Feel the fear and do it anyway …

For the first time, I’ve started writing a blog post without really having a clear idea about what I want to say or what point I want to get across. Given the growing tide of bad news battering our lives at the moment, it felt like a good idea to write something about … well … feelings. I’ve no idea where this is going, but here goes …

Sustainability has become such a buzzword these days that it’s become almost meaningless … but, there is a dimension to sustainability that seems to get little attention – personal sustainability … in other words not the external, macro-level sustainability talked about all the time, but an inner dimension that is personal to each of us and that fuels and energises us each day … a sustainability that offers periodic renewal so that we can embrace life and work with new enthusiasm and through fresh eyes.

Over the last few weeks in BT we’ve had a series of much publicised announcements that have made people feel uneasy … nervous … frightened even. We’ve had announcements about poor business performance in our global services division; the need to cut costs and jobs; possible changes to our pension scheme which will make it less attractive to members going forward; … to name but a few!

Don’t get me wrong … all these announcements have been handled VERY professionally … employees have been, or are being, consulted and we get very thorough and timely communications. And, frankly, these changes have been a long time coming and are absolutely essential for BT to be a sustainable (… that word again!) and profitable business going forward. However, while deep down I know that these changes are necessary and far from a surprise, it doesn’t make me feel great to hear them.

So, I hear you say, what the hell have my feelings got to do with my employer?? Quite a lot actually … if I’m not happy and fulfilled I’m certainly not going to be loyal, motivated and probably won’t give a damn about my work. If I don’t give a damn about my work, I certainly won’t be engaged and probably won’t give a damn about the customers annoying me all day. If I feel isolated and disconnected from my colleagues, I’m going to suffer more deeply and internalise or depress these feelings, making them even worse. If I don’t have an outlet to express my feelings and if I don’t feel heard, I’m going to get frustrated and angry.

Wow … lots of touchy feely stuff there … I can feel the suits getting anxious🙂

While I’m not supporting the notion of nanny-plc, I do think companies have a responsibility to provide ways for employees to become connected, to express how they feel, and to engage in conversation. Companies also have a responsibility to support an environment of trust and openness in which employees feel safe to participate in these activities without fear of retribution.

And, when a company does provides these tools and creates the right atmosphere, employees have a responsibility to use them … to express how they feel … both good and bad … to engage openly and honestly however hard that might be to do. Employees also need to learn to help themselves … to get connected, build relationships … make their presence felt so that when bad times do come, they are as well equipped as possible to get through them.

A healthy relationship is an open relationship and all those in that relationship have responsibilities to make it work.

So, I guess what I’m saying in a very roundabout kind of way, is that creating the kind of company that will be successful and that people will want to work for requires tough choices and great leadership … from both management AND employees. Getting social technology working successfully inside the enterprise is more than just another technology implementation project … it’s about understanding people and how they think, behave and FEEL … a lot of the old rules won’t apply … the question is, when our backs are against the wall and when every penny counts, who will be brave enough to acknowledge this?

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5 comments

  1. Richard, everytime when I read your blog I feel that our jobs are so similar. OK, I work as manager internal communications for a multinational company, and I am an advocate of social media, so we are peers in many ways, but once again you hit the nail on the head for me. We just laid off 950 people and yes, it was all communicated in a professional say, but companies just like to act as if emotions don’t count. Well, I agree with you, they do, and the old rules are no longer valid. Our leaders are thinking about whether or not to allow social media, while already 7,500 people have joined the company’s group on LinkedIn. Who started this? We don’t know. So, if we don’t allow dialogue and interaction within our wall, it will happen outside. What this dialogue is about right now? About feelings and emotions… Now, all we need is communication professionals that let go of there old ways. People are sick and tired of our polished messages.

  2. Jan – thanks for your support … I wonder sometimes if I’m a bit over-the-top with these things!😉

  3. Richard, I don’t think so. There is enough mediocrity in this world. Look, your message made it all the way to us in Holland. Me and my colleagues at Océ, a printer manufacturer, are talking about your blog and following what BT is doing. Why? Because you are opinionated, and we can relate to what you say. Change only comes if some fools like you (and us) discover new grounds. Being different sometimes means that you have to be ‘over the top’. That is why these blogs are so great. I can sometimes read what you say and at least find some other people that dare to go beyond the ordinary.

  4. Good post Richard, though the subject is quite hard to discuss about (we’re all serious business people right?) I think you have a point. And going through a reorg in my department (HR) now I can very well relate to that…

    What tools would you use for people to talk about their feelings and would you keep it closed for the group or open for everyone? I was thinking of setting up a discussion forum for us but don’t have the permission for that yet – though I might do it without asking.🙂

    And how to frame the message about the purpose of the tool so that people get the idea, how to get started with it, etc. I guess I’ll need to make the first comment…

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