Space to Speak Honestly Gives Us Power
Our ability to create a forward-thinking workplace and a better world hinges on our ability to have open and honest discussions.
Andy Yen is the founder and CEO of Proton Technologies AG. The Swiss-based Proton Technologies is building a suite of security software solutions including ProtonMail, the world’s largest secure email, and ProtonVPN, a security-focused VPN service that enables Internet access without surveillance.
Our ability to create a forward-thinking workplace and a better world hinges on our ability to have open and honest discussions to share our knowledge and ideas.
Fortunately, there are companies like Proton Technologies and people like Andy Yen who are delivering the means to do so. Helping to ensure the privacy of our words survive in the digital age is the reason Andy and his team get up every day passionately motivated to go to work. Discover how creating spaces where we can speak honestly gives us power.
— BillBill Fox, Founder, Forward Thinking Workplaces
Andy Yen: Founder/CEO of Proton, creators of ProtonMail, ProtonVPN, etc.
At Forward Thinking Workplaces, we are discovering the people, insights, and strategies that lead to Forward Thinking minds, leaders, and workplaces of the future — today!
How can we create workplaces where every voice matters, everyone thrives and finds meaning, and change and innovation happen naturally?
Andy Yen: Inside our company, one thing that’s helped us a lot is having a rather flat hierarchy. Everybody can contribute ideas no matter what their level is in the organization.
We have a culture where anybody who wants to talk to the upper management can. This allows everyone to have a sense that their voice matters. It also allows ideas to come from any corner of the organization. Even ideas for one department can come from a different department. This open sharing of knowledge and ideas helps us be more innovative and allows us to change and adapt more quickly.
What does it take to get an employee’s full attention and best performance?
Andy: You need to have an efficient workforce to be competitive. For getting the best performance and full attention, it’s getting the right fit for people.
There’s always a job description, but it’s very rare when someone is 100% perfect fit down to the last detail. Everybody has their individual quirks, habits, strengths, and weaknesses. It’s important to tailor people’s duties to leverage their strengths and weaknesses. This requires management to be more flexible and tentative at the beginning. When you get people into a role where they fit, then you see that the results become dramatically better.
What are people really lacking and longing for at work?
Andy: The key thing that people miss is having real meaning to their work. Many people do jobs without knowing what is the purpose or the big picture of how their work is changing the world. This is what we call a dead end or even a bullshit job.
It’s important to reduce those types of jobs. Make sure that everybody has a lot of meaning in their work, so people can see the impact their work has on the world. It’s the management’s responsibility to convey that to the workforce.
Bill: What is the most important question leaders should ask employees?
Andy: It’s very important for management to ask questions to employees. The most important question is to ask employees, how can you do your job better?
Often there’s a tendency to tell employees how to do their jobs. But in fact that’s not effective because many times managers themselves don’t know how to do the job. It’s much better to ask the employees, who are experts in their area, how they actually could do their job better. What resources do they need? What changes would help them be more effective? Then incorporate that feedback into the way they do their jobs.
Bill: What is the most important question employees should ask leaders?
Andy: The key factor is to make sure people have the right motivation. Then people can learn faster, adapt faster, and will work harder.
As an employee, you need to be at a job that keeps you motivated. So it’s important to understand the vision or the big picture of the company and where the business is going. The key question employees need to ask management is, what is the vision for this company? Where is it going? If the answer doesn’t motivate the employee, then they are probably in the wrong place.
What is the most important question we should ask ourselves?
Andy: Whether you’re a manager or an employee, the main question I’ll ask is, are we proud of our work? Is your job making the world a better place? Is it something that is improving people’s lives? Is it something that 40 years later you can say, “You know, my life was well spent. I made a difference.”
That’s a question we all can ask ourselves. If you’re working at a tobacco company, that may not be a job you look back at and say, “Wow, I improved people’s lives. I did well there.” Maybe we shouldn’t have the world’s best talent working on that.
Companies that are building new technologies, innovating, and making life better, that’s where we need to focus the world’s talents. Therefore, it’s very important for everybody to ask, is this work we can be proud of?
Note: This is an excerpt taken from The Future of the Workplace. Andy shares more on privacy in The Future of the Workplace.
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— Bill Fox, Founder, Forward Thinking Workplaces