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
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
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?