People on a team, even a small, collaborative team, may not be motivated by the same things or in the same way. A leader can give a rousing motivational talk that she thinks she has hit out of the park and still leave half her team feeling unmoved. This is not uncommon, nor is it necessarily a recipe for disaster. But it is worth noting.
Motivation needs to happen one person at a time. It can be exhausting for a leader, and those that can’t or won’t make the effort may soon find themselves in a role that doesn’t require such intimate contact with individuals. Keeping a team focused on their goals and collaborating in an engaged manner requires understanding and touching the needs and motivators of each individual. And each individual is different.
So leaders, strap on your helmets, and put your heads down and get in there. If you think you can do it with a hands off approach, you are dreaming. Think about it from an employee point of view? What if they are thinking- Why should I care about this? Why are we doing it this way when my way is better? This is a waste of my time! You want to know and respond to these types of concerns. If you don’t, then what?
How many small team meetings have you attended where leadership has allowed the conversation to go off topic and then off agenda in a heartbeat? One thought leads to another and then another, and before you know it left field is a distant memory. Expand this happening across an entire company on a daily, weekly and monthly basis and it is easy to understand how goals are missed, projects are not completed and ideas not turned into something truly tangible.
Company leaders need to be like orchestra leaders. They need to keep everybody playing the same music, in synch with everyone else. This requires both a soft touch, and when necessary, a heavy hand. And of course, more than anything, it requires an understanding of where “true north” is and the roadmap to get there. Then it takes the ability and the willingness to communicate it continuously so that folks don’t get lost.
Orchestras have to rehearse constantly to reach performance level. Organizations do too. Practice makes perfect, or as close to perfect as humans can get. Each department of a company, like each section of an orchestra, must collaborate with the others, and each individual within a section must collaborate with team members. Leaders have the role of keeping everyone, at every level, as focused as possible.
What would your company orchestra sound like?
Your employees seem happy. You haven’t really noticed any major discontent. But what are they saying to their family? Their friends? When was the last time you paid attention to the values you espouse and how they are being enacted in the workplace? Do you really know your current culture and how your employees feel about it?
Just as it is important to know what your customers are saying about your products and services, it is critical to understand your employees’ needs and concerns. What does it mean for your company if the employees are complaining about company integrity,lack of accountability, refusal or inability to innovate and lack of leadership? Do you want to know, or is ignorance bliss? And if you do know, what do you do about it- brush it off because what do they know anyway?
Leaders take heed. Employees are brand messengers and at the same time representatives of the culture. Don’t ignore their messages. Give them an opportunity to be heard at work and take seriously what they say. Compare what they say to what you would like them to be saying. How big is the gap? Do something or not? Ignore them at your own risk and the risk of your company’s sustainability.
Employees that interview well and ultimately get hired show enthusiasm, confidence and engagement. They are not a bundle of stress and anxieties. Who wants to hire and deal with that? Yet a glance inside most companies finds a high percentage of employees who are stressed out and lacking engagement. What happened? They didn’t come this way.
Many employers justify this change by saying that “this is the big leagues and what we do is hard” and employees need to suck it up and keep going. Sounds like they are trying out for the movie role of a Marine drill sergeant.
Conditions at work are what cause employee stress most of the time. It can come from unreasonable bosses, unreasonable workload, lack of collaboration, lack of voice, lack of decision making authority, being used in a position that does not take advantage of a person’s skills or talents or any combination of them.
People welcome a challenge at work, particularly if presented in the right way; if it allows them to do what they do best and if they have the right team around them to be successful. Much stress is not from the challenge itself but from the absence of the factors that enable employees to successfully meet it.
If you see stressed out employees, what do you do? Do you consider it normal? Do you want to reduce it, and if so, have you considered how? If not, you are complicit in the erosion of your own human assets that are costing your organization big money. Remember, they didn’t come to you this way. What are you going to do to undo what your company has done to them?
As everyone knows, the economy has not been great, especially for middle market and small business. Leaders are constantly looking for ways to fix what they perceive as broken in order to get over the next hurdle. Rather than doing that, it will serve organizations much more if everyone takes a step back, pauses, and reflects on what they are doing well. Appreciating the positive, encouraging even small successes while identifying and building on strengths could reap better results than constant attempts at “fixes.”
People don’t want to be “fixed”, they would prefer to grow and develop. Displaying core values through behaviors that support them make the culture and the brand strong, The employees that exemplify those values through their behaviors are the heroes who need to be emulated and replicated. Let those who are the cultural champions lead the charge, and watch what gets “fixed” along the way.