Discover Your Inner Work Life

Have you ever examined your own inner work life? In the work I do corporate coaching, some have good self-awareness of their perceptions, emotions and motivations. Some don’t. Emotional intelligence is something that is developed in coaching relationships and through leadership coaching. Management responsibilities can take a toll on day-by-day perceptions, emotions and motivations. Most managers are both superiors and subordinates, sandwiched in between different personalities, often with limited power. Recognizing small wins is the best way to motivate your team – the key principle revealed through rigorous analysis of daily journal entries by Amabile and Kramer in The Progress Principle. Every day events affect our inner work lives, and managers are certainly not exempt. As a leader, you must tend to your staff’s inner work lives by providing support each day. You, too, will perform best when your inner work life is positive and strong. You can do what the team members did for The Progress Principle research study to improve your ability to recognize and harness your perceptions, motivations, and emotions to your advantage. You can keep a daily journal. As used for the study, it only takes five to ten minutes at the end of each day to review significant events. In my previous post A Progress Checklist, I shared questions you can ask to review your day. A regular review of your day’s events can help you sustain good inner work life or improve bad inner work life for yourself. James Pennebaker, a psychologist at the University of Texas, is a pioneer in research on the benefits of writing in a journal. Be sure to...

A Progress Checklist

I’m amazed by the research done for the book The Progress Principle. The authors, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, used daily diaries to collect the thoughts about work from teams of knowledge workers in seven diverse companies. What they found makes so much sense, yet it’s not being applied by most managers. They showed that above all else, people were motivated when they got support for progress. That’s not the same as recognition for good work. People want to accomplish meaningful work, and even small wins, for themselves or their team mates, boosts their energy and motivation. Here are some questions that can walk you through using small wins and progress to motivate your team or work group. Progress Setbacks Which 1 or 2 events today indicated either a small win or a possible breakthrough? (Describe briefly.) Which 1 or 2 events today indicated either a small setback or a possible crisis? (Describe briefly.) Catalysts Inhibitors Did the team have clear short- and long-term goals for meaningful work? Was there any confusion regarding long- or short-term goals for meaningful work? Did team members have sufficient autonomy to solve problems and take ownership of the project? Were team members overly constrained in their ability to solve problems and feel ownership of the project? Did they have all the resources they needed to move forward efficiently? Did they lack any of the resources they needed to move forward effectively? Did they have sufficient time to focus on meaningful work? Did they lack sufficient time to focus on meaningful work? Did I give or get them help when they needed or requested...

Facilitating Progress

When you focus on small wins and facilitate progress, your employees will find the energy and drive required to perform optimally. Teams will be more cohesive and collaborative. You’ll get high performing teams. In the work I do in leadership coaching and team responsibility, I find that some naturally know how to spark best performance, some don’t. According to the latest research done by Amabile and Kramer for the book The Progress Principle, two key forces enable progress: Catalysts Events that directly advance project work, such as: Clear goals Autonomy Resources, including time Reviewing lessons from errors and success Free flow of ideas Nourishers Interpersonal events that uplift workers, including: Encouragement and support Demonstrations of respect Collegiality Dealing with Setbacks Three events undermine people’s inner work lives: Setbacks The biggest downer, yet inevitable in any sort of meaningful work Inhibitors Events that directly hinder project work Toxins Interpersonal events that undermine the people doing the work Negative events carry a greater impact than positive ones. We pay more attention to them, remember them, and spend more time thinking and talking about them. That’s why it’s so important for managers and team leaders to counteract negative events with positive perceptions and comments. Research shows it takes three positive messages to balance a negative one. The Daily Progress Checklist To better manage your people, use the Daily Progress Checklist (below) to review today’s and plan tomorrow’s managerial actions. After a few days of checklist use, you’ll be able to save time by scanning for the italicized words: Focus first on the day’s progress and setbacks. Next, think about specific events: the...

Is Your Place of Work “The Office?”

“So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to do work.” ~ Peter Drucker As any fan of The Office or Dilbert can attest, negative managerial behavior severely affects employees? work lives. Managers’ day-to-day and moment-to-moment actions also create a ripple effect, directly facilitating or impeding the organization’s ability to function. In the work I do in corporate coaching, I find the best managers are very aware of their power to influence. They know how much even small wins can boost the performance of their people. They strive to build teams with great inner work lives. In ‘The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work‘ (Harvard Business Press, 2011), Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer describe how people with great inner work lives have: Consistently positive emotions Strong motivation Favorable perceptions of the organization, their work and their colleagues Unfortunately, the worst managers do the opposite: they undermine others’ inner work lives, often unwittingly. Through rigorous analysis of nearly 12,000 diary entries provided by 238 employees at seven companies, Amabile and Kramer found surprising results on the factors that affect performance. What matters most is forward momentum in meaningful work – in a word, progress. Managers who recognize the need for even small wins set the stage for high performance. But surveys of CEOs and project leaders reveal that 95 percent fundamentally misunderstand the need for this critical motivator. What Really Motivates Us? If you lead knowledge workers, you likely employ these conventional management practices: Recruit the best talent. Provide appropriate incentives. Give stretch assignments to develop talent....

More Generational Clash Points: Meetings

Older workers expect a phone call or a visit on important issues and will immediately schedule and plan a meeting to involve significant stakeholders. This frustrates younger workers, who want to meet on the spur of the moment, as soon as possible. Through corporate coaching, I listen to their complaints and they have a point. But so do younger workers. For example, they see nothing wrong with texting superiors and peers instead of scheduling face-to-face meetings, and they like to communicate and solve problems virtually. When faced with a need to meet, they try to contact everyone immediately and begin videoconferencing, chatting, texting, talking and tweeting – often all at the same time. Older colleagues prefer to find a time and day that fits everyone’s schedule – which can delay meeting for days or weeks. They fit things into their routines and calendars. To Gen Y, the ritual of workplace scheduling is stifling, unproductive and a waste of time. The younger people may have a point. But to older colleagues, a seat-of-the-pants approach is irritating. They also have a point: It doesn’t give them enough time to think things through, nor to adequately prepare for a politically influential outcome. Clash Point #4: Learning Older generations are linear learners, comfortable sitting in classes, reading manuals and pondering materials before beginning to implement new programs. Newer workers learn “on demand”, which to Boomers means they just want to “wing it”, figuring things out as they go. Gen-Y learning is interactive, using the Internet, Wikipedia and blogs. They rely on Google and web searches to find answers. Gen Y doesn’t hesitate to...