When we were young, our teachers rewarded us with things like pizza parties, “You’re Super!” stickers, and the privilege of lining up first for recess. Our friends motivated us by attending our theatrical performances and yelling our name from the audience or writing on our car windows with shaving cream the night before a big game.
We’re not in grade school anymore, but our need for motivation hasn’t vanished. According to Bill Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett Packard, “Men and women want to do a good job, a creative job, and if they are provided the proper environment, they will do so.”
As a manager, how can I create a motivating environment?
Gone are the days of old-school management. It’s an individual choice to perform or not— it can’t be a directive. You need to create that environment Bill Hewlett referenced. How, you ask?
- Catch your employees doing things right. Pop over to their desk and interrupt them to give thanks or say job well done…versus with a “fire” that needs to be put out.
- Hand over the wheel. Empowerment builds excitement! 92% of employees want to be asked for their opinions or ideas, and 89% want to be involved in decision-making.
- Don’t forget about pizza parties and stickers! The same simple and cost-effective forms of motivation work for adults too. Need ideas? Purchase the book 1501 Ways to Reward Employees by Bob Nelson, PhD.
As an individual contributor, how can I create a motivating environment?
Think you’re off the hook because you don’t manage people—wrong! We’re all responsible for creating a motivational environment, so do your part by:
- Igniting energy in others. Raise your own energy level while at work – it will be contagious.
- Sending along kudos. Recognize individuals or teams for something awesome they’ve done. You can do this by sending an email to their supervisor, calling attention to them in a team meeting, or submitting a note to the employee newsletter or intranet editorial team.
- Being nice and exuding positivity. Back to the basics on this one—please, thank-you, good morning, etc. People want to work with colleagues they get along with and will be motivated to work constructively with you if you’re pleasant.
I hope these “back-to-school” tips are a good reminder to us working adults that motivation drives performance!
I stopped at a Fairfield Inn just outside of Knoxville, TN with my family on our way down to Florida last week for summer vacation. We were in the breakfast area looking for a pitcher of water, but with no luck. I stopped a hotel associate and asked where I could find some. Her response was,
Sure, no problem – I have some in my gym right over there and have the door propped open for you.
Later that day somewhere in the Carolinas on HWY 26, I came across the following post while browsing my Facebook feed:
What do the hotel associate’s response and FB post have in common? Ownership.
Isn’t it funny how well you take care of things when they’re yours?
That hotel associate in Tennessee was running a stellar show for breakfast – coffee always hot and filled, tables wiped down, service with a smile…she owned the place…and my were her customers happy! Leadership at that establishment definitely knows a thing or two about empowerment.
My FB friend was putting a little glitz and glam into her home…spent her hard-earned resources doing it…and was excited about it. Quite a bit different than how some people treat rental property.
Do you want your employees renting or owning their responsibilities at work?
I think it’s safe to say we all want our team members to be excited about their work and to take pride in it just as in the two examples above.
Below are 4 ways to create a culture of empowerment amongst your team so that they will own their to-do list and contribute successful results to the business:
1. Involve the individuals themselves in developing the What’s and How’s.
What is your team working on and how are they going about accomplishing it? Empowerment is direction without the details. Share the vision, then work with them collaboratively to both create and execute the roadmap.
Just as the homeowner above picked out new granite and countertops, have your employees “pick out” what they want a project, sales presentation, or process to look like. Don’t just have them rent your ways of doing things.
2. Apply a “walk before you run” approach.
Not every team member is going to be comfortable with a culture of empowerment. They are all likely at different stages of their career and have had varying experiences that have shaped their levels of confidence. Recognize this and tailor your approach to empower each one appropriately.
- Toddlers – They are curious but have a lot of questions and still look back for reassurance. You’ll have to be a little more hands-on, but it will pay off in the long run.
- Adolescents – They want to be on their own and typically have the confidence, but still need resources and guidance. Mentoring employees at this stage in their career is very important. Stay connected through check points.
- Adults – You may have more senior level employees on your team who have been around the block a time or two. Keep them challenged by asking them to run with a project that is a bit out of their comfort zone or is new for the company. Harness their rich knowledge by encouraging them to serve as informal mentors to others on the team.
3. Be okay with – no, encourage – mistakes.
Tell your team to make mistakes. Promote a culture of learning alongside your culture of empowerment. The two go hand-in-hand. Use the mistakes as teachable moments to help your team grow.
4. Still be a team.
Everything is better when created in partnership with others. Although each team member will flourish when given ownership of certain tasks, you need to foster a collaborative team environment where everyone is willing and able to lend a hand. My FB friend would have never enjoyed her new granite and cabinets if it weren’t for manufacturers and contractors. Likewise, your team needs to rely on the strengths of those around them to add value to whatever it is they’re working on.
In what other ways have you developed a culture of empowerment? Please share!
My schedule is different depending on the day of week and even season of year. I’m grateful that my life is not dictated by a work schedule. My career is just one facet of my life and overall schedule. It doesn’t exist in a silo, but rather blends with other activities that consume my time and define who I am.
What doesn’t change day-to-day is what I want to accomplish:
- Be a loving and nurturing mother and wife.
- Provide for my family.
- Build and sustain relationships.
- Produce outstanding results for my employer.
- Give back.
- Dedicate time to my own spirituality and wellness (so I can be successful at all of the above)
These objectives have long been on my plate; however, how I go about accomplishing them and the ease of balancing them has changed drastically over the past two years through the ability to work flex hours and telecommute.
I share my story for two reasons:
1. For Individuals: In hopes that it might inspire you to pursue a better balance in your life. It’s had a significant impact on my overall happiness and quality of life.
To read more from this perspective, visit Part 2 of this post.
2. For Organizational Leaders: To encourage you to create win-wins all around and hopefully move past some of the myths and fears of offering job flexibility.
To read more from this perspective, continue on to the list of myths below.
Myth #1 – Flexible work arrangements are only valuable to working parents.
Reducing fuel expenses is not only advantageous for parents. Neither is eating healthy dinners because you didn’t feel rushed after a long commute. Or sleeping in on occasion to revitalize your body and mind without the fear of everyone whispering as you step off the elevator.
This is a quality of life discussion, not a working parent discussion.
Myth #2 – Flexible work arrangements are only valuable to employees and just a headache for employers.
In addition to enhancing the overall wellbeing of your employees (which directly impacts your bottom line), below are a few sometimes overlooked benefits:
- Productivity: The consultancy Workshifting found, on average, a 27 percent rise in productivity among telecommuting employees.
- Total Compensation: A survey by the Information Technology Association of America found that 36 percent of respondents would choose telecommuting over a pay raise. Just another tool in your total rewards bucket.
- Talent Pool: Having a hard time filling open positions with the perfect fit? Expanding the search outside your city limits may help.
- Environmental: Half-time telecommuting could reduce carbon emissions by over 51 million metric tons a year (Global Workplace Analytics). Tracking your employees’ carbon footprint could reflect well on your corporate social responsibility score card.
Myth #3 – When employees work from home, they are too distracted by their kids.
Your employees’ children should not be home while they are working (particularly young children). An alternate care provider is still needed.
Myth #4 – If it’s not going to work for all of my employees, then I shouldn’t let anyone do it.
Workplace flexibility is not a one-size-fits-all solution. My brother is a chef. My sister is a Nurse Practitioner. They can’t do their work from home and have certain hours they need to be onsite. You can’t always standardize a solution, but you can provide guidelines and partner with your managers to determine what might work for them.
Much of the “opening up a can of worms” dilemma can be avoided by proactively managing expectations.
Myth #5 – I can just find someone else to do the job who will work the more traditional (and increasingly archaic) arrangement.
Are you living in the same “talent war” era as me? Acquiring and retaining top talent is more critical to your organization’s success than ever before. Ready to reach into your pockets? One study found the average cost of turnover to be one-fifth of an employee’s annual salary (Center for American Progress).
Don’t think your top performers will leave? They will. There are many other employers willing to give them flexibility. Think you can keep them happy with a gift card? Not gonna work. Empowerment and quality of life will always win in the end. Even a bonus or increased salary may keep them around a few months, but that’s it.
If you’re a manager, I’d venture to bet you still have some hesitations. Do any of these resonate?
- My boss wouldn’t let me, why should I let my employees?
This one is easy to address – get over it. Don’t let resentment influence how you lead your team.
- I won’t be able to keep tabs on my employees.
Gone are the days of this old-school management philosophy. Employees don’t need “bosses” – they need leaders, coaches, and mentors.
That being said, employee performance needs to be tracked and measured with or without flexible work schedules. With all the recent hype about Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to ban work-from-home arrangements, followed by Best Buy ending their flexible work program, the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) is being challenged. But this recent media uproar does not mean that the ROWE is suddenly obsolete.
Employers need to focus MORE on results and LESS on the when and where. Work with your employees to establish SMART objectives. If they aren’t performing, develop an improvement plan. If they still don’t perform, let them go.
- It will be too hard to communicate with my team if they aren’t sitting within walking distance.
Communication and collaboration might feel a bit choppy at first, but your team will create new dynamics using a myriad of communication technologies that are at your disposal to help foster remote collaboration and cultivate team spirit.
- It’s too hard to schedule team meetings and events.
It can be difficult – I won’t argue that. Setting dates early and sharing calendars will go a long way.
The Chicken or the Egg?
Sometimes I’m told that my story is the exception. That my experience with flexible schedules has been successful because I am passionate about my work, driven, have a solid work ethic, and highly respect my employer relationship.
I would challenge you though to think about what came first?
Maybe I’m that way as a result of being empowered, trusted, treated like a responsible adult, and valued by someone who actually cares about my overall well-being. I don’t carry around resentment. Think of the power you have as a leader to lift that off someone else’s back and the benefits your business will reap as a result.