June 02, 2021

Redefining success — A conversation with Mackenzie Jameson

This is the second post in a four-part series titled “Redefining work.”

Maybe it’s the rising summer temperatures, or the precipitous drop in new COVID-19 infections, but you’ve probably felt a noticeable sense of being in the midst of a “new beginning,” and an upswell in eagerness to re-enter the world with fresh eyes. Amidst all this optimism, there’s a risk of reverting to the way things were, despite all that’s changed. One thing that’s changed for many people is the idea of “success.” 

In the Great Before, when it seemed like 2020 might be business-as-usual, what did our vision of “success” look like for those months ahead? How has that idea changed since the pandemic, and in what ways can we metabolize that change to set our people up for success as they define it

As we return to the workplace and enter the long-anticipated “next normal,” we now have the opportunity to reevaluate what success looks like, and reshape our work lives to fit an evolving workforce. 

Mackenzie Jameson, Chief of Staff of Spectrum Designs, has a unique vantage point for redefining success post-pandemic. Spectrum Designs, which supports individuals on the Autism spectrum in leading full and productive lives at work, faced the pressures of being deemed an “essential business.”

We spoke with Jameson, who shared that Spectrum’s managers are learning to “problem-solve together and coach individuals to the point of success at the level that they wish to. When that comes from leaders at the top, that’s when we see the biggest impact of change on any given individual.” 

Read more about empowering your leaders to take bold action for the future of work they want to see. 

As is often the case, what makes life at work better for neurodiverse people, like those Spectrum Designs serves, can make life at work better for everyone.

Demand for a personalized work experience is on the rise, so it’s not surprising that people have different ideas of what they want to achieve. Traditional management-focused upward mobility isn’t the only version of success, and one’s title isn’t the only marker of success.

On the topic of “success” being a personal matter, Jameson said, “Do you know where your people want to go in 5 years — what does this person value? That will help you know what success looks like to them and what motivates them.”

“Success” also comes from: 

  1. Relationships: The authentic connections created at work matter, and are meaningful. Opportunities to nurture these relationships through cross-functional and cross-level collaboration go a long way in your people’s sense of success. In the next normal, be sure that employee engagement isn’t defined just by how engaged people are with their work, but also by how engaged they are with each other.
    1. To this point, Jameson shared: “We’d been so disconnected throughout the pandemic that it really forced us to communicate and work out loud. That’s a lesson we will take with us into this next phase of recovery.”
  2. Growth: Getting to develop one’s skills and confidence goes a long way toward a sense of fulfillment. Creating the space and psychological safety for people to try new things means a short-term tradeoff in productivity, but yields long-term gains in engagement.
  3. Ownership: The pride in seeing the impact of one’s contributions is a key element of belonging at work. Opportunities to take the lead on a project or a strategy can be a major driver of motivation, especially for people whose desired growth paths don’t involve managing people.
  4. Work-life balance: After a year of blurring boundaries, true work-life balance feels more precious than ever. Get crystal clear on what this realistically looks like for the individuals on your team. Everyone’s needs are different: parents will need more time at home, and singles are at greater risk than ever of overworking and burning out. Eschew one-size-fits-all solutions in favor of allowing people the flexibility they need to thrive.

Mackenzie Jameson’s tips:

  • Carve out dedicated time for managers to problem-solve together with individual contributors.
  • Take care of one another: make sure everyone is heard by reviewing themes from exit interviews or culture surveys.
  • Be proactive in employee engagement—a little goes a long way. Start by creating time and space for authentic connection and conversation.
  • Maintain the focus on psychological safety. Building trust and a brave space for folks to share and be heard is paramount to finding our way into the next normal of work. 

Looking ahead

Remember, as we co-create a path forward, it’s important to remember it’s okay to admit we don’t have all the answers. What matters right now is that we allow room for growth and readjustment. It’s all an experiment.

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