Employee Enthusiasm - 17 March 2009
One lesson that I keep learning the hard way is that before I start to do something, I need to stop doing something else in order to make it effective. Here’s what I mean.
If you want to get healthy, it's a good idea to stop eating fatty foods before you start exercising. If you want to get wealthy, you should stop spending without thinking before you start investing in shares. If you want to make new friends, it's best to stop being a negative person before you start meeting new people.
Likewise, you don’t need to motivate your employees. You just need to stop de-motivating them. And you don’t need to ignite their enthusiasm either. You just need to stop taking it away.
Children are the epitome of enthusiasm. The world is so new to them. They get excited about recent discoveries. They’re free from worry. Their focus is solely on “am I having a good time right now?” But as we age, things change. We become conscious of injustice and unfairness. Worry and pain infiltrate our lives. We develop deep emotional scars.
The same parallel plays out at work. Employees are enthusiastic for the first six months in a new role, but then they start to become bitter and cynical as their enthusiasm wanes. All of the above means that there are two main ways to get your employees to be enthusiastic.
First, identify what you need to stop doing before you start doing. Figure out the specific enthusiasm-killers prevalent in your team. These fall into two categories:
- What unwanted activities are your employees forced to do? It might be that bureaucratic processes and archaic procedures are holding your people back.
- What are your employees prevented from doing? Maybe their talents aren’t being utilised; they haven’t got enough influence; or their career progression is limited.
Second, inject a childhood mentality into your team - and I'm not talking about "fun and games", which are often more patronising than they are enjoyable. I'm talking about the most fundamental childhood element of all: curiosity. Your team’s enthusiasm levels will rise in proportion to the amount of curiosity you’re able to arouse.
Do this by introducing something new and different that creates excitement. Be bold and fresh in your thinking and initiatives. See what you can spice up in terms of jobs, meetings, and communication style. Even if you work in a stifling organisation, nothing stops you from creating this culture within your own team.
A common cliché is that it takes more facial muscles to frown than to smile. Similarly, it takes more effort to trudge through boredom and apathy than to slowly turn it around.
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