Blog post November 2011
Want your people to feel better about themselves and their work? Then take them through some gratitude exercises.
I see you cringing. Now before you become cynical – no, your workplace will not devolve into a cult of incessant hugging and crying – consider this: recent research in the field of positive psychology shows that when people express gratitude they feel happier, interact more positively and stay healthier than those who don’t.
So suspend your preconceptions, summon up your courage, and try at least one of the following:
1) Start your next meeting by having each person write a list of all the things about work for which they are grateful.
2) At the end of a meeting, take 10 minutes to have people “mingle and move on”, expressing one thing they appreciate about each person they connect with.
3) Ask each of your people to meet with / write to another employee for no other reason than to express thanks for something they hadn’t been thanked for.
4) Invite a supplier into your office. Have each employee who interacts with that supplier (or their products) express a specific gratitude.
5) Invite a customer into your office. Have each employee who interacts with that customer express a specific gratitude.
There, doesn’t seem so bad after all, does it?
At the front end of any major implementation - new CRM system, lean initiative, an acquisition - ask your people one key question: Why will this fail?
They know your organization's history; they know your culture. Make it permissible for them to tell you why they think the implementation will fail. If you don't ask, they will nod their heads up-and-down during your kickoff announcement then go back to the break-room and grumble, "That'll never work." Isn't it better to know they feel that way before you start? And why?
Planning for success is not the same as planning to avoid failure. You have to play both offense and defense. Training people on the new CRM system is playing offense. Not punishing them when they make mistakes is playing defense. Communicating the reasons for a new CRM system is playing offense. Communicating to overcome insecurity and uncertainty about the new system is playing defense.
Plan to succeed and plan not to fail.
"I don't like to micromanage," says the executive. "I like to give my people the freedom they need to be successful."
We all know that to get the most from our people we need to empower them. Right?
Some employees are discovering there's a dark side to so-called empowerment. It's when their managers fail to provide sufficient direction. When they don't identify boundaries. When they don't supply the needed tools. And when they come down hard for results that were never defined to begin with.
These employees don't feel empowered. They feel abandoned. Set up to fail by managers who lack focus and discipline. Managers who have fooled themselves into thinking that management no longer involves managing.
How can you ensure that you're empowering and not abandoning? First, make certain your people clearly understand the goals, what's expected of them and why. Next, ask yourself if they have the knowledge and skills to be successful. Then determine if they have sufficient resources.
Empowering your people when any of these elements is missing could be disastrous. The right results happen when you create an environment in which everything aligns with winning.
Yes, empowerment can be effective. But it's not enough.
Ruthless consistency is in the details. Very small things, done right many times, can have a massive effect.
They discovered this at a GE plant where the phosphorous coating is applied to fluorescent light bulbs. After the coating is applied the suspended light bulbs are moved through a drying system. And because phosphorous is expensive, a trough system catches the drops of phosphorous that fall throughout the drying process.
But it turned out that at this plant the trough system wasn't quite long enough to catch the very last drop of falling phosphorous. One drop. No big deal, right?
Think again. By extending the trough system to catch that last drop, the plant saved ... can you guess? ... over $150,000 per year. This is what I call the multiplier effect. Very small things, multiplied over a large number of instances, can have a huge impact.
Where does that multiplier effect come into play in your business? Where can you and your people find that one drop?
You know that in most cases money isn't what gets your people jacked up. In fact, money is a very limited motivator. It's well established that the intrinsic motivators - clear goals, recognition, making progress, a supportive environment - are much more robust. But which one has the most impact?
Most managers rate "recognition for good work" as the number one motivator. Rings true, doesn't it? The only problem is ... it isn't. "Making progress" is. When your people sense they're making progress at their work, their drive to succeed is at its peak. They feel an emotional high. And when they can't make progress because of obstacles - within the organization or outside of it - their drive gives way to helplessness and frustration.
People want to achieve. It makes them feel good about themselves. It makes them feel their work is meaningful. And it makes them feel valuable. Give your people the opportunity to succeed. Remove the obstacles and distractions that keep them from succeeding. And then, yes, remember to recognize them.