Catherine Stagg-Macey has spent over twenty years in the technology and insurance sectors. She has experience in a wide range of roles from programmer, project manager, leader and strategy advisor. In her last role, she established and led the European Insurance practice for several years. Passionate about people, she retrained as a coach and now runs her own business offering leadership coaching, workshops and facilitation to the insurance technology industry. Her mission is to align the passion of people with the purpose of business through her Happiness@work project.
Why does the world need a work revolution? (In other words: the way we’re working isn’t working. Why not?)
For the last century, we’ve been creating freedom and democracy at all levels. But we also built a world (at least in the G8 countries) that was fuelled by creating more of everything – more stuff we didn’t want to impress people we don’t care about. The financial crisis showed the hubris of the model of endless consumption in which work became a means to an end. Work has become a way to stay on the hamster wheel and have the life we thought we should live. How is this different to the Victorian workhouses and Dickensian England? How different is this to indentured service? We have more stuff but less time to enjoy it in. We have higher stress levels than any other time in history and health problems related to poor lifestyle and excess. What is the point of all this?
What if work was the end in itself? Not just for the few lucky people who get to start their own business but for everyone. What if leaders got up in the morning to create workplaces that were awesome places to be? Where the work was inspiring and had meaning? If we can put a man on the moon, we can make workplaces meaningful and in doing so, change the society we live in. The world needs a work revolution.
How are you or your organization reinventing work in some way (big or small)?
I work with leaders to increase happiness in their organisations. Happiness in the workplace as a Leadership issue. In fact, it should be a leadership capability taught in MBA and Executive programs.
I strongly believe that staff know what changes and reinvention they want and need. They’ve just never been asked. The voice of staff needs to be heard. And that’s what my Happiness@Work project aims to do. This is about democratizing change. It’s no longer the ivory tower that gets to say what the staff need. My project creates a process where everyone in the team or the company gets to say what needs changing, and then to be part of that change.
Through the use is a clever survey (thanks happinessworks.com!), relationship system coaching, and project management, I help leaders increase the happiness levels in their organization. It’s a process that requires courage on the part of the leaders to commit to but there are leaders out there wanting to be part of this change too.
And why happiness? A happiness index is a data point for what is really going on in the workplace – not what leaders get told in formal discussions or what staff post on the intranet. This is the real deal. It’s a measure of how meaningful the work is, how aligned the staff are to the corporate values, the degree of autonomy they have and the extent to which they feel they can influence their environment.
Why do you do what you do?
I’ve worked for almost 25 years in corporate environments. I’ve had some great jobs but I’ve also been bullied, harassed and felt down right miserable in certain places. For the most part, bosses only cared about the bottom line and I didn’t get how my small contribution mattered. That’s a depressing place to be.
In my last role as a leader, I built a team based on my principle of happy staff make for an awesome work place (and good revenue as a consequence). It worked and now I want to do this on a bigger scale. Companies and leaders need to know there are other ways of operating. I want to put the heart back in capitalism.
What kind of art (any kind) do you like and why? Any recommendations we should know about?
Perhaps not art in everyone’s eyes, but I love comics — particularly anything with a superhero. I have a bigger inner kid in me who’s drawn to the arc of a story with a hero who faces the obstacle which he/she overcomes through tenacity and the help of a wacky sidekick. What’s not to love when the hero wins in the end.
For something more grown up, then I’d say Roy Liechtenstein which is grown up comic art in my view.
What is one specific thing your company does that makes your culture unique and/or different?
As a solo entrepreneur, company culture is really down to how I show up and the space I create for others to show up authentically. In my business, I work in equal partnerships. I hold that our intentions really matter and they impact what we do. So in each relationship I have with a partner -– be it to a workshop planning session, or delivering a workshop -– we create an image or metaphor for the impact we want to have. This sound a little unconventional but it works really well.
What is one discipline/industry totally different from your own that has inspired you? How does it impact your work?
Storytelling – from the world of Joseph Campbell and Hollywood – inspires me. It’s a new area for me and I’m learning that it’s through storytelling that we make sense of ourselves and who we want to be. It’s through stories that we can inspire people to come along with us on a large change program, or how we communicate the values that are important to us. Storytelling feels like the dynamite I’ve been looking for to double down on my impact in the world. My vision is empower my clients to use storytelling to increase their impact too.
What’s one tangible and concrete technique other organizations should use if they want to create a more human and/or meaningful place to work?
Leaders should ask of their each member of their team “ On a scale of 1 to 10, how much fun are you having?” and then listen to the answer. I’d advise them not to get defensive but to really listen to what’s being said. This simple question allows a leader to connect with the person in front of them, to really hear about what’s gong on in that person’s life (work or personal – it all impacts how we show up at work). The leader gets to know what they could do to shift the dial for that person. This sharing beyond the hard data of the workplace also develops trust.
What is one surprising thing we should know about you?
I have a secret little habit of funding comics on Kickstarter.
What piece of technology (other than your laptop/smartphone/tablet) could you not live without and why?
My oven. I love making bread –- sourdough is my most recent new addition to my bread making capabilities. Without my oven, there would be no bread and life would not be worth living!
What time of the day do you do your best work?
Between 8 and 11 in the morning. After many years of working with an American firm, the quiet time was UK morning. It would be just me, the coffee machine, and my laptop. I could get stuff done. Even though those days are gone, the habit is stuck. My best work is in the morning.
Where in the world are you?
Petersfield, Hampshire, England
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