“Not looking out for the emotional well-being of our people hurts individuals and organizations in terms of increased illness, stress and disability claims—not to mention the opportunity losses of productivity and creativity,” explains motivation expert Susan Fowler.
Surprisingly, when Fowler talks with leaders about what is motivating them on their current tasks and responsibilities, people recognize right away that much of it falls into a Disinterested, External, or Imposed Motivational Outlook.
- A Disinterested Motivational Outlook is where you just don’t care, and you are going through the motions.
- An External Motivational Outlook is where people justify their actions for an external reward—money, incentives, power, or status.
- An Imposed Motivational Outlook is where behavior is driven by fear, shame, or guilt.
But that comes at a cost, especially when people realize the amount of emotional labor they have been using to constantly self-regulate—finding ways to avoid feelings of pressure, stress, anger, disappointment, guilt, or shame.
As Fowler explains, “We spend inordinate amounts of time just overcoming our feelings of being imposed upon, or just overcoming the emptiness that comes from external motivation. It’s like we are using all of our emotional labor on low-level tasks just to muck around with low-level motivation.
“That might help us cope but it’s not helping us experience the energy, vitality, or sense of positive well-being that comes with higher levels of motivational outlook. Those come from mindfulness, developed values, and a noble purpose, for example.”
The search for a higher quality of motivation
In the Optimal Motivation™ program that Fowler has created with her co-authors David Facer and Drea Zigarmi, the focus is on teaching people a way to have a higher quality of life where they don’t have to use as much emotional labor.
“If you have clarity on what you value—for example, a life purpose, or a work purpose—and if you understand what brings you joy and what you love to do, then you have a higher quality of life and well-being. You may still require some emotional labor from time to time to self-regulate, but it is emotional labor that you’re willing to do because you see how it is related to higher quality motivation.”
That’s important says Fowler because people driven primarily by external motivators don’t achieve the sustainable flourishing and positive sense of well-being that you get with higher levels of motivation.
Fowler explains that as a leader, you need to think beyond imposed and external motivators. How could you invite choice? How could you help people build relationships? How can you increase competence?
“You never want to be the one encouraging a person’s need for external rewards. Don’t settle for motivational models that try to find other ways to manipulate or trick people into giving more. Why not take the conversation to a different level? “
To read more of Fowler’s thinking on cultivating a motivating work environment, check out her interview in the June issue of Ignite!, Don’t Settle for Less When It Comes to Personal Motivation. You’ll also see information about a free webinar Fowler is conducting June 19 on The Business Case for Motivating Your Workforce. It’s complimentary, courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.
We all know the saying “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” It’s sound advice—but it’s also a dangerous habit unless you step back occasionally to see what impact it might be having on the busy person’s experience at work. For most managers, having a “go to” person is a great asset. Just make sure you don’t overdo it by going to the same person again and again.
This is a dilemma for most managers according to Scott Blanchard in a recent blog post for Fast Company magazine. Blanchard explains that it is only natural to assign tasks to the most accomplished people on your team. The challenge is to balance a short-term need for immediate results with a long-term view for the growth and development of your people.
Finding the perfect balance
Drawing on some of the core concepts from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Blanchard explains that managers need to balance routine work that is easily accomplished with challenging new tasks that provide variety.
How can managers find the right balance? Here are three strategies that Blanchard recommends:
- Become more aware of your goal-setting habits. Have you optimized the challenge inherent in each person’s goals or tasks, or have you fallen into the habit of overusing and under-challenging your best people? Have you focused more on your own needs instead of theirs by giving them routine work you know they can accomplish successfully with little intervention on your part?
- Focus on both the long and short term. Manage the urge to assign a task to a proven winner to ensure quick completion versus assigning the same task to someone who is brand new and may require some direction and support. But don’t go overboard. You don’t want to focus solely on employee development and compromise organizational effectiveness. Balance is the key.
- Create variety for yourself and others. According to Warren Bennis, the most effective managers are the ones who actively engage in clear periods of reflection as well as action. Balancing task variety is one of those projects that requires some discipline and awareness to think through.
Blanchard also reminds readers that most people become bored because they’re doing boring tasks—not because of a character flaw. Instead of moving away from a person you might see as a complainer, see that person instead as someone who is not really “in flow” and work with him or her to find out what the right mix could be. It’s a management basic that creates the long and short term impact that works best.
PS: To read more of Blanchard’s thinking on creating the right mix in your work environment, check out, Helping Your Employees Find Their “Flow” at Fast Company.
Wondering where to find the best “how-to” consultants on employee engagement? Look no further than your own company. Today, right now, inside your own organization are managers who consistently provide the right organizational environment that promotes well-being and generates high levels of engagement. And they do it all while operating under the existing umbrella of your current organizational culture.
In a new article for the November issue of Blanchard’s Ignite newsletter, best-selling business author and consultant Scott Blanchard identifies five ways that organizations can find and learn from these best practice managers.
Step 1: Survey your organization. Use a reputable employee engagement assessment to survey your organization. Make sure that the instrument is valid and reliable and that it will provide you with actionable data. Also, be sure to set the demographics up carefully. You need to protect anonymity to ensure candid responses while still obtaining the smaller unit data that you are looking for. In Blanchard’s experience, a review at the department or function level will usually get the job done.
Step 2: Identify your personal pockets of excellence. Once you get your survey results back, study your organization at the department or functional level. Identify your own personal pockets of excellence. Find out which teams and departments are scoring significantly above the organizational average. Contact leaders in these departments to set up interviews to learn more about what is happening in their specific unit.
Step 3: Focus your conversation where it counts the most. Blanchard research has identified 12 factors that create a passionate work environment and account for most of the variance in employee perceptions. (See Blanchard’s white paper, Employee Work Passion: Connecting the Dots, for more information on this.) These factors are broken down into five organizational factors, five job factors, and two moderating factors.
- Organizational Factors—Growth, Procedural Justice, Distributive Justice, Collaboration, and Performance Expectations
- Job Factors—Meaningful Work, Task Variety, Workload Balance, Autonomy, and Feedback
- Moderating Factors—Connectedness to Colleagues and Connectedness to Leader
Use these factors as a structure for your conversations with unit leaders. Find out how they approach meeting each of these components of a passionate work environment. Discover what they are doing differently from leaders in other departments.
Step 4: Don’t go overboard with prescriptions—Understand the process instead. As you listen and learn about how individual managers and teams address each of the 12 Employee Work Passion factors, listen for the underlying reasons why they engage in those behaviors. Don’t fall into the trap of just mimicking the behavior. The relationship between managers and direct reports is complex. What works for one manager in creating positive feelings of Connectedness and Collaboration may not work for another. Each manager needs to find his or her own individual approach.
Step 5: Share best practices with others and ask your leaders to do the same. Once you’ve identified all of the different ways that people in your organization are approaching employee work passion in the company, start to share some of those practices. Conduct forums, post tips on internal Web sites, and share success stories.
Get started today!
In any organization, at least 20%, and often as much as 30% of the people coming to work each day report high engagement levels. Do you know who they are in your organization? If not, you’re missing a very practical way to identify, celebrate, and learn from people who intimately understand how to create an engaging environment within your unique culture.
To read more of Blanchard’s thoughts on bringing out the best from your own organization check out Employee Work Passion: Seek out your pockets of excellence. Also be sure to see the information about a free November 16 webinar that Blanchard will be conducting on Cultivating Employee Work Passion: The New Rules of Engagement
Only 20% of people say that they are truly passionate about their work according to a recent survey from Deloitte. The vast majority of workers are disengaged, with an estimated 23 million “actively disengaged” in the U.S. alone according to Gallup.
The lingering economic slowdown has created a real motivational problem for today’s leaders. A shortage of resources has limited the ability of organizations to provide raises, promotions, and other perks. It’s been just as bad for employees as the widespread scope of the problem has left them with few alternatives beyond their present organization.
The result has been a perfect storm where millions of workers have resigned themselves to their jobs and effectively “quit and stayed.” These workers show up and do their job at a basic level, but they are sullen and unmotivated in a quiet way that is hard to get at.
It’s not so much what these workers do, as much as it is what they don’t do.
Here are the five intentions that passionate employees embrace. Wondering if your people have “quit and stayed?” Ask yourself to what degree your people:
- Actively endorse the organization as a good place to work?
- Go above and beyond the basic requirements of the job in terms of performance?
- Think beyond themselves and strive for win/win solutions?
- Go the extra mile when it is necessary to get the job done?
- Intend to stay with the organization long term?
If you can’t answer YES confidently to these five questions, here are a couple of additional questions to ask yourself to get at the cause of the problem. A lack of passion is usually caused by negative perceptions at a job, organizational, or relationship level. Probe a little bit in each of these areas and you will likely find the problem area.
- Job Factors: Do your employees see the importance of their work? Are people empowered to make decisions about their work and tasks? Are workloads reasonably proportioned for the time people have to accomplish them?
- Organizational Factors: Does the organization still seem committed to growth? Have clear goals been set? Are decisions about resources being made fairly?
- Relationship Factors: Do people feel connected? Do employees have a supportive professional relationship with their leader? Are leaders checking in and providing feedback regarding employee performance?
No one wants to be the type of person who quits and stays, but sometimes people fall into that trap. Help people up. Open up a dialogue around these issues. Just taking the time and asking how things are going in each of these areas will show people that you’re noticing, that you’re willing to help, and that you care.
PS: Do you have a “quit and stay” solution to share?
On January 25, The Ken Blanchard Companies will be hosting a Leadership Livecast on the problem of Quitting and Staying. Have you successfully addressed quitting and staying in your organization? Can you share it in five minutes or less? Videotape yourself and send it to us. You could be a featured speaker! Click here for details.
That’s the message Scott Blanchard shares with readers in his latest column for Fast Company magazine. Drawing on exclusive, primary research that shows Growth as one of the lowest-rated employee work passion factors in today’s organizations, Blanchard shares what individuals, managers, and senior leaders can do to improve growth perceptions inside their organizations.
For individual employees, Blanchard recommends first and foremost, to focus on doing a good job in your current role while you look for new opportunities inside the company. As he explains, “Growth beyond your current job is a privilege usually reserved for people who perform in an exemplary fashion. When managers get requests for growth from people who are not performing at their best, it may feel to them like they are stepping on a treadmill with an employee who may never be satisfied in his or her current role. Most managers will avoid this, because they suspect it will become a never-ending process.”
For managers, Blanchard advises facing growth conversations head-on—even when you don’t have traditional next steps up the corporate ladder to offer. As a manager, keep your eye out for new opportunities and new projects that may come up. Know which people on your team would consider it rewarding to get involved in a project that is different than their normal job.
This could potentially be a lateral move, or even a move to completely different part of the organization. Some of the greatest opportunities for growth are found in areas that integrate what’s happening between two departments. For example, a project following up on leads could bring the sales and marketing departments together, while refining and solving a business problem could integrate the engineering and sales departments.
Good managers look out for their people and think beyond the day-to-day. When they have someone who is really working hard for them, they go out of their way to help that person grow.
For senior leaders, Blanchard reminds executives that good people always have opportunities. His recommendation? Conduct an assessment to find out how employees view current growth opportunities in the organization. Make growth a priority. Your best people are not going to wait patiently for opportunities for advancement—even in a slow economy. If you are not providing them with growth opportunities, they will go elsewhere and they will take what they learn from you and use that to build their career at another company.
You don’t want to be the person at a top employee’s exit interview who hears, “The headhunters seemed to care more about my career development and growth opportunities than this organization did.”
Growth is just one of 12 important factors employees evaluate in their work environment. To see Blanchard’s latest research on the topic read Employee Work Passion Volume 3: Connecting the Dots. To read more on Scott Blanchard’s specific strategies for creating an engaging work environment check out his other Fast Company articles.
There is a classic fable about a man who approaches three laborers breaking and shaping rocks. The man asks the first laborer what he is doing. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m breaking rocks,” the laborer replies. The man asks the second laborer what he is doing and he responds that he is building a wall. The man then asks the third laborer what he is doing and the laborer responds, “I’m building a cathedral.”
The three men are all doing the same work, but each with a different perception of its relative worth. Which man do you suppose is coming to work happier and more engaged?
The first man sees his work as a job, the second man sees his work as a task, but it’s the third man who sees his work as a worthy calling, because he is clear about the bigger picture and how his work connects and adds value.
And it is that man who, according to Blanchard employee work passion research, has more positive intentions about
- performing at an above-average level
- being a good organizational citizen
- using more discretionary effort on behalf of the organization
- remaining with the organization
- endorsing the organization and its leadership to others
In a new monthly column for Fast Company, Scott and Ken Blanchard look at the power of meaningful work and alignment. For leaders looking to rekindle a “cathedral” point of view in their people they suggest:
- First, remember why you got into business in the first place. Without an occasional reminder, sometimes it really can seem like the only reason the organization exists is to make money for shareholders.
- Second, connect the dots between an individual’s work and the organization’s overall goals. Make sure that individual tasks and roles are aligned to current initiatives by regularly reviewing what people are working on and how it is contributing to overall performance.
Helping people see and understand the meaningfulness of their work is one of the most powerful things you can do to create strong and powerfully motivated employees. To learn more about creating a sense of meaningful work in your organization, check out Scott and Ken’s new column at Fast Company here. To learn more about Blanchard’s research into employee work passion, follow this link to Employee Passion: The New Rules of Engagement or From Engagement to Employee Work Passion: A Deeper Understanding of the Employee Work Passion Framework
Who did you root for in yesterday’s game? If you didn’t happen to live in Pittsburgh or Green Bay, you probably had a decision to make. That process you went through—and your eventual decision, can teach you a lot about employee engagement. Give me a minute and let me explain.
Each year, the Super Bowl gives sports fans everywhere a chance to experience the process that employees go through when they are identifying whether a particular company is a good place to work or not. That’s because most people, unless they happen to live in one of the two competing team’s home cities, have a decision to make. Who to root for?
Because most of the people who are watching the game are not necessarily fans of either team before the broadcast, people have to evaluate the environment, compare it against their beliefs and past experiences, and then make an emotional decision that wraps it all up. For example:
- Big Ben and I both graduated from Miami of Ohio
- Because Mrs. Shumate, my second grade teacher liked the Packers
- Because Pittsburgh’s minor league baseball team plays here in Bradenton
- Because my daughter lives in Pittsburgh
- Because Packers are in same division as my team
And so everyone has to decide which team they’re going to root for. It’s the same process when an employee looks at a new work environment and decides whether it is a good place to work or not. For example, at work, people look at a variety of different factors in deciding whether a particular company is a good fit for them including:
- Pay and benefits
- Growth opportunities
It will typically be a combination factors, some logical and some emotional, but always individual and personalized because each individual looks at their work environment differently and makes a decision based on their own experiences. What is motivating for one employee is not the same for another.
So what’s a manager to do?
- First, recognize that everyone is different.
- Have conversations with your people.
- Ask them what motivates them and what creates a personally engaging work environment.
You’ll find out that the answers are as diverse as the reasons people have for choosing which team to root for.
To learn more about the process that people go through in determining whether a particular work environment is engaging or not, check out the white paper, From Engagement to Work Passion. It will show you eight of the factors that people typically look at and the process they use in deciding.
Your latest employee engagement survey results are in and now the hard work begins. If you are like most organizations, you’ve scored well in some areas—providing Meaningful Work, for example—and you’ve scored low in some areas—Growth opportunities and Collaboration perhaps. You sit with the results for awhile and think about what you can do to improve the situation.
For many leaders, the first inclination is to think about what can be done on a corporate-wide basis. But this would be a step in the wrong direction. According to research from The Ken Blanchard Companies, employee engagement is a personal affair and people see their environment differently—even when they are experiencing the same thing.
Here’s an example: All employees want a collaborative work environment to some degree. But the degree of contact that satisfies that need varies widely from person to person. For some employees, meeting on a quarterly basis feels like the right amount of interaction. For others, anything less than daily interaction can feel isolating.
How can you find out the right amount of collaboration your employees need to help feel connected? Ask them. Encourage your managers and supervisors to include a question about collaboration, or growth, or any other problem area that has come up on your survey in their next one-on-one conversation. Adding an employee engagement question or two into the discussion is a great way for managers to discover the diversity of experience among their direct reports and also begin to open the door for strategies that can help to improve each employee’s work environment going forward.
PS: To learn more about the Blanchard approach to improving employee engagement in your organization, check out the white papers Employee Passion: The New Rules of Engagement and From Engagement to Employee Work Passion. They can help to shed some additional light on the individual appraisal process all employees go through and also show you some of the areas to focus on.
Nearly 10 years ago when Marcus Buckingham first burst upon the employee engagement scene as a consultant at Gallup, he announced an important finding:
“There is more engagement level variation within companies, than between companies.”
This fact has largely been forgotten as leaders, consultants, and practitioners have focused more on measuring against industry benchmarks than on practical ways to create an engaging, high-performing work environment.
What Gallup found that bears repeating is that within any organization there are tremendous differences in the way people are experiencing their work environment. Some units in any organization will rank as best-in-class examples of high engagement, while other units within the same organization will rank among the lowest.
While identifying an engagement score at an organizational level is a good place to start, it is important to go beyond that initial number and look at what is happening within the organization at a department and individual level. That is where the richness and opportunity for change will be found. A systemic approach has a lot of merit for large organizational issues, but do not let that blind you to everything that can be accomplished at a department and individual level.
Systemically—senior leaders should focus on the areas that must be addressed organization-wide. These will usually be issues related to fairness (such as compensation and benefits) or growth (job opportunities and career advancement). What can be done at an organizational level to make sure that the company is treating employees fairly in both of these key areas?
Department level—unit leaders and managers should look at how they are implementing organizational objectives within their separate units. What type of sub-culture is being created? Also what can be done at a local level to connect employees to meaningful work, creating a collaborative work environment, or providing feedback and recognition?
Individual level—individual employees should look at their current work environment and ask, “To what degree am I engaged at work?” “What would create a more engaging work environment for me?” (For eight key components check out Employee Passion: The New Rules of Engagement.)
Everyone within an organization has a role in creating a high-performing, passionate work environment. Senior leaders, mid-level managers, and front line supervisors shouldn’t get caught in the trap of averages. Instead, think at a more local level when it comes to engagement. People are all experiencing the organization uniquely. Find out what that individual experience is and how you can help. And for senior leaders, check out Marcus Buckingham’s original piece on this concept from Fast Company —and be sure to check the date of publication. I think you’ll see that we might have overlooked something important.
“Managers are often taught that it is not inside the scope of a manager’s role or appropriate to deal with personal issues. But the research is clear that to ignore a person’s need for meaningful relationships in the workplace is to ignore an essential ingredient for basic motivation, vitality, and sense of well-being at work,” says Susan Fowler, best-selling author and senior consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies.
Fowler explains that “Relatedness” is a primary nutrient for individuals to thrive in the workplace. In a complimentary webinar later this week, Fowler will show how a focus on strengthening relationships translates into higher morale, engagement and satisfaction at work.
Drawing on research from a wide variety of resources, Fowler will explore what managers and leaders can do to create stronger relationships.
Over 1,200 people have already registered for this free October 20 online event, but space is still available if you would like to participate. For more information see Creating Effective Work Relationships at The Ken Blanchard Companies web site.