Creating a Productive & Happy Work Environment
In the last fifty years, researchers studying the methods of motivating employees and building great teams have found that the single most important motivator turns out to be “clear expectations.” When employees are asked to describe the best jobs they ever had, they invariably say, “I always knew exactly what my boss expected.”
When researchers looked for the foremost demotivator in the world of work, they found that it was the flip side of the biggest motivator. It was the “unclear expectations,” or employees “not knowing what was expected” of them.
People are inordinately influenced by the expectations of others, especially the expectations of others they respect. The higher up you are in an organization relative to another person, the more powerful your expectations will be in influencing the behavior of that person.
The Environment Always Wins
Top managers are those who create a work environment where peak performance takes place. They simultaneously put all the known motivators in place while removing the demotivators that inhibit performance. Decades of research into peak performance and motivation can be boiled down to one conclusion: Successful companies are those that create an environment where people feel terrific about themselves.
“Many leaders don’t realize that the environment in which you work-the office, the work unit, the people and culture of your team, the incentives, and the attitude of your boss-all of these things directly impact your performance,” said Jerry Porras, “Lane Professor” Emeritus of Organizational Behavior and Change at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Dr. Porras is also coauthor of the business classics Built to Last and Success Built to Last. The environment in which you work is a huge factor in determining whether you are successful. And the environment will outlast you, good or bad.
Great managers develop the ability to bring out the very best in their people by learning and “understanding what makes them tick, and giving them power to feel as though they are working as advocates on behalf of customers, employees, and shareholders,” said Steve Miles of Heidrick and Struggles. “Without a great environment and clear support to feel they’re making progress in serving customers, most people work at a fraction of their capacity,” Miles said.
Your Relationship with Your Boss
The Gallup Organization has conducted research on tens of thousands of employees, and it found that perhaps the most profound issue driving employee engagement is their relationship with their boss. It impacts everything that you do as an employee; this relationship colors your feeling and affects your enthusiasm (or lack thereof) in your work.
The quality of the interaction between the employer and the employee is the key determinant of motivation and performance. Treat your staff members like partners, clients, essential parts of the enterprise, because they are.
People are inordinately influenced by the way that others treat them, especially their bosses and other important people in the organization. A look, a glance, a comment, or a compliment can cause a person to perform at higher levels all day long, and even longer. The quality of the relationship between the boss and the employee can be measured by how free the employee feels to express his thoughts, feelings, and concerns, and even voice disagreements to the boss, without fear of criticism or reprisal.
Drive Out Fear
One of the best ways to drive out fear is to stop creating it as a manager. When you are consistent in expressing your expectations and measure them objectively, you build confidence and reduce fear in an organization. When you have more fun in the office and maintain a sense of humor-as long as it’s at your expense and never your team’s-you can significantly reduce stress in the office. Even those businesses where life and death are at stake have embraced joy as a core cultural fixture in their companies. At Southwest Airlines, founder Herb Kelleher’s legendary affinity for humor was known to often energize his team and drive out fear because he was willing to be the butt of the joke.
Kelleher’s stand-up routine is funny, but it isn’t a joke. He’s making a real point about how he wants every flight attendant, every operations or administrative person, and ever pilot to know they are more important to customers than the executives in the corner office.
Leadership is not an award or entitlement; it’s a responsibility to the people who make your organization great for customers.
“Your people come first, even before customers,” Kelleher said. Period. “Unless they’re happy and motivated, you won’t keep your customers coming back.”
The healthiest thing you can do as a leader is to take your team more seriously than yourself. Driving out fear is a core value of companies like Southwest Airlines, but humor doesn’t imply that Southwest is any less serious about safety, service, or success. It means that joy is central to the culture of service that makes this company tick. It’s how the company enables people to show their creativity at work and humanize their interactions with customers.
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