Knowledge worker

Appetite for food and creative work
Appetite for food and creative work 150 150 Freyr

My better half knows a trick or two on how to deal with our kids. One of them she uses just before dinner. When the kids energy levels are low they at times get to watch TV. She then puts a bowl in front of them with a selection of vegetables. Vegetables they would otherwise not be too happy to eat disappear in a flash. The vegetables act as a good appetizer but still the children have good appetite at the dinner table. If on the other hand the kids dive into a bowl of candy just before dinner the situation is quite different. Kids won’t complain at all, well not until they are dragged to the dinner table. As you may have experienced their appetite is then slim to none.

I sometimes think about this and can well relate to my appetite for creative challenges.

If I want to maximize my output when writing, like this article, I do so early morning “fasting”. I write before I let anything else spoil my appetite for creative challenges. I ensure all alerts are switched off my mobile and PC. I write using a simple editor where nothing else is visible but the text I am working on. I don’t want to have a tempting “bowl of candy” in front of me. If I do “grab a quick bite” from news or social media mid demanding challenge I know I will lose my focus and my “appetite” and capability for creative work will be reduced. Some studies say more than 20 minutes after the interruption.

Let me not even get started on what happens if I try to multitask, that is the worst. Studies say it does not only limit your mental capability in the now, but can reduce your capabilities long term (see here).

I do hope you protect as well your appetite for creative work and studies as you would for your kid’s appetite for healthy food!

Why would anybody want to work for you?
Why would anybody want to work for you? 150 150 Freyr

You are well informed, you have university degrees left right and center. Top grades. All boxes checked. You are the outstanding expert in your field. You must be any hiring committee’s favorite. But does really anybody want to work for you? Work with you? Does your people manage to perform well, excel and improve?

Reality is you are not the only leader looking for good people. When the job market offers similar rates and people can pick any place in the world to work, then people look for opportunities which help them progress and improve. People look for leaders who help them to take the next positive step in their career.

My view is that the key for you as a leader, at least if you want somebody to work with you long term, is not necessarily found in your university degrees and expertise. Your grandmother might even be a better source for best practices. Few keywords I link more to my grandmothers than university studies are: Caring and understanding, sincere interest and appropriate distance and autonomy.

1. Caring and understanding
To be able to properly lead others your own well being is important. It is important that you honor and understand your self to be able to honor, understand and feel for your people, to see what are their drives and motives.
Humans are self centered by nature. Even the toughest of the toughest have to admit that they do feel better when their superior understands them, they are supported cared for and understood, like their grandmother would. It is fundamental that the leader knows what is the main driving factor for his people.

2. Sincere interest
If first step is caring and understanding then step two would be sincere and honest interest. As those who have read about The Hawthorne studies know then attention and interest is not only a key to the well-being of staff but also their productivity. This is even more important now when we are getting close to 100 years since the studies started and the ratio of knowledge worker has never been higher.

Do you know why your people chose to work with you? What are his or hers conditions today? Where she or he is heading? Will it possible strengthen your relationship to discuss this openly, as these 7 tips say? If you do show your people the same sincere interest as your grandmother did, then it will increase the odds they will be happier and more productive and your relationship will prosper.

3. Appropriate distance and autonomy
I do hope you experienced warmth, support and positive attitude from your grandmothers like I did, but at the same time the appropriate distance and autonomy in your adventures. Grandmothers sure are wise old women. Studies confirm what they practice in their guidance, autonomy is one of the most powerful trades in managing knowledge workers. Autonomy is more rewarding than financial bonuses when the tasks and roles depend on creativity and problem solving. I do not know if Daniel H. Pink if learned about the importance of Autonomy from his grandmother but I must higly recommend his great book Drive (on Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose) summarized here, in a 10 minute video.

Dear leader, formal education is great. University studies are an excellent basis and hopefully you will never quit your search for knowledge, but do expect your grandmother to continue to have the best answers for you!