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Employee Engagement Tips that Really Work

TIP #1 – Spend 80% of your time with your top performers and the rest of your time with the others

 This works in two ways:

  • Invigorates those who are performing well to do even more
  • Demonstrates to the low performers that the way to get attention is through performance, not by making mistakes

TIP #2 – Treat employees like adults; don’t micro-manage

If your employee has been with you longer than 3 months and you still have to tell them step-by-step what to do or you have to continually follow up with them, there’s either a training issue on your end or a maturity problem on theirs. Either way, it is imperative that you take action unless you enjoy doing their job AND yours.

Tip #3 – Look for things to appreciate instead of things to criticize

Psychologists tell us that it takes seven positive statements to offset a negative one. When you look for things to appreciate about each team member, it goes a long way toward softening the critical feedback that is sometimes necessary.

Thank You Fotolia_78962939_XSTip #4 – Say thank you at least weekly

I once had a supervisor say to me, “You mean, I have to acknowledge them just for doing their jobs?!?” The short answer to that is, “Yes.” The longer answer went this way: I asked him, “If every one of your team came in every day and just did their jobs, would your work be much easier?” He ruefully admitted it would so I said, “THAT’S why you want to acknowledge them for “just” doing their jobs.”

Tip #5 – Give them a much autonomy as possible

Author/lecturer Dan Pink tells us that, to motivate employees, give them autonomy over: Time | Technique | Task | Team

Tips are great and the five above are among the best but they’ll only work if you try them. Try one/week and see what happens!!!

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The Gift of Positive Expectation

Encourage, Discourage Fotolia_37582774Whether you are a leader or an employee, giving yourself and others the gift of positive expectation is a key to having work that is thoroughly engaging.

It starts when you wake up

  • When you wake up in the morning is it with a groan or a smile? Are you happy to be alive or is the jury still out? When my friend William, who is very positive, wakes up, he raises both hands toward the ceiling and waves them around. He tells me, “If I don’t feel a coffin lid, I get out of bed, happy to have another day.”
  • As you’re getting ready for work are your thoughts centered on expectations of having a good day at work? Or are you already steeling yourself for problems?

The Law of Attraction dictates that you get more of what you focus on. Shorthand for that is:

  • If you expect negative experiences, that’s what you will get.
  • When you expect positive experiences, life gets really good really fast. EVEN YOUR WORK LIFE.

It impacts productivity at work

If you are a leader at work (officially or not) you have a great opportunity each day to impact your company culture by giving coworkers and those who report to you the gift of positive expectation. Expect people to do good work. Encourage them by catching them doing something right and let them know you notice. And practice this on yourself, as well. Stop waiting for your boss to notice all the great things you do. Keep your own personnel file and write yourself up for good performance; keeping track of all the things you do well will result in you getting even better at your job and more productive. This is the same impact you will see when you do the same for others.

Fact: psychologists tell us it takes seven positive statements to offset a negative one. Ponder that for a moment. Think about the impact when you know someone important does not have faith in you.

Some of you use others’ negative expectation of you as motivation to try even harder. “I’ll prove them wrong,” you say to yourself. Because you use it to motivate yourself, you think having negative expectations of others will also motivate them, and it may. But it is much more motivating to want to live up to positive expectations than negative ones. When you have faith in someone, they usually will work hard because they don’t want to let you down.

Fact: Human beings would rather be right than happy. When you have positive expectations of others, you will go out of your way to notice the things that support your faith in them. Conversely, when you have negative expectations, you will notice all the things to support that belief!

Start practicing giving the gift of positive expectations. I’m not saying you won’t be let down from time to time; you will. However, when you expect the best from others and watch for it, you will be blown away by how often they rise to meet your expectations. Employee Engagement will rise and so will morale.

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Need problem solvers? Use humor!

Meeting, Stressful Fotolia_100274858_XSThe very word “problem” doesn’t normally bring humor to mind. Problem-solving evokes images of late night work sessions – guys with their ties loosened and shirt sleeves rolled up and women with their uncomfortable dress shoes kicked off, all gathered around a conference table looking tense and wondering how to resolve whatever issue they’re working on.

Think how different that scene would be if those very same people were relaxed around that table, tossing soft toy balls to each other, making things out of pipe cleaners (remember pipe cleaners?), or squeezing squishy toys and laughing.

In the first example, their minds are totally focused on the problem. They think they are there to find a solution but it’s hard to get creative ideas when you are tired and stressed out. It’s one of the reasons brilliant ideas come to us in the middle of the night when we’re not actively working on them. Our creativity can finally reach us in our sleep!

Laughter is a gift from the Creativity Gods and a boon to Employee Engagement. That’s not just my opinion, scientists tell us that the more they research the benefits of laughter, the stronger the case for using it in work situations, especially those requiring problem solving. A study out of Wharton, for example found that laughter resulted in individuals demonstrating more creative decision-making and greater flexibility. According to the article Leading with Laughter by Eric Tytslin laughter “clears the mind and improves focus.”

So think about how you can make the problem-solving meetings at work more fun. Ideas could include:

Air Guitar

  • Have an air guitar contest
  • Do a 10-minute icebreaker. Example: without showing it to them, tape to each person’s back the name of a cartoon character and get them to guess who they are by asking questions, “Am I male or female?” “Animal or human?” etc.
  • Before the meeting is officially started, show one of the thousands of short YouTube videos that evoke contagious laughter
  • Hold a “stupid human tricks” contest where everyone displays one of their unique talents

None of these require a lot of time but 5-10 minutes invested in frivolity at the front end will pay off handsomely when the meeting moves into problem-solving mode.

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Laugh to Build an Engaging Culture

Humor is no laughing matter. There are numerous compelling studies from such lofty organizations as Wharton, Stanford University and MIT that point to a variety of benefits to organizations that make humor a key component of their culture. These benefits include:

  • Increased productivity
  • Increased talent retention
  • Improved customer care
  • More employee engagement
  • The ability to attract good talent – word gets out quickly if you’re a desirable place to work
  • A decrease in the use of employee benefits – laughter decreases stress and increases health
  • Increased growth – research done by the organization Great Place to Work shows, time and again, that organizations with a thriving workplace culture tend to grow significantly faster than peer organizations

So what are some ways to introduce humor into your culture? In my last blog, I mentioned posting funny signs in a central area every day. Here is another idea that will bowl you over when you see its impact on your culture:

Laughter Club Fotolia_103566386_XSStart a Company Laughter Club

Laughter Clubs trace their roots to India where, in the 1990’s people gathered at assigned times in public parks where they would look at each other and laugh for 5-10 minutes. Then they would leave and go about their days. Can you imagine what life would be like if you started your day with laughter?

And can you imagine the impact on your company culture if each department or division had 5-10 minute laughter sessions every day?

The key, of course, is to get executives involved. If there is no buy-in from a senior level, then employees will understandably wonder if participation will be looked down upon. After all, if the execs don’t think it’s important enough to engage in, what must they think of the employees who do? In case you need convincing to get you (yes, you!) and your senior level people involved, look at the bulleted list of benefits above. This is a SHORT list! If you want your senior people to do their best work, get them laughing!

For more information about laughter in the workplace, give me a call. The years I’ve spent doing stand-up can surely benefit your company.

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Humor and Employee Engagement

Last week I delivered my keynote address, Lighten Up & Lead! to the Utah Healthcare Association. While preparing for it, I ran across this very compelling argument for introducing humor into your workplace:

A study conducted at Canadian financial institutions found that managers who most frequently used humor also had the highest level of employee performance which translates into employee engagement.

Please note that this study was done at financial institutions—often the most serious of workplaces. And yet, facts are facts.

Stress Cycle Fotolia_63781283What usually happens when employee performance is not up to the needs of the organization is that things get very serious very quickly. That is completely under-standable and yet, increased stress rarely produces the desired results. If anything, employees become less productive beginning a never-ending cycle of, “Produce more!” → “We can’t; we’re too stressed.”

What might happen if these same organizations introduced humor into the equation? If we were to believe the Canadian study, then employee performance would increase.

But wait! There’s more! Studies show that laughter has numerous benefits:

  • Engages the whole brain making us sharper
  • Lightens the load
  • Fosters a positive work environment
  • Helps workers re-charge
  • Makes people happy at work
  • Reduces stress
  • Connects people building trust and resulting in better customer service and team spirit

A Wharton study found that laughter promotes creativity and greater analytical precision. So, not only are your employees inspired to perform, they actually perform better.

This is the start of a series of blogs devoted to humor in the workplace. In future offerings, I will outline ways to introduce it in your organization. As a beginning, you may want to consider posting a new funny sign in the employee lounge or, lacking a lounge, post one by the coffee pot. It would be preferable to change it every day but at the very least, once a week. There are many places you can find these funny items:

  • Readers Digest
  • Do an Internet search for “funny quotes.” This should give you an endless supply.
  • Assign the task to a different employee or department for the week or month.

You may from time to time hear someone say during a stressful time, “Some day we’ll laugh about this.” I say – why wait? Introduce laughter into your workplace and watch what happens to your productivity levels.