IGNITE goes BERLIN


Where else to go but to Berlin when in search for inspiration?

The IGNITE Team was flying there for the weekend in order to meet potential speakers for our conference and to interview them to launch our blog. The trip all started with a small message on my phone: Vic… Where are you… ?

I had assumed that we were leaving on Thursday… I was wrong. I realized last minute that I was missing my airplane to Berlin. I left the party in which I was in a tremendous hurry and ran to the train station without even a bag… I still had a slim chance of catching it. But when the train had reached Zurich airport I realised that I did not even have my identity card with me… Game Over ! This little blunder made the rest of the IGNITE team laugh quite a lot as they know that my head is often in the clouds. In addition they started adding the brilliant #wheresvic? To all our new publications. My reputation was forged!

I finally chose to book a flight for the next day. I felt ashamed in the airplane. But one thing kept me motivated: I knew that Berlin would be full of surprises.

We met Pa on a sunny Friday afternoon In Gallup’s offices. The room in which we were had a large window with a spectacular view of the German opera house. Pa is a Gambian German who had been one of the most appreciated speakers at our conference in 2015. It was a great pleasure to meet this elegant and friendly character again. Pa is the country manager For Gallup Germany, a company famous for its fascinating statistics which go from “how much money matters in order to retain employees” to “Pro-life American view on Trumps abortion policies” and much much more.

As a company Gallup aims to drive change in organisations by maximizing employee engagement through research and consulting. According to their polls 84% of employees worldwide are not engaged in their workplace. These are people who put no passion in what they do and have no real interest in doing their job.

For Gallup a highly engaged workforce means that «employees are emotionally connected to the mission and purpose of their work. It is the difference between a company that thrives and one that struggles. When employees are engaged, they are passionate, creative and entrepreneurial: Their enthusiasm fuels growth » (1). In a world where everything needs to be quantified we were struck by Gallup’s ability to bring humans aspects into numbers. The ability to “dollarify” employee satisfaction by bringing it into clear data. They show companies that human relationships are important.

As Pa says: “We want to show that building a good ambiance is not all “Hugs and Kisses” it’s a necessary reality to the development of a company. Indeed developing the company culture shouldn’t mean that you hinder profit, The aim is to create value with it. We all work to make money…But why not get something more along the way?

Most companies have already pushed their processes to the limit and have maximised their efficiency. So what if the next horizon of gains came from its people? What if employees were intrinsically driven. We all work better when we like what we do. We all work better when we have a clear impact and we now have proof from neurology that being happy is necessary for our brain to unlock its potential. Our generation looks for companies that can contribute to their personal development. We see jobs as steppingstones to something bigger and not as ends in themselves anymore (2).

So what is Gallup’s secret recipe for engaging the workforce? How can we be fulfilled by our studies and our work?

We are all professionals when it comes to finding problems and complaining. One of the topics mentioned in the discussions with Pa is that humans are better at recognizing negative emotions than good ones.

Schools are built in a way where we constantly challenge children through tests but forget to give them confidence in their abilities. Being the proud dad of two kids himself Pa observed that when kids bring their grades home the first reflex of the parents is to look at the bad ones. But all humans need recognition and appreciation. And it is impossible to grow when people constantly criticize our weaknesses.

Does our education system really give a positive affirmation of what people are? Does our education system allow us to develop on our strengths?

In the US the perspective is very different… We’re used to having all sorts of awards … children’s rooms are full of cups and medals. We celebrate individual achievements. We focus on our children’s strengths and give them more freedom to express themselves.

Gallup’s secret lies here: Focus on the strengths!

What is it that you enjoy doing. Where is it that you can just put energy naturally. Can you get your people to do what they do best? We all know the feeling of doing something we love and being truly focused on it. How can we harness this in organisations? How can we collaborate by building on each other’s talents?

Know your self! Know what makes you happy, be conscious of what empowers you and communicate it. At Gallup employees share a common language that allows them to communicate their strengths. It is essential for a good team to know each individual’s specific abilities and to make sure that they are being used. It is also essential for them to be conscious of the weaknesses linked to these strengths.

One thing seems clear: we rarely communicate enough. We assume so much about each other but rarely reconsider these assumptions. We fall into patterns and forget to rediscover what hides behind them.

So for a team to work it is necessary to foster a meaningful emotional dialog between each other.

  • Do we really dare to discuss about our strengths?
  • How do we recognize achievements?
  • How often do we thank people for what they do and do we do it?
  • How do we make people smile?

When Pa talks about Gallup he proudly states that they hire crazy people. It hires special people, strong characters which tend to be extreme. But they hire for very specific roles. Their Strength Finder test establishes various profiles based on a ranking of 34 different qualities and allows them to put people in a role that suits them.

The first strengths that I saw in Pa are his magnetising presence and his marvellous ability to live in the moment. He is spontaneous and knows how to have a good time. But it comes with a negative side… He is the victim of his instant gratification monkey and being too positive quickly forgets to look for potential problems (3). To my great delight he confessed having missed a flight a few days ago… we had something in common! He even told us that at his worst he had gone to miss more than 10 flights in a year.

He could have been a disaster in a normal company. But he found a place that recruited him for what he was good at… He had found a place where he could be himself.