I recently attended the PAN European HR conference event in Brussels this month, where I participated in several workshops and talks. Two of these were the highlights for me. One was Google´s conference, given by Stephan Thoma, Global head of Talent & Development, mostly because of the impact a company like Google has and the personal interest I have in this organization.
The other highlight was the inspiring workshop given by Dr. Juan Humberto Young, called ¨Positive Leadership for Optimal Human and Organisational Performance¨. Although I have read extensively and heard a lot on managing and leadership, I gained a whole new perspective on a subject I find fascinating.
Dr. Young focused on an alternative way of being a leader, and what exactly motivates people. He explained that science shows that when people feel positive emotions, they are maximizing the use of their strengths, feel a sense of accomplishment, and feel part of a network of positive interpersonal relationships, and have a sense of meaning in their professional and personal lives, and with all that they will perform at their best. This is a whole mouthful to explain in one go.
But Dr.Young was able to explain it with such passion and convincing logic, it gave me a whole new angle—a more positive one in fact—on my already quite similar perceptions. Up until then I always felt that this theory only could work out in an ideal world where people would be inspired by sheer motivation, and not driven by money or other material gains. Dr. Young’s thought-provoking discourse made me change my point of view and showed me that this way of leadership could also work out in today’s not so ideal world.
The introductory paragraph for this conference session displayed on the events website claimed: “And when cohesive teams of people perform at their best, these optimised teams will lead the organisation to accomplish extraordinary results. Positive Leadership is the new way forward – and it’s not about happiness for the sake of it, but a mutual win in which optimising employee engagement and well-being optimises the organisation’s bottom line.” I was fortunate that Dr. Young personally took time to explain this part of his theory to me.
After his talk, I was the first to leave the room to get back to my stand on time. However I was still pondering on what Dr. Juan Humberto Young discussed during his speech. I was still full of curiosity and decided to approach him with many of the questions his speech had opened up in my mind. Once I got hold of him to ask him about the nature of motivation, I referred to one of the slides in his presentation titled People always want a bigger egg that showed some small eggs that started to get bigger and bigger. On that message, I argued that was that it is not necessarily more money that motivates people, but working towards a common goal. Once achieved your goal, you move on to achieve a new goal. I still I believe this is often the truth. But Dr. Young neither denied it nor acknowledged my point of view. Instead he went to the white board and started drawing diagrams with lines showing happiness and money and how they do not increase simultaneously. I was positively surprised by how he took his time to explain this to me individually, and how much what he said made a lot of sense to me. It was clear to me that his motivation to dedicate time and effort to me had nothing to do with bigger personal financial eggs! It only served to drive home his message on the power of managing and leadership the way he presents it.