On the Road Again, on Another Special Day

Today, March 17th 2013, is St. Patrick’s Day. So while the rest of the world has already embarked on a massive celebration (Happy St. Patrick’s Day, by the way!!), I am also celebrating something rather special, so I thought I would let folks out there know about it, since I keep getting asked time and time again. No, it’s *not* my birthday, as the Social Web keeps proclaiming to the world and beyond. Actually, I have lied on the Social InterWebs, because my birthday already took place a few weeks back. However, on the Web, and a few years ago already, I updated all of my social networking profiles to put an incorrect birth date, just because I didn’t feel the world needed to know that personal detail. Oh, not to worry, I am not too fussed about my age, 41 this year, but it’s the principle that with that accurate date and a couple of other details people could impersonate you and steal your identity. So I thought I would lie about it and instead pick up a date that still is rather special and dear to me: St. Patrick’s Day.

Why is March 17th such an important date to yours truly?, you may be wondering, right? Well, mainly because 9 years ago, exactly today, I moved from The Netherlands to Gran Canaria, my home base, making it by now the second longest time that I have ever lived in a place, outside of my parents home. So, in a way, it is my home, don’t you think? That’s right! I wasn’t really sure whether I was going to be able to make it for that long, but I guess that once you settle in a place and you decide that’s going to be it, it kind of becomes a special place. One that is part of you, and you are part of it. And that, to me, is Gran Canaria. 

I guess time flies pretty quickly when you are having fun, right? Because even though it looks like as if it was yesterday, with the odd blink here and there, it’s already been 9 years since I moved to the island. And I wouldn’t change a single one of those years. It does feel like a re-birth, for sure, since when it happened I was going through one of those life changing experiences that you know you are going to bump into at some point in your life that makes you question and wonder about the small things, i.e. you know, the things that matter. So, perhaps in a way, I am celebrating today my re-birthday after all. Who knows… 

The thing is that life works in mysterious ways and does magical and wonderful things, because how ironic it is that today I’m celebrating that 9th year anniversary of having moved to Gran Canaria, in Utrecht, The Netherlands, where I am staying for a couple of days to participate and present at the Congres Intranet 2013 (#intra13 is the Twitter hash tag, if you would want to follow it up over the next couple of days…). Yes, I know, very ironic, isn’t it? 

Anyway, it’s still a wonderful celebration and I just couldn’t help dropping by over here in this blog and, like every year, share a short note of appreciation for how much of an impact such a tiny island can have in a person, like myself and everyone else who may have lived or visited there. So perhaps I thought I would share over here a couple of snapshots that would give you a glimpse of why Gran Canaria has got a special place in my heart for over the last 9 years and still going strong … 

 Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Dunes

 Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo

 

And those pictures surely remind me of the warm weather that I am already missing while over here in Utrecht, where it’s rather cold [Brrr] despite spring being just around the corner! So I guess it will also help me as an incentive of what awaits me in a couple of weeks when I return back home. Yes, that’s right, Utrecht is not the only city I’m going to visit during this business trip. I’m going to be on a little bit of a European Tour that will take me in a couple of days to Paris (Where I will be attending and presenting at the Enterprise 2.0 Summit - Follow the hash tag #e20s on Twitter, if you would be interested), then from there onwards on to Leuven, Belgium, to present at BLUG (#blug) and over the coming weekend onto Prague, to present as well at the Heutagogy Conference event on March 27th. 

Goodness! I told you, a little bit of a European Tour, wasn’t it? I am excited already and I haven’t started it just yet! Either way, like I said, in two weeks time I will be enjoying the lovely warm weather, the lovely people, the lovely food from the one island that decided to become my new home 9 years ago: Gran Canaria.

Thus happy re-birthday to me!


PS: As usual, if you are going to be around any of those cities while I’m on the road, throughout this business trip, and would want to meet up for a drink or a coffee, or even a quick “Hi!”, feel free to reach out through the usual social spaces … I’m just about to end the self-inflicted Twitter and G+ silence, provoked by something I talked about a little while ago …

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The Arbejdsglaede of Employee Engagement

Gran Canaria - ArtenaraIf you have been reading this blog for a little while now, you would probably remember how concepts like Employee Engagement make me cringe a little bit. Specially, when it’s abused left and right by HR departments and corporations alike, in general, as that magic bullet that will help address and fix the number #1 business problem of today’s corporate world: employee disengagement. Or put together in simpler terms: people no longer owning or caring for their work. Don’t take me wrong, I do believe rather strongly in Employee Engagement. Seriously. I do. What I don’t believe much in is the current form of how businesses are thinking about engaging employees implying that they know better than them, that they can just throw it out there, put together some social technologies around it all and people would come and be re-engaged at work. Well, no, sorry. It doesn’t work that way. Employee engagement is a two-way street and unless both employees and employers are not willing to walk through both we won’t have it. Well, hello and welcome to the wonderful world of Arbejdsglaede!

The first time that I ever heard about Arbejdsglaede was at the rather wonderful and delightful Meaning Conference in Brighton that took place late last year and which, the conference itself, still keeps bringing up lots of very fond memories, every time that I think about how much I learned during the couple of days I stayed there and also how much I savoured the wonderful conversations I had throughout the whole time. But, like I was saying, I learned about Arbejdsglaede from Alex Kjerulf, Chief Happiness Officer (Yes, I know, gotta love job titles like that one! I do!!), while he delivered perhaps one of the most inspiring presentations I had the privilege of attending live during the course of 2012 (And perhaps in a long while, too!). 

Arbejdsglaede basically means a feeling of happiness you get at work, which, as he clearly indicates, is not the same as job satisfaction. It’s way deeper than that. It’s all about reflecting on what makes you happy at work, and, apparently, it’s just too basic things: 

  1. Results
  2. Relationships

And bang! That’s when it really hit me. That’s when I realised that true employee engagement is all about that! Focusing and repurposing your efforts as a (knowledge) worker towards striking new meaning in providing exceedingly good and top performing results, while building meaningful, empathic and caring personal business relationships. Talking about striking for that rather strong sense of ownership and co-responsibility, of belonging, really. That’s what, to me, employee engagement is all about. It’s about finding that happiness at work that clearly gives you that little bit of extra energy to get up every day and look forward to a new exciting day where you are going to, hopefully, learn, collaborate, share openly more of your knowledge (Without asking for much in return) by interacting with your (social) network(s) understanding that “happy people do better work”: “more productive, creative, helpful, better at service, focused on quality, better team-players, more open, more flexible, showing more empathy, selling more, more optimistic, motivated, engaged, energetic, with an ability to learn faster and eventually become better leaders“. 

Whoaaahhh! See what I meant with employee engagement? Now, imagine this, how many businesses out there have got those kinds of aspirations for their own employees by engaging them from the very beginning to help drive a new purpose, a new meaning for what they do at work? Something tells me that perhaps not too many. Or, at least, not enough! Why? Well, because we still have got that huge, problematic issue of 70% of our employee workforce being totally disengaged. Simple. I know, it even hurts deeply. Sad. Rather sad, really. 

Back in 2007, Alex put together a rather interesting and very much thought provoking blog post that I saw re-surfacing through my networks a few days back and that triggered me to eventually put together this blog entry. In Top 10 Signs You’re Unhappy at Work he listed what, back then, appeared to be some of the most profound signs as to why employees are not happy at work. Fast forward to 2013 and it looks like we are still seeing pretty much of the same… Allow me please to quote and list those 10 signs, while I would encourage you all to go and read the entire article. It’s just brilliant as well in how it entices you to do a little bit of a mental exercise and a test to question for yourself how happy you are at work after all… So, to quote them: 

  1. You procrastinate
  2. You spend Sunday night worrying about Monday morning
  3. You’re really competitive about salary and titles
  4. You don’t feel like helping co-workers
  5. Work days feel looooong
  6. You have no friends at work 
  7. You don’t care. About anything
  8. Small things bug you
  9. You’re suspicious of other people’s motives
  10. Physical symptoms

Fascinating read that blog post, don’t you think? I bet that vast majority of us have experienced any of those signs at some point in our so-called careers, perhaps some of us are even suffering from any, or several of those, right now, in 2013, at the time where plenty of people keep claiming that in the Social Era employee engagement through social networking tools is going to rule the world and is going to help reenergise employees again. Well, not really. It won’t. It won’t until we get our mojo back and start embracing that culture of Arbejdsglaede. Because that’s what it is all about. It’s that two-way street I talked about earlier on and that I feel is going to be incredibly important over the course of time, if not already. 

And how do we get to Arbejdsglaede, you may be wondering, right?, as the golden panacea of Employee Engagement? I have got my very own ideas on the topic, but, instead, I am going to leave it down to the master on the topic. Here’s the blog post that Alex put together where he talked a little bit about his keynote session. Then here is the link where you can download his presentation materials and, finally, here’s the link where you can spend 30 minutes (well worth it, by the way!!) watching the recording of the session where he gets to talk about some pretty compelling conclusions that I thought I would quote over here as well to see them in the wider context of re-engaging back the workforce: 

  1. Make arbejdsglaede your #1 career goal
  2. Be happy at work – not just satisfied
  3. Do something about it!

And, finally, my favourite quote on what that two-way street concept for Employee Engagement would be all about not only in the Social Era, but also on the Open Business Era: Do or do not. There is no try!

Who would have thought that Arbejdsglaede would be such a beautiful word and such a magical concept after all, in terms of re-engaging knowledge workers, doing things just right through social technologies, around openness, transparency, meritocracy, caring, empathy, trust and, above all, purpose and meaning.

Well, try now to pronounce it and be ready to chuckle! :-D

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IBM Connect 2013 Highlights – Pardon the Interruption in Social Business – The Recording #ibmconnect

TroisLouie at #ibmconnect 2013 after "Pardon The Interruption on Social Business" breakout sessionA couple of months ago, when my good friend and fellow colleague, Louis Richardson, came to talk to both my twin brother Luis Benitez and myself to participate at the IBM Connect 2013 conference event in Orlando, Florida, following the well known format of “Pardon The Interruption” we knew, back then, it was going to be a risky bet, one where we thought it was going to be rather a huge massive smash hit or just simply a notorious everlasting failure. Since all three of us do enjoy challenging ourselves on a regular basis we decided though to, what the h*ck, take the risk and go for it! We may as well enjoy the ride along the way, right? Well, we surely did! That’s how “Pardon The Interruption in Social Business” came into being and how it was a stunning success we can now go and treasure for a long while…

Indeed, that was the breakout speaker session the Three Louie (#troislouie) decided to embark on, making it the very first time in history that three Luis’ heavily involved with Social Business would be making it on stage at the same conference event, at the same date, at the same time talking with passion about the same subject. Of course, there was a bunch of preparation that took place before that day arrived. Louis got us all three organised (without even sending a single email across, by the way, but collaborating through IBM Connections Activities < W00t! Yes, walking the talk!) and before we knew it we were off to something magical.

Earlier on, indeed, while in the preparation stages, we knew that in order to make it a successful event we needed to count on a little bit of help from the audience, so a few weeks before the session took place we dived into Twitter and started socialising the #ptisocialbiz hashtag, where folks, who would be attending the session live, would be capable of sharing across their questions so that we would then be able to incorporate them into the PTI presentation and give ourselves 60 seconds each, or less, to share that insightful thought that would serve as an educated answer. Somewhat.

And the audience responded! Oh, boy, and brilliantly! Overall, we got through over 18 of those questions over the course of one hour making it a quite fun, interesting and fast paced presentation, which is something that was well perceived seeing the time the session took place at (5:30pm to 6:30pm). Right from the start we knew that we all three needed to be somewhat radically different, so we decided to play some roles as well where Luis Benitez was the traditionalist social product manager, Louis Richardson was the pragmatic social sales evangelist and yours truly was the social business outlier, a role I have grown to become rather fond of over the course of time, perhaps, mostly as a result of “A World Without eMail“.

The vibe during the session was amazing. We had a packed up room with very few spaces left and from what we were told later on in the week coming closer to 300 people attending the session overall. Right then I realised it was going to be a smash hit. The atmosphere was just perfect: relaxed, condescending, inspiring, rather jolly and, above all, brilliantly engaging. You could feel it in the air. Just brilliant! Just the perfect ambience to let your brain do its magic and let yourself go, let all of that passion, wit, knowledge and accumulated experience on living social shine through, just as the audience was rather attentive, alert and willing to be wowed! Well, we were the ones who ended up ourselves being the ones wowed and big time!

We know the quality of the audio throughout the large room was not up to the optimal stage. In fact, we were told by those looking after the sound / mikes that we would better stay close to the main stage as to avoid poor quality of the audio coming through and that was perhaps a bit of a bummer, because, originally, we had the intention of mixing and mingling with the audience, walking about, and bringing forward different points of attention depending on where we may well be in the large room. Oh, well, may be next time around!

The good thing though is that right from the beginning we knew the session was going to be recorded and everything, so, at least, we would have a good quality recording to share across when it would be over. And we surely did. In fact, Louis has already put it together with a copy of the slide-ware we used and shared it across over at his Slideshare account. So folks who may be interested in taking a peek and go through it may be able to do so with the embedded code shared below:

 

What an adrenaline rush! Still getting shivers through my spine as I keep reflecting on what we learned going through that exhilarating experience of throwing yourself into the unknown and see what would happen, and in front of such a large audience! Just wonderfully delightful and highly recommended altogether!

Judging from the superb, generous feedback comments we received throughout the following couple of days, both offline and online, it looks like it was worth it. My good friend Stu McIntyre probably summed it up nicely with this particularly tweet that we surely appreciate very much, specially, thinking about the initial reservations we had when initially diving into it for the first time:

 

To me, it was also a bit of a special session, since it was the first time that I ever spoke at IBM Lotusphere / Connect in the 5 years I have been attending the conference event in a row, and it is probably something that I will keep remembering and treasuring as that new format presentation that perhaps will mark a new beginning where instead of focusing on delivering master classes of slide-ware we eventually throw ourselves into the audience to embark on a 2-way open dialogue bridging both the online and offline worlds, where both speakers and attendees learn just as much as we can from one another. Surely one of those fond experiences I won’t be forgetting any time soon!

So much so that perhaps there will be a v2.0 next year where we will expand further on in the concept and take it to a new level. Who knows… For now, we just want to thank dearly and sincerely Stu, for that wonderful piece of generous feedback shared across in the moment, and to everyone else who came over to our session and participated rather actively to help us keep up with our learning curves, the pace and the rhythm on what it is like thriving in social business where the collective keeps trumping the individual master class(es) of those so-called slide-ware prone gurus ;-)

If you have a chance to go through the recording and the presentation, we also want to thank you for taking the time to go through it and please do let us know through the comments what you thought about the session itself and how we could improve it for the next time. Because, you know what they say, right? There is always plenty of room for improvement! Practice makes perfection (Or so they say…)

We hope to see you all next year at the next #ptisocialbiz session, hoping it will be just as much fun, entertaining, educational and enlightening for everyone all around as this year’s, if not more altogether!


[Oh, did you notice our answers for one of the very last questions from the session on "What is your personal plan / objective for 2013 to support the adoption of Social Business and IBM Connections?" Well, if you have been reading this blog for a little while now, like since the beginning of this year, or longer, you will know what my answer was…

… Challenge is ON!]

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