For years I have been promoting the power of silence. If you’ve heard me speak on the topic of How to Get Others to WILLINGLY Do What Needs to be Done, then you are familiar with the following guidance: “Once you ask a question, STOP TALKING!!!”
I came across this article that gives you even more reasons to master the art of silence.
When people think about how to increase Employee Engagement in organizations, they often focus on more tangible things like perks and environment. The thought is that, if you provide your team with good benefits and a beautiful place to work that includes fun things to do in between projects, they will then become more engaged in the work. How wonderful if that were so. All any company would need do is invest in a few ping-pong tables or a weekly massage therapist and voila! Employee Engagement!
I strongly encourage any or all of it. Benefits like good health insurance and 401(k)s help you to attract and keep talent. Recreational outlets are a means to address the tension and stress that can be part of a productive work environment. However, the problem with solely providing benefits and environmental “perks” as a means of engagement is that people get used to them very quickly. It’s known as the “hedonic treadmill.”
Hedonic Treadmill – noun
The theory that humans continually adapt to bad and good circumstances and return to relative neutrality
Example: Lottery winners are the perfect example of the hedonic treadmill: within a year they generally return to their former level of happiness.
The Hedonic Treadmill recognizes that workers will quickly become used to the perks your organization so generously provides. Whether it’s great benefits or Freaky Fridays,” after awhile it becomes part of the “given” and the “expected” and they demand more. This is why you so often hear senior level executives lament, “It’s never enough for them.” (But these executives have their own version of The Hedonic Treadmill that often includes huge bonuses or better company cars.)
The Hedonic Treadmill inspires a strong argument for the three pillars of Employee Engagement that we advocate:
No matter the benefits, toys or fun events provided, what has the strongest impact on Employee Engagement is the relationship between them and their direct supervisor. And those relationships play out most often when delegation and feedback are happening. When a supervisor delegates in a way that implies the team member doesn’t know what s/he is doing, de-motivation occurs. Likewise, when feedback is given in a way that leaves scars, employees mentally and emotionally check out. They do the bare minimum or start looking for other jobs.
We include laughter in the Employee Engagement equation because, as Victor Borge once famously said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between people.” When you have a supervisor you can laugh with, your engagement in the work increases. After all, you cannot laugh with someone unless you like him, even just a little. That makes it difficult to defy that person when s/he assigns you work.
If you are actively trying to increase Employee Engagement, which is at record lows across our nation, I invite you to pivot from the “give them more perks” conversation and toward the Leadership conversation.
No one ever performed their job better because of health insurance or foosball but there is a history of solid research that employees are more productive for a direct supervisor who is an effective and likable leader.
I am continually surprised by how many organizations think that employee engagement has to do with extracurricular programs like company picnics, or internal perks like an on-site coffee bar or billiard table.
While there is nothing wrong with any of these things, it is a serious mistake to think that they deeply impact employee engagement, particularly if leadership is not practicing the basics every day.
A friendly supervisor at the company picnic who tells your family what a great worker you are cannot make up for poor input and inconsistent feedback about your work the rest of the time.
A manager cannot make up for his lack of availability to meet with you about an important project by challenging you to a friendly game of billiards. Why does he have time for that and not what’s most important to you?
Too often the perks offered to employees to promote employee engagement have the same effect as putting an ice pack on a broken leg. It might feel good momentarily but it’s not a long-term solution.
True employee engagement has to do with how you involve your team day-to-day in the work. Are they only given “marching orders” or are they able to have input into the parade route? Do you honor and tap their knowledge and experience or are they treated like novices? Are they given honest and useful feedback about their performance or do you disrespect them by telling them “good job” when it was, at best, mediocre?
Employee engagement has to do with attention:
Short-term, quick fixes cannot increase employee engagement—at best it creates a voracious appetite for, “What have you done for me lately?”Providing your team instead with opportunities to truly get involved in the work is what they most want. Doing so fulfills the definition of engagement which, in this context, Merriam-Webster defines as: b: emotional involvement or commitment.
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:
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.
Tip #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!!!
When I work with organizations I am often surprised by how few leaders know how to give feedback that is constructive and energizing. There seems to be a black or white quality to the feedback. Either employees hear what they did wrong or we’re cheerleading them when they did something right, all without providing guiding details. Or worse, we don’t provide feedback at all and they are left floundering, wondering if they’re getting things right or about to be fired. None of these approaches lead to more employee engagement—quite the opposite—they all lead to employee disengagement. Yes, lacking specific details, even positive feedback can be a detriment to employee engagement. Employees don’t want cheerleading—they want to know specifics about their performance (don’t you?)
It is a rare leader who understands and can provide the kind of feedback that creates an opportunity for improvement of employees’ skills, boosts morale, and results in employees’ taking responsibility for their results.
Happily, there is a feedback process that builds employee engagement specifically because the employees critique their own performance.
Feedback, in its purest essence is neither positive nor negative; it is merely data. The person providing the data cannot control how it is perceived; that is controlled completely by the recipient. When the provider and the recipient of feedback are one and the same (i.e., self-critique), it can become very interesting.
By adding the following process to your toolkit your employees will begin to participate in their own development and become more engaged in their work.
The LB/NT Process
The process is called The LB/NT Process. Here is how it works:
When a task or project is completed, you ask your team member, “What did you like best (LB) about what you did, and what would you do differently next time (NT)?” This process is useful for both individual and project team feedback.
Once the self-critique is completed, you will have less to say than if you had been the only one delivering feedback. In fact, sometimes your input won’t even be necessary, your employees will cover everything you intended to say. However, it will support their process to let them know which parts of their assessment you agree with and which you do not. You may have an opportunity to say, “I think you’re being a little hard on yourself,” if, in fact, that’s true. And if there is feedback you wanted to give that they didn’t cover, you can guide the conversation in that specific direction. “What did you like best about _______________and what would you do differently next time?”
Here are some key advantages to using this process:
I would be negligent if I didn’t mention the linchpin that makes the LB/NT process work beautifully: once you ask, ‘what did you like best?” and, “what, if anything, would you do differently next time,” SHUT UP! Stop talking! Do not offer suggestions (leading the witness); do not fidget in your chair (due to your discomfort with silence), JUST WAIT.
I promise, as you get better at this, and you will, you will be amazed by what your employees offer and how much easier your job becomes. At first, it may be awkward. Employees might worry that these are trick questions. If so, reassure them that their input is a valuable component to a new approach you just discovered and are applying. Employees are glad to know you don’t have it all figured out; it makes you human.
Once your employees see this in action and understand that this is the new feedback process (i.e., it’s not going away), they will come to meetings prepared with their LBs and NTs. The benefit to everyone is that it will take less time and be more productive than traditional feedback sessions where they may often have felt defensive, unappreciated and beaten up. They may also choose to incorporate this practice into tasks and projects they’ve completed for which your feedback is not necessary, making them more self-reliant and efficient in their work.
Finally, ahem (small cough), if I may suggest? This is an excellent process for you to use when reviewing your own work.