Managing well with ikigai

Goed managen door ikigai

Have you ever heard of ikigai? This Japanese concept could well change the way you understand and manage your employees.

We’re seeing a growing awareness among workers who are looking for meaning in their work. Am I really happy at work? Am I happy with my current life? What would I change to be truly satisfied? The notion of ikigai answers these questions. We’ll explain.

What is Ikigai?

Ikigai is a Japanese word meaning “reason for being”. This concept was popularized in the West in the 1970s by Professor Akihiro Hasegawa, psychiatrist and principal researcher of the ikigai concept. For him, ikigai is “the feeling that we are alive here and now, and the individual consciousness that drives us to survive”.

Achieving ikigai requires self-reflection. According to Professor Hasegawa, the ikigai is divided into four parts. The first concerns what we like to do: our tastes, our interests. The second part focuses on what we’re good at: our talents, know-how and skills. Next, we need to think about what we can be paid for: what skills could be put at the service of a company to receive remuneration in return. Finally, the last part is about what the world needs: what value we add to the world.

When you put all these elements together, you get ikigai. It’s the assembly of all these parts that enables fulfillment, and not just the addition of two of them, which represents the foundation. For example, if you do a job you love and are good at, it’s called passion. If you’re doing something you love and the world needs, it’s a mission. A vocation, on the other hand, represents work that the world needs and for which you can be paid. Finally, the last foundation, profession, represents something you’re good at and can expect to be paid for. You’ll only be in ikigai if you’re in a job that you love, that you’re good at, that you’re paid for and that’s useful to the world.

Ikigai is a very personal concept. That’s why there’s no point in comparing yourself to others. What’s more, ikigai is never really acquired. Passions, skills, know-how: these are all things that change over the course of a lifetime, so ikigai is constantly evolving.

Ikigai: a management lever

If ikigai enables each individual to find personal fulfillment, company directors and managers have everything to gain by seeking it out and identifying it in their employees. Here are a few reasons why the concept will work for everyone.

First of all, ikigai allows us to focus on our individual strengths. This action has two objectives: firstly, to raise awareness of the strengths and know-how of each individual and enable them to put these to good use for the benefit of the collective. It’s easier and more pleasant to work in a company when everyone knows their skills and knows how to put them to good use. Enthusiasm and proposals will be more frequent.

Ikigai also fosters team complementarity. That’s what makes it possible to find the right balance. This collective effort naturally leads to better performance, both within the team and the company.

Last but not least, motivating and retaining employees is no easy task. Bringing out the ikigai in your employees, and identifying it, means taking care of their well-being. It means avoiding burn out (work saturation), bore out (exhaustion through boredom) or brown out (loss of meaning). Since, in theory, ikigai is the perfect balance between passion, vocation, mission and calling, it’s more difficult to suffer from these pathologies. Ikigai gives greater meaning to everyone’s work.

How can I help my employees achieve their ikigai?

How can you identify or bring out the ikigai in your employees? The first step would be to clearly express the company’s missions, values and objectives. Without this, it’s difficult for employees to project and position themselves within the organization. Then it’s up to the company to encourage each individual to take the time to reflect and ask themselves the right questions. This work is personal and requires a great deal of thought. It’s important that each person understands the personal and professional benefits of this reflection. Workshops or training courses can be set up on the company side, to guide employees in their introspection.

Then, once everyone has been able to identify where their ikigai lies, it’s easier to assign each person the roles and missions that correspond to them in order to get closer to it. Don’t forget that ikigai is a team-building tool. The differences that may arise from each person’s introspection are a source of dialogue between colleagues. That’s why using ikigai can help solve a collective problem. To achieve this, it’s a good idea to set not only the common goal, but also the steps needed to get there. In this way, all employees have an overview and understand their position within the project.

It’s important to understand that ikigai is a way of managing in its own right. Managers need to listen to their teams, to understand each individual. We don’t necessarily just talk about work here, but about everyday life. A manager lends an attentive ear to discussions during lunch breaks, coffee breaks and afterworks. In this way, he understands each person’s value system, passions and motivations.

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