“And if you connect work not with love but only distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.” Kahil Gibran
We’d all like to have the “perfect” place to work — where everyone is positive, productive, and cooperative. But people being what they are, and business pressures being what they are, we’ll never find the “perfect” place to work.
In fact, you’ll seldom — if ever — hear employees say such things as:
* “I love my boss so much I’d gladly work for him for free.”
* “I’m going to run down to the cafeteria and ask the cook for one of his recipes.”
* “To me, ‘The customer is always right’ is not just a saying; it’s a way of life.”
* “Boy, I wish I could make coffee as good as that vending machine on the third floor.”
* “I wish they’d find more for me to do. I’m starting to get bored around here.”
* “The boss wanted to give me a raise but I said, ‘Let’s wait until I really deserve it’.”
* “Don’t you just love Monday mornings?”
* “I don’t want the promotion if it’s going to make my coworkers envious.”
* “I don’t want this ever to happen again — that you take up an office collection and forget to ask me to contribute.”
Even though you may never FIND the “perfect” place to work, you can CREATE a GREAT place to work. You can do some things that boost employee morale and bring out the very best in each and every person. That’s what I teach in my program entitled, “Staying Up In A Down World: 8 Keys To A More Positive Work Environment.”
Of course, you may think you can’t afford to build a positive work environment. You just can’t pay people all the money they want. It would bankrupt your company.
Wrong! When business owners complain that “People go where the money is,” I reply, “Not so! All studies show otherwise.” The Robert Half International survey proved that “compensation is not the predominant reason why people leave their jobs for supposedly greener pastures.”
Instead, Roger E. Herman, author of “Facilitative Leadership” says, the most effective way to recruit and retain the best, the most effective way to bring out the best in your people is create a positive work environment that continually feeds their morale. And this can’t be done with pep talks when you notice a drop in the level of employee enthusiasm. Herman says, “You have to create an optimal environment… as part of an overall integrated strategy… that inspires people to do their best day in and day out.”
As I said before, there are eight keys that will transform any organization, team, or family. But it would take me a whole book — or an entire day’s seminar — to give you all eight keys and all of their accompanying strategies. Let’s focus on one of those eight keys today — INCLUSION.
Inclusion is a big fancy term that refers to an atmosphere of encouragement, feedback and appreciation. It goes way beyond the faddish high-rope courses, company picnics and softball teams. Oh sure, those things might make work more fun, but it takes a lot more than that to create an environment where everyone gives his/her best to the company and the customer.
Here’s four ways you can develop the INCLUSION factor in your organization.
=> 1. Court Your Employees.
Many companies give the subtle message that their employees should be glad that they have a job–“After all,” they tend to imply, “Some people don’t have jobs, so shut and be happy.” The best companies by contrast, treat their employees as if they were being actively courted by their competitors. Habitat CEO Randy Chamberlain says, “It’s up to us to give employees a work environment they don’t want to leave.”
=> 2. Express Appreciation To The Invisible People.
It’s easy to single out the stars in any organization. And they certainly deserve the recognition they receive.
But even the best people and the best organizations are supported by a myriad of other people. These employees need to be singled out as well — from time to time — and be commended for their efforts in keeping the company running smoothly.
I saw Dr. Ted Hall do this so very well. Before I spoke to the entire staff of the Batesville, Arkansas school district — which notably is the seventh best school in the entire state — Superintendent Hall singled out the maintenance, transportation, and food service people for their exceptional service. And all the teachers and administrators applauded and cheered them. The whole room was filled with a bit more pride because of the fine contributions made by their “less visible” people.
I remember Jim Cathcart using this strategy in the Atlanta airport. While eating in the food court, with all the tables filled and several people standing, Jim noticed a busboy working his way through the crowd. His shoulders were hunched forward and his head was down. He moved from table to table, barely making eye contact with anyone as he cleared away the dirty dishes.
When Jim finished his food and disposed of the trash, he approached the busboy. He said, “What you are doing here sure is important.”
“Huh,” the busboy replied.
“If you weren’t doing what you are doing, it wouldn’t be five minutes before there was trash everywhere, and people would stop coming in here. What you are doing is important, and I just wanted to say thanks for doing it.”
The busboy began to smile. His posture became more erect, and he began to make eye contact with those around him. A few choice words reminded the busboy that he was important, and he felt included as part of the team.
=> 3. Tell The World.
Quote one of your employees in an article you’re writing or in a letter you’re sending to your customers. Publish news about an employee’s participation in a trade or professional association in your company newsletter. And post copies of letters of appreciation to personnel on the staff bulletin board. There’s a hundred and one things you can do in this category.
=> 4. Show Concern.
If you’re a team leader, supervisor, or manager, you may think that your staff members don’t want you interfering in their private lives. But when people are hurting they appreciate whatever assistance is offered. So it’s no wonder that today’s supervisor/manager must invest a significant amount of time in advising, counseling, coaching, training, and listening. Quite simply, employees who are helped to perform will perform better — as well as feel better about themselves and the company they work for.
And if you’re wondering how you can do a better job of showing concern, pick up a copy of my book, “Brave Questions: How To Build Stronger Relationships By Asking All The Right Questions.” I outline a communication process and give you 400 questions that will be of great use to you.
In fact, here’s what Tom S. said.
Tom attended my seminar for TAP Pharmaceuticals. Some time later, he sent me the following email: “You really never know what is going on in the lives of your customers or coworkers. Your Brave Question technique taught me that. As a manager of twenty-five employees, I decided to try it. I shared some misfortune I was having and asked my employees some brave questions about their situations.”
Tom said he started by telling his staff: “I have a two-year old son with a terminal illness which has no known cure. The fatality rate is 50% per year after diagnosis. So he is not expected to make it out of his early childhood years. A few weeks ago my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. And it has taken me six months to tell you all this.”
He said: “I then asked a few Brave Questions, and I learned some unbelievable things. I learned one employee has a 42-year old husband that needs bypass heart surgery. They have a 5-year old son. One employee has a father she cares for at her home that can not eat or care for himself. She leaves work and cares for him at night. One employee’s mother has congestive heart failure, and they are investigating her options. One employee has an overactive thyroid that required surgery. She came out successfully but was told she may lose her speech. One employee’s sister has breast cancer and requires a mastectomy. Another employee’s sister has a bad heart valve and requires surgery to correct it.”
“As a manager using your Brave Question book, I have learned some lessons that have changed me forever. We all have lives away from work. I’ve learned that employee performance issues may go much deeper than what I see on the surface. I’ve got to take time to develop relationships with my employees so I can bring out their best as well as be there to help them when needed.”
Action: Ask five “Brave Questions” this week in your efforts to show more concern and make your coworkers feel more included. It works.