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Nobody proposes with impunity

After I said to the General Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “Send me where nobody else wants to go” he sent me to the Canary Islands for the post of Consul of Colombia there.   

I couldn’t believe that nobody wanted to be posted in that paradisiac place as it seemed to have all in favor, but soon I discovered the real reason why people refused to go there: an unmanageable and conflictive staff! 

Chaotic environment, rotten team dynamics, lower levels of collaboration and total lack of happiness were the key findings after my first weeks there. 

I started what, looking retrospectively, seems a very structured innovation strategy centered in people as I needed to bring them onboard while recognizing their capabilities and aiming to deblock the barriers that impeded their optimal performance 

Some of the measures or actions done seems very basic, as if taken from a managerial manual, yet proved to be productive. The first thing was to arranged the working system and the organizational schema, chaotic at that time. Goals were defined; processes were established; formal, regular and efficient meetings were conducted; and a culture of hard work yet relaxing environment was starting to be the norm, rather than the exception. 

Nobody proposes with impunity

Once the working environment was structured, the next step was to enhance their participation that it is a way to increase engagement and, very important, to boost creativity. 

Here the two main guiding principles were respect for each other ideas and ownership, commitment to implement it. I called the “nobody proposes with impunity rule”, meaning that a person who proposes an idea must be ready to work in the implementation and lead the execution with help from the team not only throwing it to the others.  This rule didn’t impede the production of ideas yet helped to make them more concrete, doable and for sure a more efficient way to boost participation, engagement and team work. 

Recognizing each person´s strengths and weakness was essential to assign them the most adequate tasks and roles according to their capacities therefore reducing their insecurity and rejection of the unknown. 

Joy, comradery and respect for each other started to be present daily and as a result the working environment turned more productive and efficient. I could feel that happiness was around the corner, we were almost there. 

This rule didn’t impede the production of ideas yet helped to make them more concrete, doable and for sure a more efficient way to boost participation, engagement and team work. 

Then, I boost several non-formal initiatives to strength the links among the team members. We started to share lunch time, to make social activities and also, we started informal gatherings that increased the personal interaction beyond professional tasks. During those moments we practiced given honest recognition and listening carefully to each other’s stories thus we managed to discover the true human being in our colleagues. 

The last but not least aspect I worked with the team was for them to recognize the value of their job within the organization and how much their contribution was important for the overall goal we all have. In order words, what I did was to help them to understand how to have a meaningful job impact in your own happiness.  

After some months the team dynamics, work environment and engagement improved substantially, we were then ready to boost one more time creativity and productivity and keep aiming for happiness.