Make Work Better - An Interview with Heather Fowler of Mary Jane's People
Hi! Tell us about you and why you founded Mary Jane’s People.
I wanted to be an actor as a child, so I got into HR instead. Little did I know, I get to wear just as many hats in a day as I ever would as an actor. Since then, I have grown people teams in various industries domestically and globally. I’m also a cannabis connoisseur for a little longer than I’ve worked in HR. Thankfully, in September of 2021, after a long weekend of watching Phish, I merged my two loves into one. I came out of the cannabis closet and started building people teams for the cannabis community.
I worked through the dot.com bust, 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, a little legal cannabis, climate change, social unrest, and four generations working together - - and then, in 2020, life paused for all of us on the planet and gave us a moment. Fortunately, in that pause, I had a brief chance to take time off and start thinking about how to make work better for all of us.
With a month of downtime, inspiration, and then some research, a path to make work better was developed using practical approaches based on Self–Determination Theory, an intrinsic motivation theory developed by Drs. Richard Ryan and Edward Deci of Rochester University.
Can you speak more about Self-Determination Theory?
For sure. We make work better using the intrinsic motivational theory called Self Determination Theory as the building block of your organization.
It is important to note that the first step to make work better is to meet the worker’s basic safety and security needs at work, which means employees earn a livable wage with affordable health benefits.
With these basic safety and security needs met, employees don’t worry about how the phone bill is getting paid or whether a health crisis will bankrupt them. Because of this, workers are more engaged, which directly increases productivity and positively impacts the bottom line.
Let me talk more about SDT and how to make work better.
Make Work Better
Self-Determination Theory is a human motivation theory developed in the 1970s through studies on extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. From those studies, Drs. Richard Ryan and Edward Deci published the book Self-Determination and Intrinsic Motivation in Human Behavior, focusing on our basic psychological needs - autonomy, competency, and relatedness.
Over the next several decades, Deci and Ryan developed the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) of motivation, which toppled the dominant belief that the best way to get human beings to perform tasks is to reinforce their behavior with rewards.
Meeting our basic needs is essential to our growth, integrity, and wellness and is universal to our human nature across all cultures.
Autonomy means having a choice and removing constraints or pressure, being self-directed, and acting voluntarily - it is not individualism, independence, or doing it your way.
Competency is continuing to grow and develop in our areas of interest. It’s attaining an outcome and experiencing growth.
Relatedness is about feeling connected to each other. We are most content and satisfied when we have relationships and a community. When we act benevolently, we feel we matter because we’re contributing to something outside ourselves.
Learn more about Self-Determination Theory and Work here: https://selfdeterminationtheory.org/topics/application-organizations/
My human resources and recruiting firm, Mary Jane’s People, use the three pillars of self-determination theory: autonomy, competency, and relatedness to make work better by making people the highest priority, building the team you want to be on, and then connecting to the community.
You make work better by getting people engaged in what they do. You make it better by focusing on a few basic things about people. They want options, choices, and structured flexibility. And finally, they need people.
Can you provide some examples of autonomy, competency, and relatedness?
An autonomous environment supports choices, flexibility, and support; a competency-supported climate offers learning and growth, and an environment where relatedness thrives, connection, and benevolence are present. All are interconnected and addressed through various factors. You probably have elements already in place, and a good starting place is to ask three questions about autonomy, competency, and relatedness.
What questions should I ask about my team?
Does my team know our mission and core values? And do our mission and core values have meaning?
Does each team member understand the expectations of their role? Are they empowered to perform and focus on results?
Does my team work towards their own learning goals that we built together?
Does my team serve and learn from each other and other groups?
What recommendations do you have for leaders to make work better?
Leaders may assess the environment and take a pulse check on their team with a survey or group meeting.
Be sure to acknowledge changes and transitions and any other items up for discussion. The team notices and they want you to talk about it too.
Celebrate big and small wins and achievements regularly.
Check-in to ensure alignment on expectations and that successful results are in process.
Help through coaching and feedback.
Clear and consistent communication establishes a flow to build trust, collaboration, and cohesion.
Speak to others the way you want others to speak to you.
We want to choose, we want to learn, and we want to connect
The most beautiful thing about self-determination theory is that it can be applied to multiple relationships in our lives, and it's applicable across the world and every culture. It applies to parenting our children, nurturing our love relationships, teaching in classrooms, and coaching on the field.
Don’t control, learn, serve and mentor
People thrive with established expectations and are free to execute with a focus on results.
People thrive in an environment that allows them to learn and grow.
People thrive when they can connect and serve others.