On Good Will Hunting, some further thoughts

Do read Good Will Huntin’ from @fuchsiablue. It’s a terrific post in which Julie explores the loss of good will and the difficulty of trying to find it again. She also describes the importance of it as organisational currency. Good will is an elusive, highly prized thing. In all areas of life it helps us to keep going when times are tough, stay positive and go the extra mile. It’s built in any number of ways, slowly over time or quickly through a grand gesture, a moment of honesty or humility. If I think of the good will I have held for people, organisations, companies and services it’s been built from a patchwork of gestures, actions and conversations that leave you feeling warm not bitter, cared for not discounted, connected not remote. It can be lost quickly through a harsh word or a bad experience, or it can creep up slowly through a number of small disappointments which chip away at your good will. I can think of companies that won my good will quickly and squandered it lightly and customer service teams who’ve turned me around with a tone, a phrase or a simple smile.

So it must be possible as Julie says to go ‘good will huntin’ so here are some top of head thoughts about how we can do that in an organisational setting –

  • Understand where and why it was lost and learn for the future, but try to avoid dwelling on the loss, it’s painful yes but we can’t wind the clock back. Like any currency that’s dropped good will needs to be rebuilt and bolstered.
  • Listen to all positive and negative feedback from staff. Get out and about, talk to people, ask them what they’re feeling, acknowledge the challenges.
  • Find out if the standards/evaluation criteria you’re using to judge goodwill and engagement are the same criteria your staff use – if not, what’s causing that gap?
  • List 10 things you’d love to discover about your organisation if you were a new employee (even if they’re not a reality now).
  • Put yourself in their shoes and play “devil’s advocate” list the 10 least satisfying things about your organisation from an employee point of view.
  • Look for common threads which point you to the need for a new approach or a change in processes, behaviour etc. from the senior team
  • Don’t be afraid to be open, honest and radical if change is needed
  • Find ways to ask your staff regularly whether you’re meeting their expectations and what you can do to improve your performance as an individual and as a leader, weave this into everyday conversations, don’t turn it into another employee survey. Ask the question openly and listen.
  • Solicit suggestions on ways you could work collaboratively to add value to the experience of working in your organisation… What about a hackathon? Or reverse mentoring? Or an employee forum? Listen to suggestions and find ways to act on them.
  • Review your people-related policies and procedures from your employees point of view – get rid of the ones which add nothing – chuck out the chintz as @HRGem would say.
  • Identify one thing you’ve always thought was “impossible” to do but, if you could do it, would completely transform your organisation in the eyes of your staff. Find a way to do it.

I’m sure this is just scratching the surface but thanks Julie for putting a new spin on this topic. I think it’s more fundamental and basic than some of the employee engagement, motivation narratives would have you believe and can be intensely personal and contextual which makes it tricky to find a simple solution for.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, I’m sure we all have examples to share and learn from.

If you have to go good will hunting then the hunt is probably just the start of a long road ahead but with a positive mindset, dialogue and persistence the journey could transform things beyond all imagining…

The Tumblr archives: The Power of the Social (Spring 2013, updated with images Dec 2013)

We’ve been looking at all sorts of digital and social media during a ‘23 things’ programme at my organisation and last week we focused on screencasting and webcasting. I’ve become convinced over time that we’re underestimating the power these, and other, tools have to allow us to make the most of the best learning network we have at our fingertips: each other (or to use the jargon our personal learning/knowledge network). I know many of my colleagues are absolute whizzes at technical things which I have no idea about, rather than going on a training course or receiving a three page ‘how to’ document I’m dreaming of the day that I can encourage them to share their knowledge with me and others with a quick screencast. I know that for simple technical things I’d much prefer that to a long email or a lengthy session taking me away from my desk. This illustration from Julian Stodd sums up the potential of social learning perfectly:


I work with a great bunch of committed, smart and interesting people who I’d love to engage with more creatively. In any organisation people’s ideas, brainwaves and reflections are the dynamo which will keep that organisation succeeding in the future. It’s perplexing then that so many companies and organisations are fearful of tools and approaches which could support the sharing of that learning. In a recent blog Harold Jarche argued that we should be aiming for loose hierarchies and strong networks in our quest for personal and organisational learning and I completely concur. Euan Semple’s book ‘Organisations don’t tweet, people do’ should be compulsory reading for all managers, expertly making the case for the social workplace in simple, easy steps.

As an L&D professional this revelation (and it really has felt like a revelation over the last couple of years) means that I’ve had to ‘readjust my set’ as well. Training sessions and workshops have a place in the (hopefully) rich mosaic of blended learning which goes on in the workplace. But we need to be making much more use of the social (both the social tools and the social ethos – sharing, co-creating and learning together) and that means letting go, moving from being the ‘expert on the stage’ to ‘the sage on the side’. All of us need to take some time to start thinking more socially, about how we can become the ‘sage on the side’ for others. As with any learning, walking the walk is the most important thing we can do – moving to a truly social workplace is a process, it doesn’t happen overnight but the journey sure is fun!