Posts in June

Happiness and inspiration – our work environment matters and making a difference is within reach

June 29th, 2016   •   inspiration, leadership   •   no comments   

By Tor Mesoy

Happiness and inspiration - our work environment matters and making a difference is within reach


I recently had the chance to visit the Google campus in Mountain View, California. A friend, who is an engineer at Google, showed me around. It was a nice, sunny day in June and it was delightful to wonder around the campus and enjoy the art, the architecture and the landscaping. I enjoyed the visitors’ center – which in Google style is in “perpetual beta”. The initial, custom-built hardware rack that supported Google in the first year made me smile. (Crumbling natural cork as an insulation material, anyone?) I enjoyed the quirky features, such as the slide that replaces an elevator or an escalator. Overall, impressive and inspiring.


Nevertheless … Having read so much about the Googleplex in the press, I was actually slightly underwhelmed.


Yes, it is a nice campus, thoughtfully laid out, with lots of nice facilities: gyms, cafeterias, social areas, and outdoor sports facilities. But most of the campus has grown by accretion – as Google grew, the company acquired the surrounding buildings. Most of the campus consists of quite ordinary office buildings.


This made me reflect: I believe we regularly short change ourselves and limit our thinking. It is easy to be blinded by the performance of industry leaders, and to think that an ordinary organization like ours cannot perform at the same level – “we don’t have the resources”. This may lead us into the trap of low expectations.


If we are to inspire others – clients, colleagues, team members – we need to be inspired, personally. It helps to ensure we work in a conducive physical environment. This is not a vain luxury. It is a prerequisite for high performance. And visiting the Googleplex inspired me – not because it was out-of-this-world-spectacular, but because it was fairly ordinary. A pleasant work environment is within reach for all organizations and can be great contributor to happiness, to inspiration, to common culture and to performance. It’s a good investment – within reach.


Tor regularly writes articles on his LinkedIn profile. You can visit his profile and follow him to receive the latest content and leave comments.

Leadership and house building

June 24th, 2016   •   leadership, leadership architecture, talent development   •   no comments   

By Tor Mesoy

Leadership and House Building


A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of going to a remote are of Sichuan and spend a few days there contributing to building a house for two families that had been badly affected by the earthquake there.


I went with 25+ young Chinese professionals and our evening conversations made the trip very memorable.


Upon reflection though, one aspect that really inspired me was the way Habitat for Humanity had structured the trip. How do you get 25+ busy professionals to take time out of their busy schedules to contribute this way – with their time and with their money? How do you get them to work in the rain for a full day – wet to the skin, and still in good cheer? How do you get them to sustain the effort over the coming days in spite of sunburn and dehydration?


It struck me that Habitat for Humanity was mobilizing and inspiring people in an exemplary manner – demonstrating strong leadership. How did they do it?


1: They shared a compelling vision of helping people in need and they made that vision specific: the opportunity to offer destitute people a decent roof over their heads.


2: They engaged people in a concrete manner and let them see how they could be part of the bigger story. People who were transporting bricks understood how their effort fitted in. People who were mixing mortar understood their contribution. People who laid the bricks saw the results and shared their joy with the others.


3: They built a strong team with simple symbols. Green T-shirts for all. Joint stretching in the morning, before the actual work started (see photo).


4: They defined small, simple steps that everyone could master – though the skill set was quite limited in the beginning.


5: They allowed people to use the opportunity to build new skills. Many of these professionals had never mixed mortar or laid bricks before. They were thrilled to learn something new. There was a tangible, short-term benefit for them.


6: They gave people choice. Participants were free to select which tasks they wanted to engage in. They were free to determine how much they wanted to work. In spite of no compensation (actually, the participants paid to take part), people worked hard. A measure of control over your own situation is hugely empowering.


7. They invited participation at a deeper level – they encouraged innovation. With 25 super-smart young people, the construction developed into a competition to see who could come up with the best innovations to speed up the process. Some sourced wheelbarrows from the local community to speed up transportation. Some built a small bridge to the building to enhance safety and let people pass one another going to and fro. Some brought in “Lean” principles and the kanban system. All very inspiring.


8. They celebrated. Each dinner was a celebration of the results achieved that day. the pride and the satisfaction were tangible.


In sum, these simple steps changed mindsets and behaviors powerfully. They made people act in completely new ways. They unleashed creativity and energy. And they did it in a fun way. My sense is that every participate would sign up again, given the choice. Habitat for Humanity has won deep loyalty.


Many organizations could glean inspiration from this simple example as they shape their change journeys and launch challenging transformations.


Tor regularly writes articles on his LinkedIn profile. You can visit his profile and follow him to receive the latest content and leave comments.