Award-winning B2B marketing communications consultancy Man Bites Dog works with leading business brands on complex global projects. While the business has an award-winning culture, winning PR Week’s Best Place To Work an unprecedented five times, the management team wanted to ensure that, as well as the perks of working for a creative agency, the team were finding their day-to-day work fulfilling.
Working on complex and challenging briefs, their highly intelligent and creative team members feel passionate about the interesting work they do, but the management team wanted to know more about the specifics of what makes their work meaningful and motivational.
Given the demands of the working day in a busy consultancy, it can be difficult to carve out time to talk about these sources of meaningfulness. Creating space for a conversation about meaningfulness was therefore central to the aim of the workshop that Michelle Brailsford and I ran for managers and senior leaders during 2017. We drew on research, case studies and stories about meaningful work to set the context for the discussion, and delegates shared their personal thoughts on where they found meaningfulness in their own roles.
While Man Bites Dog expected their team to find most of their meaning in their creative and strategic work, in fact, people talked just as much about feeling energized by working intensively to help clients or colleagues achieve great results. These sources of meaning aligned closely with the company’s values of ‘being part of the pack’ with colleagues, ‘knocking it out of the park’ for clients, as well as ‘breaking new ground’ in their innovative approaches.
This discovery challenged the company’s previous assumptions about where team members found their meaning, and generated insights into how the company could go about balancing the need for high performance alongside nurturing and sustaining a happy and supportive culture with the right team behaviour and client partnerships.
Claire Mason, CEO, commented: “At Man Bites Dog we are passionate about what we do. We are known for our strategic idea generation and we are the “geeks” of the B2B marketing industry in our passion for the most complex areas of our clients’ businesses. What was most insightful about examining meaningful work was the value our team put on going the extra mile for the rest of the pack and the meaning they found in really wowing our clients. As we thought, our work is itself is deeply meaningful, but in future we will place more emphasis on asking clients to share more feedback with the wider team on the impact of our work, and ensure we all think about how we can all be even better colleagues.”
We then moved on to think about how line managers could use one-to-ones or more formal appraisal meetings to bolster their direct reports’ sense of meaning. Drawing on research findings, we explored the notion of an organisational ecosystem that fosters high levels of meaningfulness. This part of the workshop generated some powerful insights into things that were going well at the company in terms of job, task, organisational and interactional meaningfulness, and highlighted how meaningfulness would be increased by tweaking the consultancy’s appraisal and personal development programmes. The workshop finished with some personal action planning.
Claire Mason, CEO, commented: “Everyone who attended the workshop said that it was the best event they had attended for a long time. Meaningfulness was a really constructive way to talk about our work, which most of us hadn’t thought about before. Having the expertise and experience of the two facilitators drawing on their knowledge of meaningfulness in a range of different contexts gave us new insights into how we work and some great learning from other meaningful organisations.”
Katie Bailey & Michelle Brailsford