An Employee Happiness Revival

March 1, 2010
Five Ways Leaders Can Help Put the Spring Back into Their Workers' Steps
  1. Redefine the vision for your company in 2010

    Get clear about where you're going and enroll others in the campaign. It's time for leaders to pull those dreams out of mothballs and create a new and bold vision for their organizations. They should also redefine performance and behavioral expectations (core values) for their people. These aspects of business are often watered down or forgotten about completely during a downturn. But the fact is, it motivates people to know where they're going and what is expected of them along the way — as well as what's in it for them when they reach the destination.

    “Without clarity of vision, core values and performance expectations, you have chaos in the cubicles as people run on their own agendas — and unwittingly work against one another — since the leader failed to create a common vision that unites the team,” says Dave Anderson. “Great leaders don't allow people to live in gray areas because they know that it is tough to be aggressive and confused at the same time. Get clear about where you're going and what you want. There are plenty of things you can delegate as a leader, but vision and clarity for your organization isn't one of them.”

  2. Stop micromanaging

    The tendency during a downturn is to begin nitpicking and second-guessing your people, making every decision and coming up with every idea yourself. This sort of micromanagement saps the energy and morale from your team. You treat people like children and then wonder why they act like children! Increase the latitude and discretion of your best people and watch their motivation and creativity levels soar.

  3. Celebrate singles

    Business leaders love to celebrate the home runs in their businesses. But in a downturn, there are fewer “big hits” to cheer, and much time can elapse between such occasions. This lack of positive reinforcement can lull a culture to sleep. Begin looking for the “little” things that people do right and that go right and celebrate those. Reinforce them publicly, quickly and loudly. This attitude of “good finding” begins to shift the culture in a positive direction, as it builds up people and starts a positive chain reaction throughout your organization. Remember: Reinforced people tend to reinforce other people.

  4. Lead from the front

    Get out of your office and re-engage with your people and customers. Become more visible, accessible, instructional and motivational, and eventually you'll become unstoppable. Ask more questions and give fewer answers. Questions engage employees and show that you value them.

    Some leaders have gotten so dazed by data and numbed by numbers that they've lost touch with their people, Anderson points out. They're sitting in their offices collecting calluses on their backsides trying to “turn the numbers around,” when they need to get out front, put some calluses on their feet and turn their people around — and then their people will turn the numbers around.

    “Quite frankly, the biggest morale problem in most businesses today is rooted in the fact that the leaders of the organization have stopped leading,” says Anderson. “Instead, they tweak, tinker, tamper, manage, massage, maintain, administer and preside — but have no positive impact on their people or culture. This is why the old saw is true: ‘A fish rots at the head.’ In other words, when you're having problems in an organization, you don't try to fix it in the middle or at the bottom. If you want the organization to ‘get right,’ the leadership must ‘get right’ first.”

  5. Set shorter-term goals

    Long-term goals are less relevant during a downturn because of uncertainty. Besides, when things are tough, you need to see something happen now. Shorter-term goals — daily goals — narrow an employee's focus and cause him or her to get into motion and take action today. These goals liven up a workplace, creating energy, urgency and more teamwork as people rally together to meet them.

    You can establish a combination of activity and results goals because if you manage the right activities, you will end up with the desired results. By putting the additional structure that daily goals bring into your workplace, you create positive motion and employee energy that evokes emotion and shakes out apathy.

    “It's tough for anyone to be inspired when they're bored, worried or looking over their shoulder wondering who or what is next on the chopping block,” says Anderson. “Short-term goals help define the role and contribution of each employee. They add meaning to each job, and people long for meaning. Meaning motivates more than money. Just ask any volunteer who donates labor in return for being part of something bigger than him or herself — and who does so for no financial benefit.”

Dave Anderson is author of How to Run Your Business by THE BOOK: A Biblical Blueprint to Bless Your Business (Wiley, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-4704964-2-8, $24.95).