Sunday, March 28, 2010

Get your employees focus during bad times...

As we continue to strive our businesses toward economic recovery, the work environment remains anxious and uncertain as could be seen or read in the daily newspaper reports. There are still some uncertainties in the overseas Europe, US sectors other than the Asia countries still in better shape. Of course some Asia countries could have done better if not because of its political unrest, looming terrorist threats, etc. Employees in Singapore may be grateful for their paychecks, but numerous studies reveal what most leaders already know anecdotally: that a great many workers are slowing disengaging and even starting to dislike their jobs, either without challenge or it has been monotonous. I suppose you could call them the “living dead”, those employees who show up for work with their bodies but leave their brains, and their souls, at home.

In the old days leaders typically rallied the troops by painting a picture of a glorious, prosperous future, garlanded with bonuses, perks and advancement. How do you get people excited about their jobs today when you're still find the sense of uncertainties with tomorrow? Will the global financial market get the second dip with Greece now starting to face financial problem, which country next ??

We all have basic human needs: We need to be connected to other people, we need to know that our work matters, and we need leaders who respond to those needs when times are tough. Fortunately, meeting these intrinsic needs needn't cost your organization a “bomb” or any cent. And it's something you can do every single day, no matter how uncertain the environment.

Here's how anyone can tap into the real human needs to help their organization stay productive, positive, engaged and happy during times of angst and uncertainty:

Get emotional: Whenever we talk about emotions in the workplace, executives get uneasy. But have you ever noticed that you never hear managers saying, "Please don't get so excited" . The reality is that emotions are at the center of everything we do. The leadership challenge isn't to avoid them. It's to ignite the positive ones. The secret of getting people more engaged in their work is for their leaders to become more engaged with them. That means being willing to show up emotionally as well as intellectually. Human connection isn't a nice thing to have; it's a must-have. Meaningful connections provide people with the internal fortitude they need to stay productive during tough times. You want to be connected to your people, and you also want them to be connected to one another. The way you do that is by talking, with real spoken words, not with frequent e-mail edicts, asking people how they're doing and actually listening to their answers, and by providing them with opportunities to interact with one another.

Provide Context: We all want to know that we make a difference in the world. When you put someone's work into a meaningful context, you tap into the deepest yearning of his or her soul. The challenge is that most people's days are so hectic and their jobs so compartmentalized that they often miss the larger story of how their work touches the lives of others. Leaders who reframe daily tasks by providing personal context quell the angst of uncertainty by giving their employees something more meaningful to think about. The key here is to make it personal. It's easy to say, "Our company provides services that make organizations more efficient and productive," but that's hardly a reason for someone to go the extra mile. If you tell a story about a real live human being who has been affected by your team's work, be it a co-worker, end user or other customer, people will take more pride in their work.

Leadership: It would be nice if we all went through our days feeling certain that we were beloved by our staff and co-workers and that our work made a real difference in everyone’s lives. But unfortunately angst and worry are often the standard default setting for the human brain. When we're left at the mercy of our own perceptions, our jobs can descend into an endless series of meaningless to-dos. That's why one of the essential roles of a leader is to continually set the conversation and to remind people that their work and their lives, safety, health are a matter.

Employees sometimes act as if they don't care, but perhaps that's only because their leaders don't give them anything important to care about. Revenue objectives, market share targets and numbers on an annual report are fine goals. But the secret of true emotional engagement is to get beyond the numbers and make it all feel personal. People are eager to be part of something bigger than themselves. In fact, when deprived of the chance to do so, they grow desperate for it. Leaders who connect on an emotional level and provide their people with meaningful context can ignite a passion that transcends uncertainty. People who are connected to one another and have a sense of personal mission about their work can do practically anything, whatever the conditions. Great leaders are people who are willing to show up for work with their mind, body and soul and thereby create a culture where everyone else would like to follow suit. Eventually, the organization benefits from these positive effects and it is all up to the leaders to start the ball rolling and not give sarcasms or provocative words that hurt the staff morale and well being.

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