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For practically the entirety of my adult life, I have managed people in some capacity. Overall, to say I’ve had “mixed results” would be fairly accurate. My career started out in a little restaurant in the suburbs of Minneapolis where I was the youngest on a staff of some pretty rough-around-the-edges people. One of the things one of my employees (a “lifer”, if you will) said to me was “don’t let them push you around”. And I didn’t. Or, I tried not to. For the first few months, the people I needed to do things just listened to me be stern and rolled their eyes. When I look back on this, I can’t help but understand where they were coming from. Who was this know-it-all kid coming in to tell them what to do? What did he know?
In my early 30s, I was a call center manager and inherited a “problem employee” from my predecessor. She was young, had a lot of attitude, and decided from the beginning that this new guy was not going to tell her what to do. She gave me moderate attitude problems almost daily, she underperformed, and made her feelings about me fairly public within the staff. As you can imagine, this was pretty frustrating, and after about a month of working there, I had decided I had enough. I asked her to come to my office, shut the door and proceeded to sit down and ask her not so nicely, “What is your problem?!”. The rest of the meeting consisted of me pointing my finger and letting her know that this was not going to stand, and she better shape up.
She didn’t last long after that. She disliked me even more, her comments to coworkers went from public to secret, and she stopped showing up for work and was eventually terminated.
At re:member group, high productivity is vital. We have very little idle time and projects need to be executed in a timely manner. When I think of the best way to motivate a productive staff, I remember past experiences like the ones above, and I remember how unproductive employees were when I tried to be stern and demand things out of them.
During an interview last week, a prospect asked me about my management philosophy, to which I responded without hesitation, “We believe that positivity breeds productivity.”
The Emotion Bucket
According to a recent Gallup poll, 65% of people surveyed said they got no recognition for good work in the last year. That’s a high number, and it’s the number-one reason most Americans leave their job – they don’t feel appreciated. The Gallup Organization also surveyed some 4 million workers on the topics of recognition and praise, and there were some eye-opening numbers. Along with 65% of people who reported no recognition for their job in the year, 22 million people report being “actively disengaged”, or extremely negative in their job. Gallup goes on to say that this costs the US ecnomy up to $300 billion dollars a year in productivity.
In the book “How Full is Your Bucket?”, the author talks about the “the Theory of the Dipper and the Bucket”. It suggests that everyone carries an invisible bucket of emotions and they can either fill other people’s buckets or dip from them. In the end, the research shows filling someone else’s bucket helps both people. In a recent article, Lauren Kanny from Gallup goes on to say:
“The many small interactions or moments that make up your day — approximately 20,000 moments by one study’s count — weigh in on either the positive or negative side. “How Full Is Your Bucket?” shows how these moments influence who we are, how we feel, and how we perform.
What’s more, the book outlines five strategies for reducing the negativity our culture seems to cultivate:
- Prevent “Bucket Dipping.” Increase your own awareness of how often your comments are negative. Work toward a ratio of five positive comments to every one negative comment.
- Shine a Light on What Is Right. Try focusing on what employees or peers do right rather than where they need improvement, and discover the power of reinforcing good behaviors.
- Make Best Friends. People with best friends at work have better safety records, receive higher customer satisfaction scores, and increase workplace productivity.
- Give Unexpectedly. A recent poll showed that the vast majority of people prefer gifts that are unexpected.
- Reverse the Golden Rule. Instead of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” you should “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.” Individualization is key when filling others’ buckets.
“How Full Is Your Bucket?” is filled with sound advice for executives hoping to reap the tangible benefits of a positive atmosphere in the workplace. It also offers great insights to anyone who wants a better life — both at home and at work.”
Finding a Balance
It’s not all wine and roses, however, companies adopting a positive approach need to be mindful that positivity needs to accompany productivity. According to an article by Larry Broughton, low productivity plus high positivity require a course correction, while high productivity with low positivity indicate your company may be on life support.
“Those organizations low in both productivity and positivity are standing at death’s door and will soon expire — a total corporate overhaul is needed to survive (or a reservation made at the corporate morgue). Those who are high in productivity, yet low in positivity are likely grinding out an existence and burning through their human capital — these organizations are in need of soothing relief in the form of team member recognition; improved work conditions; effective incentive programs; up-beat, humane leadership; and perhaps some team member autonomy.
Organizations with low productivity, yet high positivity may have laid the groundwork by developing an upbeat, light-as-a-cloud work environment, but need to take course correction soon by instituting productivity goals; performance metrics; clearly articulating expectations; and identifying team leaders to motivate, inspire, and act as role models. Left unchecked, the corporate coffin will be carried to the grave by happy, unemployed pallbearers.
Those blessed organizations with high productivity and positivity are destined for greatness. To maintain the spirit of success they must loosen the corporate reins on their stallions and offer the freedom to run full bore. They must systematize and automate operations when possible, and celebrate success often. More importantly, however, they must embrace and learn from their failures. Leaders who have identified those elements of their organization’s culture that have contributed to success, and then ensured they are ingrained in the corporate DNA, are more likely to defy the odds and secure enduring success. Sounds great, right?”
I did eventually learn from the two examples I set earlier. After I had a paradigm shift and learned that being hard-nosed would get me nowhere, I learned something important: Productivity begins with hiring the right person. I’ve believed, at least in the recent years of my career that a leader’s role is largely in a support capacity. I try to find those with good character, then make sure they’re well taken care of and given everything they need. I often ask employees if they’re comfortable, if they have everything they need, and if there’s anything I can do to help. I’m often asked the same by my boss. I often wonder how those situations I mentioned earlier would have ended up had I taken this approach with those “trouble” employees. When I look back, I can’t help but feel that the loss in producitivity and toxic attitude was on my shoulders to fix.
The result is the best working environment I’ve experienced. People missing work is largely an anomaly. Sick days are practically non-existent. People laugh, enjoy themselves, are passionate, respectful, and professional. We take pride in our work and love to learn about better ways to do it.
Having said all this, problems do arise. In a later blog post, I will talk about addressing issues in a respectful manner. Let me just say that when problems do arise, they’re easily remedied in an atmosphere of mutual respect. We’re eager to fix our flaws as employees. We’re eager to coach to make each other better. We want to be better, we believe we can be.