Improving employee morale and reducing employee disengagement
What happens when your needs aren’t met? Can you recognize this in yourself? What about in others? A valuable outcome of the Systematic Leadership process inherent in the Beyond Morale program is the ability to better understand what your needs are and the needs of others. Why is this important? Continue reading
Sometimes we must seek to find humor in pain. For many of us it’s the only way to maintain our mental composure. It’s a mental protection system. You probably can stop and picture when you have done this yourself. We even have habitual phrases we use for situations like: “I meant to do that,” or “That’s going to leave a mark,” or “It’s not the fall but the sudden stop that hurts.” In all of those phrases you can almost see the pain. Oh, I am cringing as I write this.
Yesterday we received an email that was very funny and also reflected a lot of pain. It was obvious the sender was trying to use humor to replace the pain and salvage some sanity. I am going to show it to you in a moment but I want to give you some context to best put it in perspective.
Most leadership pundits talk about morale in business the same way they’d describe cotton candy at a state fair. Everybody likes it; nobody’s against it. It’s fun to have. But in essence, it’s just a sugary substance spun with a lot of hot air.
I beg to differ.
Morale has substance. It has weight. And it matters. It’s not something a leader spins from hot air; it is something that a leader can grow only over time and with unremitting attention. If you think leadership is all about “hitting the numbers,” and that soft and squishy stuff like morale is no different than cotton candy, think again.
The late Roger Milliken, former CEO of Milliken &Co., and winner of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, once put it this way: Continue reading
Go ahead and admit it, you would much rather avoid giving feedback, than to give it. Is this because when you give feedback you are investing in a relationship and the more significant the relationship the more you have to lose if the feedback goes wrong? Who wants take that risk. Like with many other things that lead to success, your skills are critical. Unskilled feedback (no matter how well intentioned) can severely damage a relationship.
Poorly given feedback is counter-productive. It undermines an employee’s confidence and even alienates them. Tip: Training employees and leadership in receiving feedback is just as important as giving feedback if you want an open culture. So are you slamming the door on feedback because of poor employee development practices?
Probably no surprise to you, but research indicates that senior employees are less open to feedback. They are successful; life has taught them a lot of lessons – they don’t need to be told and have little to learn (so they think).
Managers are often seen as unapproachable. Their effectiveness is reduced if employees are hesitant about providing feedback to them. They have restricted information on which to base their impressions and make decisions.
Organizations that are not open, or do not encourage continuous two-way feedback to inform their decisions and actions continuously underperform their more open competitors. For them employees become secretive and form cliques where they feel they can talk freely – most probably complaining about a lack of openness in the organization!
What is “Feedback” Anyway
Here is one fundamental mistake that is made. Feedback is about sharing your reactions to another person’s ideas, feelings or behavior. It is not about assigning blame, criticism or passing judgement. Feedback is a way of letting someone know to what extent he or she is furthering the objectives of the business. It’s about people and you. It is a conversation about your needs whilst respecting the needs of the other person. This leads to problem solving on both sets of needs. Feedback is most productive as a two-way communication.
Feedback is probably the most powerful, the most under-used and most ill-used management tool.
Isn’t it Just a Waste of Time?
Without feedback people are ‘blind’. They are working on their own assumptions of how they are performing to meet the business’ needs and how they are impacting others. Feedback enhances employee’s effectiveness. Conducted properly, feedback ‘fine tunes’ performance and strengthens relationships.
In organizations where feedback is uncommon, communication flows from the top to the bottom with employees feeling devalued, resistant and demoralized resulting in their disengagement and under performance.
For many employees, feedback is the single most important element in building and sustaining their motivation and engagement.
In a business culture where openness is valued, feedback will be a regular occurrence – i.e. feedback upwards, downwards and sideways. Employees will engage in frank conversations about real work and relationship issues. In organizations where this feedback is welcomed and used to create win-win results, openness becomes the norm; employees feel more motivated, engaged and wanting to contribute.
Key Feedback indicators and behaviors
Organizations that have open environments focus on some specific indicators and display the associated behaviors shown in the table below.
|Key Indicators||Associated Behaviors|
|Feedback to my managers is encouraged.||Managers hold meetings to seek feedback on performance;Managers thank employees for providing feedback;Managers do not become defensive or aggressive when receiving feedback;Managers act on valid feedback.|
|I receive regular constructive feedback on my performance.||I meet with my manager frequently to discuss my performance;My manager only provides feedback on my performance, not on my personality;My manager’s feedback encourages and helps improve my performance;My manager is open and honest when giving feedback.|
|I feel free to give feedback to my managers and colleagues.||Managers and colleagues recognize the importance of feedback;Managers and colleagues are receptive to feedback;Managers and colleagues listen attentively to my feedback;Managers and colleagues thank me for providing feedback.|
|I feel able to ask for feedback from my managers and colleagues.||My manager encourages me to ask for feedback from my colleagues;Managers and colleagues are receptive to my requests for feedback;I feel comfortable asking managers and colleagues for feedback;I feel everyone benefits from an open and honest exchange of feedback.|
Tips to Improving Feedback Performance
Here are some suggestions for improving the quality and frequency of feedback:
- Be approachable and have time for people’s issues;
- Ask your managers and colleagues for feedback;
1. “How much do you feel I understand you?”
2. “How much do you feel I meet your needs?”
3. “How much do you feel I am getting it right for you?”
- Show you value this feedback by problem-solving on the issues rather than attempt to justify, blame or criticize;
- At times it might be useful to ask for feedback on how you gave or received the feedback;
- Incorporate a feedback session into meetings;
- Develop your skills for giving feedback;
- Develop your skills for receiving feedback;
- Invite a third party to coach or observe a one-to-one feedback session;
- Involve employees in developing action plans for creating the no whining culture
- When there is a need to discuss poor work, do this in private and follow the guidelines for giving feedback
- Make feedback a ”Key Performance Indicator” for managers and track this (available in the Beyond Morale system);
- Invite specialists to work with the organization to specifically improve the quality and frequency of feedback;
- Score yourself on the associated behaviors linked to the Key Performance Indicator of Feedback, and share your answers with relevant colleagues;
- Score yourself on how well you are doing the suggestions above and use the results to decide on an agenda for action.
Focus on the items above and that open door just might not be slammed in your face in the future.
Many companies spend a lot of money on diversity training for the purpose of increasing participants’ cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills. The intent is that this training will benefit the company by increasing the inclusion of different identity groups, promote better teamwork, and protect against civil rights violations.
Unfortunately for many companies diversity training has been a controversial issue, counterproductive, and creates conflict. Overall its bad for employee engagement.
A way to avoid the failures of diversity training is to focus on individuals through Difference Management.
Difference management is respecting the different needs and motivations of people and relating to them in ways that encourages mutual respect and gratification.
Differences define our uniqueness – regardless of nationality, culture, gender, beliefs, and values. Differences define all of mankind, which enables progress and contribute to the dynamics of the entire world. Companies can benefit from the richness of each individuals differences. The differences are often an obstacle to good working relationships when diversity management is the focus.
Why it matters
If these same differences are not managed skilfully they will lead to conflict, dysfunction and wasted effort.
Managed skilfully these differences can dovetail for the good of the individual, the team and the company. The differences now become complimentary strengths and synergy (2+2=5) becomes a reality. Difference management is a key leadership development skill which has been used by the world’s most successful leaders.
Teams within an organization can operate like different personalities. Each team will have its unique aims, strategies, structure, policies, customs and management style. Diversity training is ignorant to these kinds of differences and doesn’t serve the business well. Teams also need to manage their cross function differences for the good of the different teams and the organization.
Organizations need differences, need debate, need people to challenge, need honesty but organizations do not need conflict. Conflict eats into time, effects employee engagement and employee morale, and profits. It is detrimental to the organizational goals.
The greatest source of inefficiency for most organizations lies in workplace conflict. Would you like to calculate your costs due to workplace conflict? Access the People Problems Calculator
Treat others as ‘they’ want to be treated!
The golden rule is advocated by all the great world religions; Jesus, Hillel, and Confucius used it to summarize their teachings. For thousands of years the concept has been influential among people of various cultures all over the world. As children we have had this ingrained in us and as adults we enforce the behaviors of the golden rule in our children. These facts suggest that the golden rule is an important truth.
Yet it is this very golden rule that is cursed when it comes to the effect of leadership on employee engagement and employee morale. What? You think I’m crazy? That’s besides the point. Just think about this. I love chocolate but that is no reason to use it as bait when fishing. To be successful I must use what appeals to the fish – worms, even if it does not appeal to me. You will not win the hearts and minds of all employees using the criteria that engages you. In this situation the golden rule is a curse and creates a negative impact on employee morale and employee engagement. See…the golden rule is cursed.
During a team building session, a team leader apologized to the rest of the team for constantly giving them challenges. “Challenges light my fire, and I thought this worked for everyone”. He had been fishing with chocolate!
Some employees are motivated by challenges, others can feel ‘used’ by this same behavior. Not everyone needs to be openly appreciated. Not everyone will be happy when you offer your help. Perks and bonuses do not work for all. The golden rule is a curse for leadership development.
The most successful leaders know their people and know how they need to be treated to add value and create worth. They are approachable. They have open, collaborative lines of communication. They may ask questions like “What do you need from me as your team leader?” “0-10 score me on how I match against those criteria?” “Do you have suggestions as to how I can improve those scores?”. They do this because they know the golden rule is a curse and assuming they know the answer will backfire.
The leader may not be able to give individuals what they are looking for as she will have restrictions and needs of her own. However, the crucial thing is that employees sense a willingness from the leader to understand them and a willingness to meet their needs if it were possible. By giving her employees what they don’t normally get she will get from them what they don’t normally give…engagement.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbxD67HaQcg[/youtube] To avoid the curse of the golden rule, learn about the Work with Me Chart. This report is available in the Beyond Morale Online Employee Engagement System.
Sitting with my Son this Sunday morning watching ESPN, NFL Hall of Fame Player and Coach Mike Ditka, said “Leadership is not a title, it’s something you earn.” For all of his blunt brashness, Iron Mike nailed this one.
You can’t sew a “C” on your jersey and expect your team to win the Super Bowl, yet leadership will help you win it. Leadership will help your organization grow and beat your competition in the marketplace. Leadership enables individuals to pave their own path and make critical decisions that impact themselves and countless others.
The purpose of leadership is to achieve results. Leadership isn’t just about being it’s about getting the things done that are both necessary and sufficient for the organization to survive and thrive. It is not a set of theoretical teachings in a 4-day seminar. It is a focused orchestration of specific activities that create the environment in which self-motivation can occur in those that you directly influence.
While leadership abilities have proven to be one of the biggest competitive advantages for organizations you will find the ability to improve leadership an elusive one. Some of the symptoms of poor leadership in organizations include: excessive meetings, ineffective uses of consensus driven-decision making, lack of accountability, unfair accountability, inability to terminate poor performers, power struggles and workplace conflicts, reactive thinking, micro-management, duplicated efforts, fear of making a decision, and fear of retaliation, low employee morale, high employee turnover, to name some of the prominent ones.
Given the great importance and value of leadership why, except for the rare occasions, are organization’s filled with managers (those that you don’t want to work for) rather than leaders (those that create the environment that permit you to motivate yourself and love work). Could it be because that Leadership Development promotes a universal one-size-fits-all path to leadership or that we fail to give managers the tools to orchestrate the specific activities that create the environment in which self-motivation can occur?
Leadership is not related to your position in a company. Leadership isn’t something that you are born with; but rather it is something that can be learned, improved, and utilized by many. For the best, Leadership is situational and differentiated. They recognize when to lead, when to follow, and when to get out of the way. So how do you develop effective leaders and change your outcomes?
To improve leadership you need to measure the effectiveness of leadership and provide the system and tools that will improve employee engagement. Creating this system in your organization is possible. Win the Hearts and Minds of Employees…with your free copy of the eBook 7 Keys to Employee Engagement now.
Most of the theories on what motivates people can be reduced to some form of self-interest. There must be some reward or benefit to individuals or they won’t be motivated to act. The greater the perceived benefit, the harder employees are likely to work.
There is no universal source of employee motivation. Being thanked personally works to improve employee morale for some but not for others. Money and employee incentives may not be the big motivator that many think it is. Many times it has a boomerang result.
Effective managers know their staff; know their employee’s motivations and appeal to these motivations when they need to influence employee morale and employee productivity. Respected managers do this with integrity and high ethics.
Employee morale and motivation translates into energy, energy translates into action and action produces employee productivity results.
While money can be used to buy you a dog, it is food and love that makes it wag its tail. If people are not rewarded or treated in a manner that suites them, they are unlikely to be happy or productive.
If people are not motivated, their talents and abilities will lie dormant, and the achievements of the organization will suffer. The ability to motivate is a key skill for those members of staff who are responsible for employee engagement.
De-motivation shows in reduced productivity, high absenteeism, poor timekeeping, resistance of all types, customer complaints, workplace conflict, low employee morale and high staff turnover.
Creating the environment where employees motivate themselves is a key, yet secret to employee engagement.
Greg is a self-styled call center humorist. He’s also an astute critic of management practices gone bad. His latest contribution to the practice of management takes the form of a limerick. He’s entitled it prosaically “Call Center Limerick #1.” I guess that means we ought to brace ourselves for more.
With Greg’s permission, I offer you his ditty:
There once was a manager who
micromanaged all reps on his crew
For the reps it was hectic
Each breath was a metric
If you died, well, he measured that too
It does seem that managers sometimes get so busy measuring that they fail to manage. Whoever first coined that old saw, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” ought to offer a retraction. This saying has done more harm than good to management practices. It puts the cart before the horse.
Measurements—especially measures of financial performance—are lagging indicators. They measure the effectiveness of what has been done. They are descriptive; not prescriptive.
A further trouble here is that we tend to measure those things that are easiest to measure. So, managers gravitate towards measures such as employee productivity and efficiency. Once you measure them, you report them, and what gets reported becomes seen as important. If you are not careful, this creates a vicious circle of micro management. Is it any wonder that call centers have low employee morale and employee engagement problems?
Focus instead on what is important rather than on what is easy to measure. Focus on what matters, like employee engagement. Though traditionally, this has been harder to measure, the Satisfaction@Work Index® has made it possible for the last 10 years. Even this tool, though, can be abused if you put it first, not second, where it belongs. Don’t set your course by it; set your course by articulating your mission, vision and values, then assess your progress along the journey by using the Index.
As a way of saying “thanks” to Greg for getting me started on this topic, let me propose my own tribute to the call center humorist:
There once was a writer named Greg
who wrote what popped into his head
When readers genuflected
the wisdom reflected
They learned from the things that he said
Watch out: this limerick-ing can become addictive. What management wisdom can you offer by way of a limerick?