Few companies have found the holy grail of management: High Employee Engagement. In the average company, about 32 percent of employees are actively engaged in their work, and about 20 percent actively disrupt operations. But for those who figure it out, the rewards are unmistakable. Companies who score Continue reading
I have an enviable job; I get to help leaders figure out how to create productive, prosperous workplaces. Yesterday, Amanda Gianotti of Allogram Inc., and I spoke with the Women in Business at the Hunt Valley Business Forum. Our topic was Cultivating the Heart of Appreciation.
It is such a rich topic that we didn’t have time to answer all of our audience’s questions, so I’d like to provide forum for questions and commentary on the topic.
Here are a few of the questions that came-up during and after our presentation. Please let us know what is on your mind.
Q. If I work with someone who isn’t a great performer, should I still show them appreciation?
A. Yes. Appreciating and rewarding people are not necessarily the same thing, though they can be. Appreciation is about valuing people for who they are and how they were made. Rewards are for motivating.
Everyone is “deficient” in some way(s). It is easy for us to allow our frustration with others to blind us to their value. People who show sincere appreciation for others are able to exercise influence and leadership. Those who don’t have a much harder go of it.
Q. You said that everyone has a language of appreciation; how do I know someone’s language?
A. That’s the million dollar question! We generally find that people have a primary language and often a secondary language that speaks to them most clearly. A person tends to give what they want. A person who frequently encourages others is likely to have “Words of Affirmation” as their language. If you notice that a person frequently asks how they can help or readily jumps in to serve, he or she likely to understand “Acts of Service,” and that is the language you should speak to them.
What are your questions?
Christmas and the end of the fiscal year are fast approaching. That has a lot of people thinking about “employee appreciation.” Visions of parties, bonuses, promotions and sugar plum fairies are dancing through senior managers’ heads.
Parties can be a lot of fun, especially when people already feel good about each other and the company. Bonuses and promotions are fantastic, but they can be as elusive as sugar plum fairies as well. That’s okay because while parties, bonuses, and promotions are nice, they don’t always speak “I value you,” as much as you might think.
So, what can a manager give to show appreciation?
Managers, or anyone for that matter, can always give the gift of SUVS. It doesn’t cost much, if anything, at all. In honor of Employee Appreciation Day 2015, the Kronos Workforce Institute commissioned a survey of U.S employees. They found that what most people want in their workplace stocking is recognition for what they do. More than anything else people want others to see and appreciate that they are: 1) doing a good job like 90+ percent of the time, and 2) that their valued talents are contributing to the company’s success.
The Key to SUVs is:
See the people around you notice how they are made and what they contribute to the work community. This is easier said than done. The busyness of work and preoccupation with our own wants are formidable barriers to noticing others.
Understand: Study people to learn their motives, values, talents, and their Languages of Appreciation. Be curious about what you notice and explore it rather than glossing over it.
Value: Many of us are inclined to critique others, especially when they are not like us. Since there are about 7.3 billion people in the world, this is an inherently flawed approach. We have generational differences, gender differences, personality differences and dozens of different differences! While there are most certainly things that are morally right and wrong, good and bad, better and worse, many of us confuse our likeness as the standard. It is far wiser to look for the beauty in those differences.
Savor people like a fine wine. Just like fine wine, I am told, people are complex. There is much to enjoy about them if you take the time to dwell on their fine qualities.
The great thing about SUVS is that you can’t give it just at the Christmas party or just on Employee Appreciation Day. It takes time to See, Understand, Value and Savor people, and when you do gratitude will flow naturally from you. Hopefully, you will be able express it in a Language of Appreciation that people understand!
In my last post I shared four things you can do to create a zombie workforce. If you have a tribe of zombies but would rather have a team of zealots, this post is for you. Never fear; it can be done – there are a few things you can do to transform the most listless employees into motivated, engaged employees. But I warn you, patience is required since the transition back to life can take a while.
Part 2: From Zombies to Zealots
Promote Emotionally Intelligent People into Leadership
Leadership is all about influencing people. To do that you must first master your own demons and have empathy for other people. With that strong foundation a person is able to motivate him/herself as well as navigate the turbulent waters of others’ emotions and the politics of moving teams. Spotting emotionally intelligent people in your organization isn’t usually difficult. Here are a few signs of such people. They:
- express their feelings – productively,
- recover from let-downs relatively quickly,
- listen intently to others,
- attract people to themselves,
- confront conflict directly,
- find ways to use talents, and.
- are adaptable.
Spotting emotionally intelligent job applicants is more difficult, but it can be done with the aid of well-structured job interviews combined with personality assessments. Though this requires support from a professional, the return on your investment is well worth the up-front cost.
Nothing motivates a person as much as achieving something worthwhile, and sometimes anything whatsoever can be good enough to make a person’s day! Sports fans know this: a big play can ignite a team with a fresh “zealotry” and turn a certain defeat into victory. The keys to progress are:
- a clear goal,
- a clear path for achieving the goal,
- competence, and
Emotionally intelligent leaders know that progress is sometimes a matter of perspective and that persistence can be manufactured. Saying “we are already one-quarter there” encourages whereas saying “we have a long way to go” overwhelms. Strategies for persistence can be taught, and rewarding people for small accomplishments keeps them chugging along. No one can jump over a tall building in a single bound, but most everyone can walk to the top (and back) step by step. The emotionally intelligent leader encourages people to take one step at a time and cheers when they complete each flight of stairs.
Make Work Meaningful
Live people have a relentless desire to matter – to do things that make a difference to others.
Zealots will tell you that they are doing important work – work that helps people, creates value, and contributes to society. But they don’t stop there. Zealots will also tell you how they are using their talents, how they are challenged to solve problems, and how they are learning. Cynics will tell you that you have to hire people like this and that you can’t manufacture them, but they are wrong.
It’s the leader’s responsibility to design jobs that challenge people and to continually communicate the importance of each person’s role. It’s true: many jobs can become mundane over time. Knowing this, some wise leaders at GE introduced manufacturing employees to their customers and showed them the ultimate outcome of their labor. Without realizing the meaning of their work, people easily succumb to the daily trials it entails. They also lose focus, make poor decisions, and their energy seeps out of them. Finally, quality fails to remain important when people do not see the purpose in their work.
Feedback has the power to give people much of what they need to thrive. It’s the breakfast of champions. In fact, it has so many essential vitamins that it alone may have the power to transform a zombie into a zealot. The power comes from communicating:
- what actually matters to you,
- how to perform successfully,
- that you care about the person’s success,
- interest and approval, and
Silence communicates just the opposite. It’s not necessary for leaders to provide all of the feedback a healthy zealot needs. Instead, the leader’s job is to ensure the zealot gets what he needs. This is done by building feedback loops into the workflow so people get timely feedback on the outcomes of their efforts. These days, surgeons monitor patients’ vital signs as they operate, but that wasn’t always the case. As a result of the timely feedback surgeons get, more patients stick around to express their approval to surgeons for a job well done. That’s a good thing because I am sure surgeons prefer zealous recommendations to raids by vengeful zombies.
I am continually changing the TV channel to protect my children from images of horrifying zombies. If you share my aversion, perhaps we could work together to grow the population of zealots. It’s not complicated work, but it does take a measure of courage and mindfulness to promote emotionally intelligent leaders, drive progress, make work meaningful, and give people useful feedback. Will you join me in this effort?
Leaders know how frustrating it can be when team members fail to follow what seem to be simple directions to complete a task. It’s tempting to attribute the glitch on the staff member, but wisdom instructs leaders to rethink this notion. Instead the leader should consider whether the source of the problem might be his/her leader’s failure to communicate their purpose. “Purpose” tells people how to interpret orders, execute procedures, solve problems, resolve conflicts, and overcome unexpected challenges; it informs their judgment and allows them to improvise. “Purpose” is also the power behind initiative, goal setting, and perseverance. So it is always wise to communicate the purpose of a task or project when you assign it.
One way to ensure that you communicate your purpose is to use the C.A.P.E .S. acronym as a guide whenever you assign work.
Describe the situation, events, and conditions that are calling for action at this time.
Briefly tell the person what you want them to do. Concisely provide an amount of detail that matches their expertise. Include information on timelines, resources, and scope boundaries as well.
Describe why you want this work done, including goals, outcomes, and what is important about the work. Sometimes it can be important to use contrasting, which is telling the person what outcomes you do and do not intend to result.
Explain what you know:
Tell the person what to look out for, such as challenges they might face, problems that could arise, sensitive issues, and touchy stakeholders.
Invite the person to probe for more information. Converse with the person until they are clear about the “whats” and “whys” of the assignment.
© Credo Consulting, June 2012
The other night I watched two teenage sisters shine. They shined so brightly that their audience beamed with pride at their character and accomplishment. The girls volunteered to make a presentation and be coached in front of roughly fifty adults at a meeting of the Institute for Cultural Communicators (ICC). After diligent preparation and no small amount of creative labor, the girls stood in front of their audience ready to deliver their performance. What happened next reminded me of a paper my wife wrote entitled “Feedback: The Breakfast of Champions.” The girls confidently delivered their presentation. Then they consumed enough “breakfast” for a team of champions. Again and again they performed and consumed, performed and consumed. It was beautiful– and so were they.
With each cycle their presentation improved. The girls listened carefully and graciously, though it was no doubt trying to be jostled around by such direct feedback– don’t do that, try this, now this… In the end, the performance was greatly improved and so was, I believe, the audience. We, the audience, witnessed two young ladies gracefully accept and respond to a public critique of something they personally created and performed. The contrast with the adult workplace was glaring, at least to me.
As I reflect on the contrast and draw on my years of experience, here is what I see.
|Feedback is expected and wanted by both parties||Feedback is threatening to both parties|
|Feedback is essential to the process||Feedback is an exception to the process|
|Critics are viewed as partners||Critics are viewed as rivals|
|Accepting feedback is sign of character||Accepting feedback is sign of weakness|
I doubt that these girls have always taken feedback so well. Most people don’t. But I am pretty sure I know how they got to this point: Their goal is to improve, and their learning process is collaborative. Twice a month they gather with other students and adults to work on their communication skills. In those sessions they routinely give and get feedback just like breathing– in and out, give and get—and the results are exceptional.
…I wonder what would happen if adults in the workplace did the same thing