Thursday, 27 October 2016

Addressing The Allure Of Value In The Organisation

Once in a while, someone comes along and does something unexpected.

It's refreshing to see someone keen, no eager, to improve himself.

And not because he wants to curry favour with his boss, but because he genuinely wants to improve his skills and become a more valuable professional.

This happened last week. One of the participants in the Modular Executive MBA programme popped into my office to have a brief chat about his communication skills. He is one of the few non-Nigerians on the programme. Being from Côte d'Ivoire, English is not his native tongue; French is.

So there he was, sitting in my office and asking for advice about English grammar. Now I had had a brief session with him and two other French-speaking professionals a month ago, where I bluntly told them that in my interactions with them, I wouldn't  be speaking French. Not because I couldn't communicate with them—I had a degree in the language after all—but because often, the quickest (albeit more daunting) way to learn a second language is to try, at every opportunity you get, to speak it and to surround yourself with native speakers of the language.

Now back to the French-speaking gentleman who I'd call Mr. D. I watched, rather amused, as he slammed a French-English dictionary on my desk and opened up the section on grammar, pointedly asking about adjectives, modal verbs and tenses.

After a mini-lecture, I proceeded to write out some sentences on a sheet of paper and explained when to use what. Mr. D listened attentively and politely asked me if he could take that sheet of paper back to Abidjan to study, since I wasn't likely to see him until the programme's next intensive week*.

Although I was surprised that Mr. D seemed keen on further study, even though we had tackled his concerns, I immediately agreed. But it was his next request that really impressed me and convinced me that he was serious about his career development.

He asked me to give him specific goals for improving his business writing skills. For example, he asked if I could I tell him what to read and when to finish. He also wanted to know if he should write a summary of each chapter of a book and explain the use of adjectives, modal verbs, etc.  He told me that once he was able to write about anything he read, it meant that he understood the concept. That, he explained, was how he learned new things.

I was concerned about the academic workload his request entailed and worried that it might be a burden for him. So I advised him to simply read an English novel, paying attention to sentence structure and noting other grammatical rules, before our  next meeting.

What really impressed me about Mr. D was his hunger for knowledge, which was reflected in his desire for self-improvement. He wanted to be able to add value to his organisation by becoming more competent at his job. He did not complain about the academic demands or grumble about how he would juggle a full-time job with the demanding executive MBA programme in a foreign country. He was eager to try anything, to do anything that will improve his communication skills in English.

I found his commitment  refreshing.

Interestingly, the English-speaking Nigerians on the programme, to my knowledge, are yet to display that drive for self- improvement. And this isn't because they don't need to improve their communication skills, because we all do. Possibly those who have specific communication needs are tackling them privately. Still, I hope that my fellow Nigerians are also committed to providing value via training to update skills, or by other means of improving their capabilities because they will quickly become irrelevant in their organisations if they don't.

As for Mr. D, I believe he will go far...very far indeed.

The appeal of value for the employer

Mr. D's desire for value—value from the programme and coaching sessions to improve his communication skills, and value he hopes to bring to his career, borne out of enhanced communication skills—got me thinking.

Value is addictive: the more you get, the more you want.

It's no wonder that companies are now on a frenzied quest to provide more value for their employees (translating to increased organisational support). In this insightful article by The New York Times, research showed that employees were more satisfied and productive at work when four core needs were met:

1) Physical - opportunities to regularly recharge at work.

2) Emotional - feelings of being appreciated and valued.

3) Mental - leeway to focus 'in an absorbed way' and define  work schedules.

4) Spiritual - feelings of being connected to a higher purpose at work.

The post explained that the more efficiently companies met those core needs, the more likely the employees would display positive outcomes such as engagement, loyalty, job satisfaction, etc. Even meeting one of the employees' needs was enough to improve all of their performance variables.

Of all the variables discussed in the article, the impact of value was what I found most intriguing. Simply put, feeling cared for by one's boss had a more important impact on the employee's sense of trust and safety, than any other behaviours displayed by a leader. Furthermore, employees with more supportive supervisors were 1.3 times as likely to stay in the organisation and were 67 per cent more engaged.

Really powerful stuff. I recommend that you read the article.

The attraction of value for the employee

As an employee, the quest for value takes you on a mission of self-improvement, just like Mr. D.

You want to become better in your job because that's where you find purpose. Therefore, you register for courses; you sign up for conferences where the latest trends in your field are discussed; and you finance your training. You get the knowledge and you practise what your learn.

You know that as a savvy professional, you're in the driver's seat of your professional development. So you improve your prospects and you strive to be competent, reliable and credible. This is because you have accurately deduced that certain actions that positively impact your career in the company are driven by perceptions of the value you provide.

Your positive attitudes and favourable behaviours in turn influence the organisation to provide more support in areas which matter to you, which further boosts your desire to provide value.

And so the ‘cycle of value’ continues. 


So like Mr. D, strive to add value in your duties. If you're already at the helm of your career ladder, congratulations.

However, note that you, just like other professionals around the globe, could always improve your communication skills, which are increasingly desired at the workplace. 

Even if you think you're perfect, provide more value in your organisation and aim for greater heights. 

Remember that what goes around comes around; therefore be the change you seek. By doing so, you'd make your workplace a conducive place for growth, innovation and success.  

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Need help with improving your communication skills? 

Hire me for: 

- Communications training sessions for  your staff and executives; 

-Writing assignments (content creation, executive speeches, etc); 

- Speeches and keynote presentations at your corporate events.  

Let me help you get results.  

Contact me: 

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*The programme, the Modular Executive MBA, is a 24-month programme designed for busy executives who don't  have the time to be physically present at the Lagos Business School for the entirety of the degree. Participants are given online modules and assignments, and interact online with faculty members and colleagues via webinars, discussions, blogs, etc. They are nonetheless required to return to the Lagos Business School once every two months for week-long intensive sessions.

N.B:   First image courtesy of Stuart Miles; via  Second image courtesy of Sira Anamwong; via Third image courtesy of Jscreationzs; via Last image courtesy of Thaikrit; via