When employees are unhappy, you inherently spend more time as management focusing inwardly vs. outwardly. It forces you to take your eye off customers, which will always lead to challenges. Having a motivated and engaged workforce (your most valuable asset) focused on your most important user (the customer and the external environment), is what drives productivity and profitability. I do believe there are studies that show a link between happiness, gratitude, and health (both physical and mental). That’s no different with your workforce — unhappy employees will inherently be less productive, and likely, less healthy.
As a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bruce Morgan. Bruce is the SVP of Meetings Management and LATAM at BCD Meetings & Events. He has over 20 years of diverse experience in sales and marketing management, global event management, performance improvement and marketing services for two of the largest global agencies in the industry. Bruce’s primary focus is driving new sales and expanding current business within BCD M&E’s Meetings Management customers.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I knew in high school I wanted to pursue a career in something I liked, hopefully, loved. I know now that’s easier said than done. I liked TV and sports at the time, so I actually stuck with that plan by interning at a TV station. However, I soon realized that path was not for me. I studied Production and Marketing in college and took a job in the meetings and events industry as a Production Assistant. From there, I had the opportunity to move to Atlanta and support the agency’s new Sports Marketing function around the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games (Sports!). The rest is history.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Well to be clear, I don’t “lead” the entire company — I am one of our senior leaders within the Meetings & Events division. I would say the journey overall has been the most interesting story of my career. From being one of three senior leaders in 2004 and managing a company of 110+ employees all in the U.S., to today having over 1500+ employees globally. There have been many ups and downs along the way, but nothing has been more rewarding than seeing people grow and develop, with quite a few of our best talent spreading their wings elsewhere and then coming back. It’s very inspiring.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I just moved from managing our Latin America region to now managing most of the Americas (including North America/U.S.). There is a lot on the horizon with many exciting initiatives my team is working on. Transforming our people-driven solutions in the digital age is always top of mind — both launching new proprietary products in the marketplace and also adopting new solutions internally to make us more efficient and effective for our clients.
Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
I think it’s a combination of choices employees make and what employers are not doing. The happiest employees are typically doing something they love, and we need to encourage our team members to figure out what that is. I recognize that not every job may provide that, but when possible, I believe it’s up to employees to pursue what motivates them and get involved in industry, organizations, roles, etc. that genuinely interest them. If you made a mistake somewhere along the way, be brave enough to change. Likewise, employers need to realize their people are not static — they are on a journey through their career, and you need to recognize if your organization is acting like a landmark to sightsee on that journey or providing the mode of transportation for the journey. Identifying disengaged employees is not hard to do — acting on that data is where I believe most organizations fail.
Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?
I don’t have research on this topic — but I do have experience. When employees are unhappy, you inherently spend more time as management focusing inwardly vs. outwardly. It forces you to take your eye off customers, which will always lead to challenges. Having a motivated and engaged workforce (your most valuable asset) focused on your most important user (the customer and the external environment), is what drives productivity and profitability. I do believe there are studies that show a link between happiness, gratitude, and health (both physical and mental). That’s no different with your workforce — unhappy employees will inherently be less productive, and likely, less healthy.
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
- Listen (ask questions)
- Act on feedback
- Embrace change
- Be honest & upfront — even when the message may not be perfect
- Provide a vision, for both the company and the individual employee’s role within it — how do they connect?
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?
Focus on results over rigor. Have the mechanisms to track all audience and stakeholder engagement. Yes, look at revenue and profits, but look at other KPI’s as well. What if a 4-day work week drives better results for your business and leaves you with happier employees? Are you brave enough to embrace that? Hire people you trust and give them a voice to improve productivity and engagement. As a society, how do we define “success?” Are there different definitions of success that can still thrive in a capitalist and free market economy like ours? Recognizing and celebrating different definitions of success will allow future generations to make choices that define them through new lenses. The decade of excess, the 80’s, is now almost 40 years ago — yet our markers of success have not changed much.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
Open, candid, empowering. My job is to help my team understand what my expectations are for the role they are in, and what is important to succeed in that role. Then I empower the individual to find their best path to reach those goals. We are not robots — no two are alike — a management style that is inflexible and overly rigid will stifle those who need more, or less, involvement from their managers.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I started my career in the early 90’s, and while it was not the 50’s, there were still gender biases and expectations in the workplace. Two of my first three managers were women, and as a young(er) man I learned so much from watching them navigate the male-orientated business world — both domestically and internationally. It was an honor to work for them and learn under their management. Oftentimes I learned more from what they did and how they acted rather than what they said or taught. My first ever “manager” was also a production leader so he was very non-corporate. He showed me that being yourself is an important part of being happy in a job. If you’re faking it, eventually, that baggage will weigh you down.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
First, my greatest achievement is raising two (relatively) smart, curious and respectful 16-year-old boys who will ultimately be the legacy when I leave this world. We are actively involved in giving back to the community we live in. I also spend a lot of time traveling internationally and, having lived in both Europe and U.S., I spend a lot of time trying to ensure my hosts understand westerners are not just what is portrayed on TV and in social media. Globally we are more alike than we are different — and that reality is wonderful to help reinforce and embrace.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There are a couple of quotes I often reference when it comes to people management/engagement and career advice:
- Always run to something, not from something
- Employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Fundamentally, I believe if you walk a day in anyone else’s shoes, regardless of any inherent bias or prejudice, your eyes will be opened to their reality. As such, I would reinstate a social service aspect to any student in the western world applying to college. Three months mandatory spent in a 3rd world country serving those less fortunate, or potentially in more impoverished communities in your own country. The three months would be required to graduate. Then six months or longer would either provide incremental financial aid or allow you to graduate sooner. In the end, if our most educated world citizens felt more personally connected to those who are less fortunate, I can’t help but believe it would help.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!