“In computing, BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) is the firmware used to perform hardware initialization during the booting process and to provide runtime services for operating systems and programs” - Wikipedia.

Like our silicon-based friends, I also need a way to make sure everything is booting up to be productive at my job. I needed a system, a framework, a mental model to help me focus on making work fun. Here is what I use, and with the magic that is wordplay, it has a familiar acronym:

BIOS - A mental model that keeps me motivated and productive

👪 Belonging: Do I feel safe and part of the team? Can I take risks?

🚀 Improvement: Am I challenged to learn new things?

👑 Ownership: Do I have the autonomy I need to get shit done?

💎 Significance: Is what I am doing important to me?

Everyone goes through ups and downs at work. A few months ago, while I was going through a hard time - I went searching to get my mojo back. Inspired by the “BICEPS” model I saw on Lara Hogan’s blog, I created my simplified model for addressing my core needs at work.

I’ve used BIOS when coaching new people managers and used it as a framework to debug problems in the team and create a work environment where people enjoy their job. It’s overly simplified, but it’s a great place to start when faced with issues in your team.

Score yourself: I usually ask my team members to score themselves on these factors. As you continue reading the rest of this post, just for fun, assign your score for each factor—zero (totally missing) to ten (it could not possibly be better).

👪 Belonging

  • You can say what’s on your mind.
  • You feel valued and respected in your team.
  • You can be yourself within your team.
  • You trust your team members.
  • You are fairly compensated, and your role and position are not bugging you.

There have been countless studies describing why the best teams (both in business and in sport) have (Psychological Safety)[https://hbr.org/2017/08/high-performing-teams-need-psychological-safety-heres-how-to-create-it].

Can you take risks in this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed?

We all (hopefully) know the feeling of fitting in. You are valued for what you bring to the team. You’re not afraid of asking dumb questions out of fear of losing respect. Even most of your lame jokes are funny.

That is the work environment you want to be in - you want your team to have your back, just like you have theirs. Don’t get me wrong; this is not about being an easy-going or comfortable team. You will and should challenge each other, but you should feel like it’s your work being critiqued and not you as a person (more on this in the Improvement section).

  • Quick note: A mistake I’ve seen many managers make is thinking about the wrong team here. When I ask managers: “What would you score your Belonging in the team?” For example, many answers a high score (8) but then as a follow-up, I ask, “Which team were you thinking about?”. When I clarify that, I’m looking for their Belonging score for their Peer team; the score usually falls to 6 or 5. It’s time to improve Belonging within the first team.*).

An idea to improve this factor: Start by being vulnerable and telling your team you want to enhance your Belonging within the team, perhaps even sharing this post with them and asking their help to improve Belonging overall.

🚀 Improvement

  • You work with people that you can learn from.
  • You’re not trying to be too clever and don’t feel like you need to have all the answers.
  • You are curious to understand and solve the problems you face
  • You have opportunities to learn and develop yourself

People who have a growth mindset learn from their mistakes, change their strategies and try new things — all essential characteristics of successful people.

Am I challenged to learn new things?

You should be open to learning new skills and approaches to problems. In your team, you should be able to challenge each other to reach their potential. When you stretch too far and fail (something that tends to happen when you’re learning something new), there are people to help you get back up, but you take responsibility (Ownership factor) and move on.

An idea to improve this factor: If you feel like there is no one you can learn from in your team and that you’re the most intelligent person in the room, probably you have closed yourself off and need to do some introspection about what you can still improve on. Every person in your team will bring something to the table. Find someone better than you at something in some meaningful way.

👑 Ownership

  • You don’t have to ask permission for your area.
  • You have the flexibility to make decisions and deal with the consequences.
  • You help decide what is important and set the direction for your part.
  • You feel a sense of control over your work.

We do a better job when they have a sense of ownership or personal responsibility for our work.

Do I have the autonomy I need to get the shit done?

People who feel like they own a problem or, more importantly, own the project’s impact are more likely to take the initiative, work autonomously, and get into a start of “flow”. Most people want to do a good job - finish things on time and with good quality. But when we don’t have ownership, the excuses creep in: “I did not know it’s my job to do X”. (Manager reminder: Make the accountability clear)

An idea to improve this factor: Take a problem in the workplace (big or small) and fix it. Share your contribution and ask how you can help more. Responsibility is not given; it’s taken.

💎 Significance

  • Your work is consistent with your values and the sense of who you are.
  • Your work has a positive impact on society
  • Your job is an opportunity to make a difference
  • You are proud of who you work for

We all have limited time, and we want to spend it on something that matters to us.

Is what I am doing important to me?

I’ve noticed that many people struggle to see how their work positively impacts society. When you’re a nurse or a teacher, it’s easy to see, but what about something like fast food delivery service or finance

  • Aren’t you just making lazy people fatter?
  • Are you just making the 1% more rich, right?

Well, yes, but…

  • Food waste is a huge problem, and with more people having access to food delivery, they can get food cheaply and with less food waste.
  • Having money in the bank is very empowering to people, significantly if you can help them grow that capital Not all business models will solve climate change. But you can always find a way to do your part - for example, being a great manager or making developers life a little easier by developing a stable deployment pipeline (the little things matter).

An idea to improve this factor: Take some time to think about how your work impacts society. What customer need is your company solving, how does that impact communities? Can you help make your company a little bit greener? How can you help your colleagues?

What’s your BIOS score?

Did you score yourself on these four factors? If you scored a factor below 7 out of 10? You should probably start looking for another job. Just joking - most of these factors are in your control. I recommend choosing one of them and focusing on improving it. The factors influence each other, so by improving one, I usually see the others go up as well.

From my experience, Belonging is the critical factor. It’s the one I always neglect, but it’s luckily the easiest to improve. So I recommend starting there - You got this!

I would love to get your feedback on BIOS and if it helped you. Please reach out on Twitter or Email.

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