Question Time: Productivity, Persona and Difficult Conversations at Work…

Here at IW we like to constantly query the status quo about work. For us, this means asking ourselves the kind of questions that get our juices flowing.

Of course, a good question in print is always made more thought provoking when you mix it with Jonny Holmes’ imaging wizardry. In fact, by the time he’d finished with them we were so proud of our Key Questions that we sent them out to our readership to ponder over Friday lunch for a series of weeks.

Now that you’ve had the chance to deliberate, cogitate and digest our philosophical musings, here’s the responses the IW team came up with themselves…


What proportion of your working day do you think is truly productive?

This is a question I’ve had to reframe since I started at IW. Previously, I was self-employed and, as I saw it, if one minute of my time was not spent directly on building my business, this was time spent unproductively. I got very used to knuckling down and getting jobs done on my own, which meant that my productivity was high but that I wasn’t necessarily hitting the right notes every single time.

By contrast, since joining IW, I find myself in team meetings where ideas are exchanged and projects discussed. There was a temptation, initially, to view this approach as inefficient, especially when it was punctuated with such pleasantries as “how’s your little girl getting on?” However, the longer I spend at IW, the more I can see that quality of work created in this manner is so much higher than I could create alone.

As a team at IW know that our goals can only be achieved if we work together, and I’ve gradually come to see that several heads are better than one when it comes to getting great results. This means getting to know the real person we sit next to in the office so that, ultimately, we can find our best ways of working together.


What’s most important when building a great culture in the workplace?


Well, it’s important to acknowledge that the foundations of building a great workplace culture often start long before it can be experienced within the work environment. Leaders of an organisation need to devote time to discussing and defining the kind of place they want their workplace to be; do you want employees to be inspired to be more productive, to be creative, to enjoy a good work-life balance? By distilling the answers to these questions leaders begin to create values that people can embody. Creating and defining values doesn’t just mean plastering buzzwords all over a boardroom, it means providing well thought-out values that people can live by and ensuring that you can hold yourself and employees to them every single day.

People are at the heart of any business. Building a great culture must start and end with ensuring the people feel empowered, are supported professionally and personally, and are getting their work/life balance just right. It’s little things like providing flexible working, hosting relaxed bonding opportunities between colleagues, offering support lines for personal issues, and actively encouraging learning that can make all the difference. Looking after people will look after business, and happy people will naturally create a great culture.


How often do you have difficult conversations at work?

As a relative newcomer to IW, I’m finding myself having them frequently – but it’s me on the receiving end the majority of the time. At one stage I started questioning if I was failing but it’s been made very clear to me that this is a normal and critical process of fitting in.

Any person joining a new team has to learn and unlearn things. But they are really difficult to pinpoint at the start. The only way is to just get on with the job and be open to receiving direction (and correction) as we stumble upon particular issues.

There have been moments when I’ve had a number of those difficult conversations happen in the same week – even on the same day. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have times of feeling low and a bit rejected. But those are the most powerful moments that reap the greatest benefits. Psychologists have shown that right from our earliest months of life until our twilight years, we learn from our failures. If we find a way to banish thoughts of self-rejection and reframe them into hunger for growth, our development (and job satisfaction) can grow exponentially.

How do we do it? By cultivating trust. Trust in ourselves, trust in our colleagues and trust in our superiors. I’ve realised that the real issues with my moments of self-doubt are based on me (not others) rejecting myself. So now I give myself a good pep talk every time I have a difficult conversation, to ensure I don’t allow any root of rejection to take hold. It’s been a game changer.


How much of your weekend persona do you bring to work?

One of the qualities we most value here at IW is authenticity, and this really shows when we are at work and at play. A lot of our team live close to each other, so there’s a fair bit of cross-over between work time and play time. We’ll often call over to each other’s homes for a cuppa on a Saturday morning, or hook up for a park jog on a Sunday. I think this culture makes it easy to bring my weekend persona to work, and I find myself thinking less in terms of “weekend” and “midweek” personas, and more in terms of “work” and “play” personas.

Of course, we’d all love to feel like we’re at play whenever we go to work but the reality is that it’s not always appropriate. I think it’s about striking a balance. I bring my “play face” to work when the task allows, knowing I’ve also got a freshly ironed shirt in the cupboard and smart shoes under my desk, ready to jump into that important meeting and put the fun into action.

All of it I hope. I like to be as consistent as possible. One thing I really don’t want to be is a poser. One of the ways I address that is to keep it real as much as possible. Sure, it’s not always appropriate to give everyone in the office a hug and a high five (although I’ve been known to do the former more frequently than socially acceptable), and I need to flex my style depending on which client has popped over or fellow director is in the room. But one thing I’ll never compromise on is my values and principles. So I’ll always be compassionate, affirming and – hopefully – fun whatever the circumstance. At IW we’re just as much a family as we are team. And that means us being free to be ourselves. Anyone for a hug?iw