s the best place they can do that or if they want to connect with you. How can they how can they do that as well?
Sharath Jeevan OBE 49:57
Please search for Intrinsic or my name on amazon in whatever country you’re in, and you’ll find me there. Please follow me on LinkedIn, it’s pretty easy. I write every week on topics around motivation, direction, potential. So hopefully you find the posts useful on LinkedIn. And my website is intrinsic-labs.com. Thanks for such a fun conversation.
Aoife O’Brien 50:21
Yeah, absolutely love this. I mean, probably nerd out all day on all of these different types of topics, and that we’re both really interested in. So thank you. I really, really appreciate your time today. Really enjoyed the conversation. Thank you. That was Sharath Jeevan. I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did. I found lots of commonalities between what we were talking about and the research that I have carried out as well, just to do a synopsis. But before I go into that, I would love to invite you to join the conversation to get involved, happieratworkeddotie on Instagram. happieratwork.ie is the website or on LinkedIn – Aoife O’Brien. I would love to connect with you there, hear your thoughts, any actions that you’re going to take as a result of listening to today’s episode. Now, we talked about initially about the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and the importance of tapping into what our internal motivators are. And three of those internal motivators are purpose autonomy and mastery. And the I suppose the issues that we came across or that we discussed where that is, from a purpose perspective that jobs are sliced and diced in such a way that we sort of have lost our purpose, our sense of purpose over time, that we don’t really know why you were doing something, we don’t know why we’re doing it in a certain way. And then the autonomy piece, it’s about finding that balance. So it’s not just a case of we’ve given people autonomy, they should be happy. It’s a case of guided autonomy as, as Sharath calls it. It’s not a case of just giving people freedom. It’s about providing enough guidance, so they know what they should be doing so that they can make better decisions so that they can prioritise. And then mastery is thinking about beyond just our technical skills, but the human skills that we that we bring, and how can we identify what is required? And how can we improve on the skills that we already have? We talked about this idea of, we’re already overdosed on the extrinsic and the example that you shared about someone getting a more than 20 million pound bonus, which, you know, for me, I think was a little bit shocking. I was like, you know, I’d be happy enough with 20 million. And I suppose that brings me on to another topic that I will be talking about on the podcast and this idea of success, and how how do we define success? And what does that actually look like? What does that mean? And how do we know that we’ve gotten there, and when we get it to a certain level, there’s always something more that we want. But that’s for another time, I will talk about that at some point in the future. This individual was thinking, you know, the feedback, I suppose that they got was that they had to work harder next year, because someone else had had earned more or got a higher bonus. And when we think about things like well, how fancy is our office, you know, what’s the coffee, like all of these kinds of things, but we talked about them being hygiene factors, we went on to talk about like, what are the differentiating factors? How can we stand out? How can we create this unique culture? So if we’re, if we’re competing with other companies, how do we draw the right people to our organisation? And how do we bottle the culture that we have? We talked about some of those, and I know that’s going to be relevant for a lot of the listeners today is, you know, what can you do as a smaller organis ation, or even as a someone who’s competing with with sort of giant global players, it’s the exposure that you get it seeing how a small business would run, it’s seeing how being able to connect with senior leaders getting involved in high profile projects, all of those kinds of things. Then we talked about this idea of purpose and big P purpose versus little P purpose. And the you know, big P purpose can be the kind of the grander scheme of things, it can have, you know, really noble aspirations, but don’t forget about the little P purpose as well, the small p purpose. So think about why are you doing the job, think about the human impact that your job has, and how to link what you’re doing on a day to day basis with the overall organisational purpose, essentially. So how does my role very specifically fit in with the objectives of the organisation? And how am I contributing to that? And what is the impact that I’m having on the end user, whether that’s an internal or an external user? And, you know, sometimes this gets lost along the way and I think as a leader, you need to really make that explicitly clear to people who are working in your team as to what that means and what is the purpose of their role. And if you don’t know, then maybe it’s it’s time to go and find out or it’s time to really get clear on that yourself and so that you understand more about it as well. I love this idea of translating an individual role into a purpose statement. So I help blank to blank by blank, you know, fill in the blanks what it is, what is it that you actually do? I love this idea also of thinking of it as a two way street, that I helped the organisation and the organisation helps me as well. And really putting the focus on those frontline workers, so leader as servant to those who are dealing directly with customers, because they’re the ones at the frontline. They’re the ones who are dealing with customers, they know and understand the issues better than anyone else. And it’s about serving them. Because if you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business. We talked about the shift and leadership as well, where leadership in general is moving to more of a nurturing approach, where it’s kind of a mix between mentoring and coaching. So using different type of approach to get things done, and empathy being something at the heart of that, and really, really important. And we talked about why performance based culture isn’t going to work. And it’s because mostly, there’s no easy solutions. These are complex problems that people are facing, or as as Sharath described it as a wicked problem. And it’s the the value in the work is more based around human dimensions, as opposed to very specific widget type of outputs. We also talked about this idea, and this has come up on the podcast before of short term thinking and gaming the targets. So I’ve certainly been in this environment where you bring some of the revenue that you were planning for, say, quarter three, and you bring it into quarter two, but then you kind of you’re left with a gap and quarter three, and you have to work even harder to get that. And so you know, I just read something this morning actually about Meta and how Mark Zuckerberg is taking this approach, very short term vision approach at the expense of people with the expectation. And he’s done this very deliberately. And it’s very transparent, that he’s expecting some people will leave the organisation, because he sees this as a way to chop out the dead wood. And the article was really interesting, actually. And I’ll put a link in the show notes. It shows all the reasons why this is the wrong approach. Basically, I’m not going to go into detail here, you can read the full art article in the shownotes, if you want to. We talked as well about mastery and mastery really being how do we become the best version of ourselves, and why things have prevented us from being that way in the past, through, for example, competition, we are comparing ourselves to others through social media. So we become nervous to try when you see other people being successful, do you think I’m never going to be that good. And so we get in our own heads. And they steal the idea of blocker around mastery, as well as the sense of being labeled, that we need to constantly evolve constantly change as well. Another idea that he shared about how to, I was going to say how to master mastery, but maybe that’s inappropriate language, but to be open, to be vulnerable to be risk taking and understand that it’s a journey and be compassionate with yourself as well. Some final thoughts, then to leave you with is this idea of creating emotional safety. So people are not afraid to make mistakes, using the term setback rather than failure. I love this. And I’m very reluctant to use the term fail or failure. But I do like this idea of using the term setback instead, because it shows that it’s more of a journey. And having this reflection time to keep learning. I think that’s really, really important. And certainly something I don’t devote enough time to I talk about it but I don’t necessarily do it as much as I feel like I should do it. And we talked about this idea of feedback and immediate feedback and not waiting for those quarterly reviews or annual reviews. But you know, it’s a whole other episode on feedback. So if you want to read more about how to do that appropriately, then absolutely do but it’s really about getting to that full potential. So when we’re talking about mastery, it’s how do I as an individual reach my full potential at work. And from an organisational perspective that can only benefit the organisation if you are reaching your full potential if you are working to your strengths. If you are really focusing on improving and getting better, as I mentioned before, do get involved in the conversation on social media or feel free to send me a message directly. I would love to hear what actions you’re taking as a result of listening to today’s podcast episode. That was another episode of the Happier at Work podcast. I am so glad you tuned in today. If you enjoyed today’s podcast, I would love to get your thoughts, head on over to social media to get involved in the conversation. If you enjoy the podcast, I would love if you could rate, review it or share it with a friend. If you want to know more about what I do or how I could help your business head on over to happieratwork.ie