Why a bit of ‘warm & fuzzy’ is important for motivating teams

How to motivate people has been a topic of conversation which has come up several times for me over the last couple of weeks.

Previously, I have written about the principles of autonomy, mastery, purpose which Dan Pink promotes in his book ‘Drive’. The theory set out in the book is one I believe in strongly but talking about it with others has made me realise that there is a further aspect that needs to be considered.

I’ve also written before about the value and importance of the ‘cuddle’ hormone oxytocin and I think there is something important here that helps to motivate people to come to work and give their best.

It’s a complex environment we are working in today and technology has sped up the pace of change. News is instant and we are expected to be able to respond and change direction very quickly. Certainly, working with lots of small charities, I see leaders and staff delivering in tough conditions, trying to push on forward despite high levels of uncertainty.

It takes a lot of resilience to keep going under these circumstances and I think that there is some ‘warm fuzzy stuff’ that leaders can easily implement which helps to keep people motivated.

Recognition – firstly, when people work hard, they want to be recognised for their efforts. This doesn’t have to take the form of big awards but just something to show that they have been noticed, whether that is an individual or the whole team, sometimes both probably, just let them know they have been seen.
Appreciation – say thank you! In whatever form you are most comfortable with and preferably often. A common view seems to be that work is transactional i.e. people come to work, do the job and get paid which should be thanks enough. It isn’t enough though if you want a motivated, high performing team. For that, you need to give a bit more which means saying and doing things that make people feel appreciated.

Celebration – celebrate often, let staff enjoy being at work and feel good about what they have achieved. Far too often, we finish one thing and move straight on to another with no looking back. If your team works hard and delivers success, encourage them to take time out to reflect and celebrate their achievements however small.

Whilst I believe these things are important all year round, I also think that Christmas is a point in the calendar where we should take a moment to reflect on what’s gone well, thank people for their contribution and celebrate the achievements of the year gone by.  So this year, why don’t you think about how you use these ideas to ensure you have an empowered and motivated team for 2020.

 

Like this article? Have your own experience to share? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

 

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(Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay)

Why putting people first pays dividends for employers

A few articles have come to my attention recently around flexible working and in particular the challenges for working parents in what can sometimes be a fight to get employers to recognise the value in supporting employees to achieve a good balance.

Beginning my career working for myself, I was able to see the benefits of flexible working, being able to fulfil my professional responsibilities at times that worked for me and also manage personal commitments. Since then, I have championed flexibility in the workplace and heard both employers and staff challenge this over the years.

One article that really spoke to me recently shared the story of a woman who had returned from maternity leave and requested flexible working arrangements. As part of a restructure, her line Manager decided that all roles needed to be full-time and her application was turned down. A legal case decided that the employer had made this decision without evidence and the tribunal resulted in a finding of Unfair Dismissal and Indirect Sex Discrimination.

Another article that I came across yesterday, shared the story of an employer who came into the office and found a woman crying at her desk. When he asked why, he discovered that she had been up all night with a sick child and had come into work because she had no leave that she could use and needed to be paid.

Now, I’m guessing that many employers feel wary of giving an inch in case people take a mile and before you know it, you are paying for staff who are never there. I do think though that parents especially can be in a difficult situation, trying to pay high costs of childcare, deliver for their employer and meet the needs of their offspring.

It reminds me of a quote I saw the other week: “We expect women to work like they don’t have children and raise children as if they don’t work.” This isn’t exclusively women anymore but the pressure is still the same and I do hear strong opinion from other mums against women who choose to work full-time.

What I find in managing my team is that they want to be in work and do their jobs well. It’s a fact though that sometimes home and family commitments need more immediate attention in the same way that some days they need to work late or over the weekend. They don’t mind giving their own time for work commitments so why would I make it difficult for them when they have issues at home they need to deal with? If their car had broken down, I would let them take the time they need to fix it so why wouldn’t I let them have the flexibility they need when their child is sick?

Companies that have a flexi-time system can be useful in these situations but I still see so many of these systems based on initial theory from the model’s inception which fails to offer genuine flexibility. And I hear of even more employers that say ‘flexible working is great but it wouldn’t work here’. These are most likely the same employers that want their staff in the office late every night or working on demand.

What I’m saying here is that many people with caring responsibilities want to work and it’s often even more important for this group because they want balance but for very practical reasons, it needs to be both ways.

Also, I think that it pays dividends when employers put people first because it returns a level of loyalty and commitment that money can’t buy.

Do you manage people flexibly with positive results?  Do you have experience to share on flexible working requests? If so, please share in the comments below.

 

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(Image by William Iven from Pixabay)

Perfecting an 80/20 ‘balance’ that nurtures talent and celebrates success

Recently, I was speaking at an internal session on managing performance and explained why I believe the role of a leader is to help people be the best they can be.

The discussion began when we were asked to identify measures of staff satisfaction and organisational success.  One of the first things that came up was staff retention with many believing this this is a sign of problems.

Now, I accept that if staff start leaving in numbers then it can indicate that there is a problem which needs to be addressed but I asked them to consider a different possibility: perhaps it shows that people are being managed well, developing skills and progressing to the next level.

When asked, I explained to the group that I strongly believe part of my responsibility as a leader is to develop people.  This means that they should grow professionally during their time in a role, gaining new skills and enjoying a boost in confidence.  Ideally, they would then rise through the ranks and feel the satisfaction and fulfilment of working for an organisation that nurtures talent, utilises this appropriately and rewards people for their success.

However, in a small organisation, it can be hard to do this and so it needs to be OK to develop people so that they can move on.  If people move on to better things as a result of what they learnt with me, then I consider that a good outcome for the organisation.  I also find that it means we have champions in the wider world and many of my staff are still working with us in their new roles.

Doing things in this way creates ambassadors who can raise awareness of our work with their new colleagues and partners.

 

The 80/20 rule

In terms of how I ensure people are able to develop, I believe in an 80/20 rule.  Put simply, this means that individuals should spend 80% of their time doing things they feel they are good at and 20% stretching themselves.

To help me identify their strengths and development areas, I ask staff to complete a personal development plan which allows them to list their skills, achievements and goals.  We then sit down and have a discussion about what they have included and I might make further suggestions about anything I think is missing.  People don’t always see something as a strength or a talent so I might explore certain things with them to highlight any skills I think they have but don’t recognise.

This provides a framework for which they can develop an action plan to push themselves forwards.

 
The theory part

One of the key theories that underpins my leadership style is Dan Pink’s work on motivation which argues that the three things people need to be successful at work is autonomy, mastery and purpose.

The 80/20 rule means that they spend 80% of their time utilising their strengths and working towards mastery.  If their time is spent mostly on things they enjoy and feel they are good at, then they will feel good most of the time and will be doing things that fire them up, satisfy them and allow them to feel confident.

From that place, they can focus on the other 20% which should be about things they either don’t want to do (we all have those things) and things that they want/need to learn to be the best they can be.

The key to success with the 20% is to have a clear action plan which identifies skills and competencies that need to be developed in order to achieve career goals.  This should include steps that will be taken to ensure that individual can push forwards and make tangible progress towards their goals.

In terms of monitoring, I hold individuals to account for completing their actions by making sure progress is discussed on a quarterly basis and then on an annual basis, I ask staff to reflect again and complete a new plan for the year ahead.

 

Achieving ‘flow’

If you look through the stages, you can see that the method is based on the high performance cycle – Plan, Do, Review and Improve.  In following this process and ensuring the 80/20 ‘balance’, I believe people can be supported to achieve ‘flow’ which, in positive psychology, is:

‘The mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity’.

This has to be the state of optimum performance and exactly where we surely would want our teams to be so I challenge you to try a different way and see the difference it makes.

 

If you can see the value of this approach or have similar methods yourself, share your thoughts in the comments below.

5 things that will add some Strictly sparkle to your line management

It’s that time of year where many of us are tuning our tellies every Saturday night to that family favourite ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.  In our house, we love to settle down for the evening and watch the glitzy spectacle of sequins, heels and hairpieces, enjoying the glamour and fun that draws in viewers from across Britain.

Watching the show, it’s heartening to see clueless, inexperienced individuals become confident and capable dancers.  It’s even better to watch the relationship between mentor and mentee develop as the celebrities see their good faith and hard work pay off.  We literally see contestants blossom and grow as the weeks progress.

With a new baby at home, this has become a Saturday night staple and I’ve been watching not only the weekend shows but also the weekday behind the scenes spin-off programme ‘It Takes Two’.  As a result, I’ve noticed a number of qualities and behaviours that we could all adopt as leaders and managers to get staff performing to the best of their ability.

I’m sure there are many lessons we can take from the show but here are 5 things that will add a little extra sparkle to your line management:

1)      Be enthusiastic and encouraging – from the clips of rehearsals, the interviews on It Takes Two and the filming on the night, you can see that the professional dancer is always super enthusiastic and encouraging which helps to build the celebrity’s confidence and make it a positive experience.

2)      Focus on strengths – the pro-dancer focuses on those things the celebrity can do well and celebrates these things in order to give them a boost which increases their confidence and keeps them motivated.

3)      Help them to improve – the professionals identify areas for improvement, helping the celebrity to sharpen their skills and develop gradually rather than overwhelming them and forcing them to try lots of things they are struggling with.

4)      Allow mentee to shine – the pros look to show the celebrity in their best light and allow them to shine brightly and enjoy their success regardless of what level they are at.

5)      Focus on fun! – they remember that it’s about having fun so despite pushing them to their limits, they encourage their celebrities to enjoy the whole experience and make the most of their time in the competition with many of the celebrities saying they intend to continue dancing long after their time on Strictly ends.

 

Are you watching the show and have some other ideas to add to this list? Add your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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Giveaway: Drive – the surprising truth about what motivates us

This month, we are giving away a copy of Daniel Pink’s New York Times top 10 bestseller ‘Drive: The surprising truth about what motivate us’ and here’s the reason why…



A couple of years ago, as part of a management course, I attended a workshop that explored how we can keep people motivated.  Keen to get the best out of my teams, I was listening intently, excited at the prospect of learning new ways to engage people and enhance performance.  As the tutor explained Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, he outlined the different levels of need which need to be fulfilled for an individual to achieve the central goal of ‘self-actualisation’ or ‘full realisation of potential’.

This was great but I already knew about Maslow and was hoping to be able to build on this knowledge and take something new from the session.  Having an awareness of modern theories in this area, I was puzzled to hear the tutor say that there haven’t been any motivational thinkers since Maslow in the 1960’s and 70’s.

After the tutor had finished presenting, he moved around the room to speak to the different groups.  When he reached our group, I raised my thoughts with him:

‘You mentioned that there haven’t been any motivation theories since Maslow but I actually do know of one’.

‘Ah yes’ he said ‘are you talking about Daniel Pink?’

I confirmed that I was indeed speaking of Daniel Pink and his theory set out in the book ‘Drive’.  To my surprise, the tutor responded:

‘Yes, we’re not allowed to teach that’.

Thankfully for me, I’d read Pink’s theory already and put the ideas into practice to great effect so I was dismayed to realise that others were being prevented from exploring Pink’s theory.

At a later event I went to where we were discussing well-being, the conversation turned to staff and motivation.  It was clear that there remains a view that people ‘just’ go to work for money and that’s all they are looking for.  I don’t believe this is the case and whilst money is important – of course, we all want to have nice things and a comfortable lifestyle where we can spend our days experiencing joy and not worry – money alone does not provide job satisfaction and fulfilment.  Drive explores this idea in more detail, considering why people go to work and how Managers can capitalise on that to encourage optimum performance.

It wouldn’t be fair for me to spoil the book for you so if you, like me, did not cover Daniel Pink in your management course but want to know how to help people in your team to reach their potential, I suggest you retweet or share on social media and subscribe to this blog before 27th October to be in with a chance to win your own copy and see what difference it could make.

 

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Help people find their ‘flow’ and make every day feel like Friday

Have you seen the new Lucozade ad?  The energy drink brand has decided to shake its image as a hangover cure and look for a new audience amongst busy professionals.  The campaign, titled ‘find your flow’, features normal people in everyday situations performing beyond their best thanks to Lucozade.

“Flow. The unmistakeable feeling of unstoppable. Of no problem that can’t be solved. Of no-one else can do it better. That whatever the day throws at you, you simply take it in your stride because you’ve found your rhythm. You’re on top form.” (Lucozade 2015, Find your flow)

The ad company responsible, Grey London, have taken inspiration from psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who created the concept of ‘flow’ after extensive research on the topic.  It’s the feeling of being completely ‘into’ what you are doing.  Of being wholly absorbed in a task or activity and of losing yourself in a moment.

Csikszentmihalyi describes ‘flow’ asbeing completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” 

That’s what I want to feel when I’m at work and what I want my team to feel also.  I’d like them to love what they do so much that they can immerse themselves in their tasks and spend most of their time ‘in the zone’.

Why should we aim to help individuals find their ‘flow’ in the workplace?

I’m really conscious that people spend a lot of time at work.  Over a lifetime, it’s around 90,000 hours if we work full-time from leaving school to retirement.  This is time that many people would rather spend doing something else such as sitting in the garden, playing with the children or walking the dog.

It’s an ambitious aim but I want the people in my teams to enjoy what they do almost as much so they are focused on delivering great things for the organisation rather than wishing they were somewhere else.  My view is that if I can help them find their ‘flow’ at work, I can help them to maximise their contribution to the organisation and enhance their overall life satisfaction.

How do we create an environment that supports individuals to find their flow’?

Based on 10 factors which are known to accompany the feeling of ‘flow’ here are 8 things that leaders should seek to provide in the workplace to allow employees to immerse themselves in their activities:

1)      Set clear goals that are challenging but achievable

2)      Allow people to concentrate on their goals and focus their attention

3)      Ensure their work is rewarding and ensure recognition of their efforts

4)      Create an environment where they feel secure and not self-conscious

5)      Give feedback

6)      Ensure tasks are achievable and suitable for the individual’s level of skill whilst providing a healthy challenge

7)      Allow ownership of a task or responsibility

8)      Minimise any distractions that will prevent the individual from focusing on the activity

 

Do you agree that helping people to find their ‘flow’ is an important goal?  Have you tried to create this kind of environment in your workplace?  Let us know your experiences by posting in the comments below.

 

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Photo credit: Pixabay

 

How Managers can use positive psychology to help individuals smash their goals and reach their potential

Positive psychology is an area of behavioural science which focuses on individual strengths and explores how these can be used to help people build fulfilling lives. For a long time, the study of psychology has examined techniques for fixing what’s wrong with people in an attempt to make it better. Positive psychology concentrates on what’s right and seeks to build on that in a way that enhances life satisfaction and fulfilment. 

How can we use positive psychology to ensure wellbeing and satisfaction in the workplace?

How often do Managers give feedback on people’s work by focusing on what’s wrong and needs to be improved or what they think could be better? The problem with this approach is that it’s very subjective for a start – what one Manager thinks is amazing, another could see as not good enough – and it also zooms in on failure & shortcomings.  Individuals easily become unmotivated and disengaged if all they ever hear is what they are not doing right.

Positive psychology requires that we turn this on its head to focus on the good things and how they can be improved even further. For me, it requires that we identify what that individual does really well and what skills or expertise they bring to the team and how that can be maximised to enhance organisational performance.

A popular formula within this school of thought is know as ‘the golden ratio’, developed by Barbara Fredrickson who believed that in order to thrive, we must have three positive emotions for every negative. That means the balance of feedback when speaking to staff should be three positives for every negative. When energy is concentrated on the good, the not so good is less noticeable and easier to handle with out impacting levels of satisfaction and motivation.

Managing people in this way makes them feel great. When they feel this way, they will work harder, be more loyal, have greater respect for Management and perform at their best for the benefit of the organisation. Doesn’t this sound worthwhile?

So why do so many Managers still insist on highlighting weakness and telling people what they should do better?

Personally, I think there is a link here with hierarchy and the inherent need to reinforce power. To hold power in a hierarchical system, you need to create a dynamic where you know more than others and the way to achieve this is to tell them how they should be better. 

As a Manager, I see my role as one of supporting others in the team. My aim is to help those individuals to be the best they can be and make sure they can use their strengths to contribute to the organisation’s overall objectives. That for me is the starting point; I am equal to the others and my role is to support, facilitate and coordinate so that the team as a whole delivers for the business.

Imagine this conversation in your monthly 1-1’s: ‘Wow Sam! You have done fantastic work this month, you must be really proud of your achievements! What are you goals for the coming period and how can I support you to smash them?’.
Do you have conversations like that with your team? If not, could you try and see what difference it makes? Let us know your thoughts and findings by posting in the comments below.


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Is a decent salary and good pension really enough to motivate people?

After watching a video on motivation shared by Harvard Business Review, there were some points I wanted to share.

Firstly, The Explainer: One more time, how do you motivate employees? says that force is the first thing not to use if you want to motivate employees.  It seems widely accepted today that ordering people to do something is not the way to inspire people and get them on board.

One of my early blogs focused on Daniel Pink’s thoughts on motivation, set out in his book Drive.  He says that the basic need is salary so employers should ‘pay enough to take money off the table’.  This video says something similar, setting out Hertzberg’s ‘hygiene factors’ of salary, working conditions and job security.  These factors echo Maslow’s theory of motivation which suggests that motivation requires people’s basic needs to be met as a starting point.  I’ve worked in organisations where the belief seemed to be that paying a decent salary and good pension is enough to motivate people.  Instead, I would suggest that these basic factors encourage people to stay with your organisation and so come to work every day but they are not enough to make people perform.

What we need to be thinking about as leaders is how to get people to take responsibility and move forward on their own.  This next layer includes factors such as challenging work, autonomy, recognition and advancement.  These things get people interested and fired up to push things forward so that they achieve high performance.

As a manager, I believe that achieving this is about taking a more hands-off approach and giving individuals space to try things and learn from them.  To avoid things taking a long time or moving in the wrong direction, I provide clarity around the overall aims and objectives, advice and guidance on how to complete the task and parameters for the work.  This includes my thoughts on the best way to go about things, how I envisage it will look or feel and time allowed for the task.

For me, this all takes the form of a discussion where individuals can challenge my views and share their own ideas.  Once we have agreed the requirements of the work, I leave them to carry on with it, checking progress on a regular basis and offering support so they know where I am if they have questions or need advice.

This approach requires trust and humility; it requires me to let them be expert in what they do and accept that they might know more or have better ideas.  The more I can let them act on their own beliefs and draw on their expertise, the more happy, satisfied and motivated they feel in their work. It has always seemed to me that it increases loyalty, respect and commitment as well.

Furthermore, I would suggest that motivating people requires an appreciation of the individual and respect for a diversity of views and opinions, spending time as a team and allowing space for relationships to develop, celebrating success, encouraging them to push forward and supporting them to achieve their personal goals.

Do you use any of the techniques above? How do you achieve motivation and performance within your team? Share your thoughts below.

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Why settle for mediocre? Aim to make your people outstanding

It’s that time of year for me when I’m talking to people about performance over the last six months. 

Committed to helping people be the best they can be and also to delivering maximum value with public funds, this is a process I’ve spent much time considering in order to ensure it delivers for the individuals I support.
My quest for perfection in performance management, has led to a number of steps that can provide a framework within which individuals can develop and deliver for your organisation.

Setting clear objectives is the first task if you want to create an environment where people can succeed. This step should provide clear direction in line with the organisation’s aims and ensure that person can meet their goals in a timely manner and know when the objective has been achieved. In particular, agreeing objectives which are SMART brings clarity to plans and ensures they can be completed within an agreed timeframe.

After this stage, it is important to work with the individual to agree what ‘good’ looks like. I’m not sure it’s possible for individuals to really excel in delivering their priorities if you haven’t discussed exactly what is required. Setting out expectations clearly from the beginning allows people to go the extra mile to ensure a high standard.

In observing performance management in a number of organisations, I’ve noticed that reviews too often become a process that people have to go through with little awareness of what they are about (see what’s wrong with performance management and annual reviews). In many cases, managers set objectives and sign off progress without much thought or discussion.

For me, it’s about creating a structure for people to succeed with a focus on encouraging and supporting them to exceed expectations. It seems to me that managers should consider it a priority to ensure their people are encouraged able to become ‘outstanding’ and concentrate their efforts on achieving this goal. I’m sure all organisations desire to have high performing teams so let’s stop thinking that mediocre is good enough and give people something to aim for.

Finally, I don’t believe that performance conversations looking back over a six month period go far enough to provide focus and motivation. Whilst my objectives might be set annually, I set out my plan to achieve them by looking forward over a three month period and reviewing progress on a monthly basis. This ensures the thinking time and prioritising which is necessary to make an impact. I’m then able to look back and see if I have achieved my goals, ensure my time is spent on the right things and to know if my objectives are the right ones.

As the year comes to a close, I wonder how your teams have performed over the last twelve months and offer a challenge to all of you to make a commitment for the new year to adopt a system that allows your people to shine in 2017.

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