Posts Tagged ‘employee morale’

A highly creative team can make or break a company and they require special care and feeding (literally).  The complaints coming from creative people we have worked with through the years fall into three buckets of “frustrations”:  mundane, daily frustrations; professional frustrations, and management-induced frustrations.  Let’s look at each one and see how we can prevent it.

  1. Mundane, daily frustrations – These include heavy traffic lengthening the daily commute, difficulty finding a parking spot, and not having change for the soft drink machine.  So managers, allow people to work from home one day each week.  Also encourage carpooling to ease the parking challenge and reward carpoolers with gas money.  Lastly, put healthy drinks in the machines and let the company pay for them (select the “coinless” setting in the machines or buy your own machines).  One firm we know did this and also keeps a large kitchen fully stocked with instant soups and other fast foods, all free to employees.
  2. Professional frustrations – Engineers never seem to have requirements that they can use.  They always want better requirements.  And your engineers do deserve the most solid requirements you can generate, blessed by the end users of the system.  So make that happen.  Visit multiple users and get the system specification, contract and the requirements aligned.  Also, scientists always seem to need better tools and equipment.  This gets expensive fast but you should meet their needs whenever it makes good business sense.  But do two things here:
    • tie new tools to higher output, faster analyses/studies, etc. and
    • require the scientists to triage their needs so you work on filling the most crucial needs first.
  3. Management-induced frustrations – and here there are several:
    • Mismatched expectations, when management thinks they have asked for one thing and the staff provides something different.  Usually this is caused by management thinking they have hired mind readers.  Managers, be overly thorough in your assignments and get confirmation by asking “Now, what are you going to go do, and why?”  You’ll sometimes be amazed at the answer you get!
    • Great inventions and technologies get embedded in technologies and systems, but the project gets cancelled.  Technical/creative types understandably want to see their ideas take wing and launch!  So have an ‘idea greenhouse” where orphaned ideas can await a new home.  And reward people for planting wild ideas there (a year’s membership in the World Futures Society at or a trip to a super science symposium or a great museum).  Let people know you value great ideas, even (especially?) those ideas that are ahead of their time!  And to prevent premature death of a project, design your projects as carefully as you design your systems (learn to do this in the Project Dominance course offered at Solid Thinking)
    • Hidden assumptions or unvoiced expectations cause the end user to reject the system.  Usually this is because management failed to get user buy-in during the design and development of the system.  Remember that just meeting the specifications is not enough – – – management must seek out representative users and get their vocal support for the system as it is being conceived, developed, built and fielded.  Anything less is risky.

Lastly, here are some Do’s and Don’ts for leaders managing creative teams:

  • Don’t accept problems brought to you by staffers, unless each problem comes with options and a recommendation.  This is how you build creative thinkers (and a replacement for yourself).
  • Don’t belittle noble failures.  Instead, celebrate them with luncheons and rewards (a half-day off, a dinner at a nice restaurant, etc.)  Make it a fun thing.  Build an accepting environment for new ideas, whether they find a home or not.
  • Don’t overlook talent you have within your organization(s).  You may have mission expertise in your organization that you know nothing about.  One of our clients has a “Mission Experience Library” of people with military experience.  If they need someone familiar with aircraft maintenance, for instance, they can query the database and find that ex-sergeant wrench-turner who can provide input on the new automated technical order system being contemplated.

“Take care of the people and the people will take care of the jobs.” (source unknown)

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Of the eight fields of life, one that will occupy a significant portion of your time and energy is your job, career, or business. What career you pursue and how you engage with your work is one of the determining factors in the quality of your life and your legacy.

While most people are concerned with the mechanics and features of their work, salary and benefits, customers and contracts, there is one question which should come first.

Are you engaged in your work with head, heart, and hands?

According to research on employee engagement, fewer than 30% of employees may be actively engaged in their jobs. Naturally, they are the high performers. But imagine how a team would perform in sports if only two or three of its members were committed to winning the game or playing their best!

You may have observed disengagement in your co-workers. As a manager or business owner, it may be one of your biggest challenges. But the greater challenge, and the one that you can most readily do something about, is addressing the question of your own engagement. Are you on a career path which is worthy of full engagement? If not, what can you do to improve your situation?

A life of quiet compromise

If only 30% of employees are engaged in their work, what of the other 70%? Some are so-called realists, defenders of the status quo. Others may be unhappy, but feeling that beggars cannot be choosers, lead a life of quiet compromise. Many are simply marking time.

Unfortunately, this leads to a situation in which both employer and employee remain disengaged in the workplace. This affects both pay and performance, in that employers pay just enough to keep people from quitting, and employees work just enough to keep from getting fired. That is a fine line to walk, and an easy one to cross.

Crossing the line

The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave, written by Leigh Branham and published by the American Management Association, looks at why people do cross the line and leave their job. Branham’s book is well researched and documented, based on surveys by the prestigious Saratoga Institute, of 19,000 employees who revealed their real reasons for leaving. This book addresses the problem of employee engagement with 54 Best Practices for keeping good people in your company.

There are 7 hidden reasons that departing employees give for leaving. In brief, the real reasons are:

  1. The job was not as expected
  2. There was a mismatch between the person and job skills
  3. Lack of feedback or coaching
  4. Closed doors or lack of advancement opportunities
  5. Lack of recognition or appreciation
  6. Stress and life-work imbalance
  7. Loss of trust in top leaders.

According to Leigh Branham, 90 percent of managers believe that people leave or stay because of the money, while 90 percent of employees say they leave because of issues related to “job, manager, culture, or work environment.” If this gap in perception were not so great, perhaps those employees would be loyal, not leaving.

The shift to positive engagement

What if these reasons were turned around and read as, the 7 hidden opportunities for increasing employee engagement?

Rather than engaging with your work in a minimalist way, why not turn the process around and make the shift to positive engagement? You can do this at any level from front line worker to business owner, and you can do it at any stage in your career.

The key is to keep your ideas flowing and your passion high. Direct your energy to making your situation better, and be prepared to get more active as you get more engaged.

  1. Raise your expectations. When things are not to your satisfaction, rather than disengaging, actually increase your expectations, and you will not be disappointed. Sometimes all you need to do is ask.
  2. Increase your skills. If you are finding it hard to achieve something, rather than stepping away from it, seek to increase your skills, knowledge, and experience. New technology can often extend your reach.
  3. Get feedback or coaching. If you feel cut off, rather than further isolating yourself, actively seek out advice or support. If you keep your eyes open, you will find abundant resources available to help you.
  4. Take initiative. If you are finding doors and avenues closed, rather than turning back, keep looking, keep asking, keep trying to find new ways to move forward and the passage will open up for you.
  5. Give recognition or appreciation. If you are feeling unappreciated, rather than feeling sorry for yourself, why not try giving appreciation to others. If you are sincere, you will find that the more you give the more you will receive in kind.
  6. Seek Life/Work balance. If you are feeling stressed by imbalance in your life and work, or by a mismatch between your work and values, then do what you have to in order to restore the balance. You cannot be effective if you lose your balance.
  7. Build trust. If you are troubled by lack of trust, do what you can to restore it. Lead by listening, keep your promises, be dependable.
  8. Engage head, heart, and hands. If you feel disengaged with your work or career, you can almost always do something to improve the situation by getting more actively involved mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Your business, work, or career is one of the eight major areas of life, or fields of engagement, which lends itself very well to strategic planning with the Mandala Chart. To help you apply this to your business, download a PDF template called OPPORTUNITIES FOR ENGAGEMENT. Use it as a reminder that you have at least 8 ways in which you can make the shift to positive engagement, which will make you happier, more productive, and better able to serve others.

Although business is just one of eight fields of engagement in life, it is affected by and also has an impact on the others: health, finances, home, society, character, study, and leisure. That is reason enough to get and stay positively engaged.