The secret to helping employees perform the way they want to.
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By Alexander Hiam
AMACOM/American Management AssociationCopyright © 2002 Alexander Hiam
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTackling the Feelings That Drive Performance
Are people more productive when they are enjoying their work? This is no academic issue, it is a fundamental management belief that affects nearly every aspect of an organization and its people. In any workplace, you can either have a positive, fun work climate or not. Which do you think is best for business?
Back in "the good old days" of Intel Corp.'s rapid entrepreneurial growth, this Silicon Valley pioneer embraced the notion that work should be fun and that workers work best when enjoying the work and workplace. In fact, the company's mission statement said specifically that one of its core values was "to have fun."
But then the company got bigger and more serious, and a few years ago the word "fun" was struck from the mission statement. Perhaps this is why it has a reputation today as a pretty serious place-or, as The Wall Street Journal put it, "Many people in Silicon Valley think of the chip maker as pretty brusque and businesslike" (January 17, 2002, p. B5). Unfortunately, "businesslike" is generally defined as the opposite of fun-maybe we ought to think about that.
In early 2002, the company changed tack again (sort of) at theurging of a group of employees who felt that Intel just wasn't as fun anymore. Yielding to this pressure, Craig Barrett, Intel's chief executive, was willing to put fun back into the mission statement, but only if it was made clear that the fun was for a serious purpose. So now it reads that a core value is to "have fun-and win."
This story illustrates the ambiguous relationship we have today with fun at work. Is it important for people to feel up and positive and be enjoying their work, or not? For that matter, do leaders who "shake people up" and "put the fear of God in them" and "rule with an iron fist" get better results than managers who try to make sure people are "in the flow" and "excited about their work" and, dare we say it, "enjoying" their jobs? In this chapter we'll explore the issue of how to create the optimal emotional framework for work.
In Chapter 3 we met Joan, the employee whose boss dumped an extra batch of work on her desk, telling her that a new batch had come in late but still had to be processed by the end of the week. Whatever Joan's exact work might be, getting that extra pile of work thrown at her in such a manner is not going to make her feel very good. But traditionally, managers did not worry too much about how their people felt. Employees had a duty, and were expected to perform it whether they felt good about it or not.
How Feelings Drive Motivation and Performance
In this chapter we are going to explore the links between employee feelings and performance in detail. We are going to look at Joan's feelings about her work in more depth, using a useful tool that examines dozens of possible feelings about work and places them on a grid. This tool will help us dig even deeper into the attitudes driving performance than we did in Chapter 3-revealing the foundational attitudes that need to be managed in order to ensure a high degree of intrinsic motivation. The motivational communications techniques of Chapter 4 continue to apply-but you are going to learn how to recognize and focus on underlying emotional states. And sometimes that requires you as a manager to set your concerns about your own work aside and just focus on helping employees get into the right frame of mind to tackle their work.
Emotional Intelligence Means ... What?
What we're really talking about here is the notion that how people feel and react emotionally is important to their success and to the achievement of successful organizational performances in the workplace. Daniel Goleman (with his groundbreaking book Emotional Intelligence and later writings) has done a great deal to interest managers in this notion that emotions matter at work. One of his key points (at least in my mind) is that, as he puts it, "Good moods enhance the ability to think flexibly and with more complexity, thus making it easier to find solutions to problems." Good moods enhance employees' ability to do many things, especially difficult or challenging things. They also make it more likely employees will volunteer to tackle challenges and help coworkers out, rather than just doing "their" jobs and nothing more.
The importance of an up, positive mood to good work is reflected too in the comment of a manager from the U.S. Army, whom I quoted in my earlier book Making Horses Drink. Major General Albert B. Akers believes that "if you are not having fun in your job, there is something wrong."
Is this true? Should work be fun? If you ask managers whether they think they should make sure their employees are having fun at work, most of them will equivocate and find it hard to agree completely with this principle. It is antithetical to traditional notions of work in traditional command-and-control organizations. Work should be disciplined and perhaps even hard, and most managers feel uncomfortable saying that work should be fun. Yet if you ask those same managers whether they think employees are going to produce good work when they are unhappy, well, the answer is quite different. Most people readily agree that you need to be enjoying your work in order to produce really good results. If work is an unhappy struggle, the results are not likely to be stellar-this much everyone seems to agree on.
What I think we are seeing out there in the world of work today is a transitional set of beliefs. Managers are partially aware of the emotional aspects of good performance, but not quite ready to take the leap to managing the emotional climate for performance. It runs against many of our inherited notions about work. For one thing, it's hard to take on the responsibility of providing emotional leadership if you are used to using functional communications. And it is also challenging for managers to figure out exactly how to monitor the emotional performance environment and recognize when (and when not) to try to intervene. That's why we are devoting a whole chapter to a practical approach to this challenge of providing emotionally intelligent leadership in the workplace.
Let's start by taking another look at the case of Joan and her functionally oriented boss-the one who dumps extra work on her desk and tells her to do it by Friday, then goes away to let Joan deal with the problem on her own.
A CASE IN POINT: HOW DOES JOAN FEEL ABOUT HER WORK?
Joan's company is planning to downsize and lay off 10 percent of its employees, but Joan does not know when this will happen or whether it will affect her position. An earlier layoff several months ago cut one of the people in her department and increased Joan's workload as a result. Her boss does not like to talk about the layoffs and generally stays in his office with his door closed on the days when he is in. Many days, however, he is away on business travel, leaving Joan and her associates on their own. But he does e-mail them regularly to tell them what to do or ask them if they have finished various projects yet. (In other words, his communications are usually functional, not motivational.)
Just yesterday, Joan was trying to clear her desk and get out of the office in time to meet some friends for a late dinner when her boss stopped by, tossed a heavy folder on her desk, and told her it was extra work she had to get done by the end of the week. She feared she wouldn't have time to get to it during working hours, so she brought it home and tried to get started on it after dinner. But it was late and she was tired, and she found herself falling asleep over the file and not making much progress on it.
When she came in this morning she found so many new e-mails and memos awaiting her (even though she came in pretty early) that she did not get a chance to go back to that file again. After lunch-which Joan skipped to try to get caught up-her boss came by and asked her how that extra report was coming and whether she'd have it done by Friday like he asked. She replied with a noncommittal "It's going okay, I guess," and her boss went off and shut himself in his office again. (He'd used a closed-ended question and so was not likely to get a truthful answer from Joan, was he?)
Joan considered turning her attention back to that thick file and trying to get the report started. But she just couldn't get psyched about the project and so she busied herself on less difficult tasks until quitting time. Then she wrestled briefly with herself about whether to stay later and work on it, but realized she was pretty tired. Besides, she noticed her boss had left right at five, and she didn't see why she should stay late if he didn't.
As she was packing up to go, she considered taking the file home again, thinking that she could probably get the report done if she spent a few hours on her home computer. But that also seemed like more trouble than it was worth. She realized she just wasn't feeling very enthusiastic about her work right now. She was worried about what would happen on Friday if she didn't have the report done, but she just didn't feel up to doing it. Maybe she would be the next to get downsized, but the way she was feeling right now she wasn't sure she would mind. She could collect unemployment and look for a new job, and, she reminded herself, there were plenty of jobs out there for someone with her qualifications and experience. Maybe one of them would be preferable to this one.
Evaluating Joan's Work-Related Feelings
Let's take a moment to analyze Joan's feelings about her work. Her feelings are obviously affecting her work and how much extra effort she is able to put into it. In fact, she seems to be losing her job motivation as a result of a number of circumstances. To get a clearer understanding of Joan's situation, use the Work Emotions Grid in Exercise 5-1 to analyze Joan's feelings. To use it, simply read the lists of adjectives in each of the four cells and check any that seem to fit Joan's mood well right now. Once you've done that, read the instructions for analyzing your results.
Exercise 5-1. Work emotions grid.
___Calm ___Alert ___Hopeful ___Motivated ___Relaxed ___Optimistic ___Happy ___Enthusiastic ___Peaceful ___Helpful ___Content ___Focused ___Sympathetic ___Creative ___Open ___Curious ___Safe ___Determined ___Satisfied ___Energetic ___Secure ___Confident ___Warm ___Cooperative ___Total ___Total
___Pessimistic ___Angry ___Tired ___Stressed ___Sad ___Resentful ___Powerless ___Resistant ___Uninvolved ___Defensive ___Bored ___Protective ___Weak ___Aggressive ___Uncertain ___Competitive ___Fearful ___Jealous ___Anxious ___Restless ___Unhelpful ___Pressured ___Uncooperative ___Selfish ___Total Negative/Active ___Total
To analyze your results from the Work Emotions Grid, simply count the number of checks in each cell. (Each cell has a list of twelve descriptions of feelings, so you can have as many as twelve checks per cell.) One of the cells almost always has significantly more checks than the other three. This high-scoring cell tells you what the dominant emotional orientation is. Look at the label in the top of the cell with the largest total to find out what Joan's dominant emotion is according to your analysis. The options are Positive/Inactive, Positive/Active, Negative/Inactive, or Negative/Active. Which option scored highest for you?
Joan's emotions are clearly negative, and probably more inactive than active. Did you get Negative/Inactive as an answer?
Getting Specific About "Happy" Workers
The Work Emotions Grid in Exercise 5-1 groups feelings according to two dimensions:
1. Negative versus positive (or bottom versus top)
2. Inactive versus active (or left side versus right side)
The negative/positive dimension has to do with how happy, optimistic, and generally "up" an employee's feelings are. When employees have any of the positive feelings in the two top cells of the grid, they are in a positive frame of mind, which means they are ready and willing to feel good about their work. Positive feelings are very important because they unleash intrinsic motivation and lead employees to want to do a good job. Negative feelings do the opposite. They sap work motivation and can even lead employees to want to do a bad job.
The inactive/active dimension has to do with how much energy and action-orientation employees feel. Obviously people go through regular cycles of activity and inactivity. For instance, you have to sleep periodically-a form of inactivity-in order to have the energy to be active and effective. However, when people feel down about their work, they can and often do fall into a lengthy period of relative inactivity, where it is hard to get enough energy to work and where they feel like they are dragging themselves around.
Alone, none of these four dimensions tells you as much as you need to know about your employees' emotional states. Combined, they tell you a great deal. That is why the Work Emotions Grid looks at the combinations of inactivity/activity and negative/positive feelings. Depression is one of the possible outcomes when inactivity is combined with a negative emotional state, for example (and Joan may be feeling depressed about her work right now, don't you think?).
The Goal: Positive and Active!
Ideally, as a manager you want to maximize the amount of time that your employees spend in the top right quadrant of the Work Emotions Grid. You want your people to be positive and active, and if they are not, then you know you need to attend to their emotional state before you can expect them to put in great performances. In other words, if your employees' feelings are not dominated by emotional states such as alertness, optimism, enthusiasm, helpfulness, and energy, then you've got a motivation problem you need to address at the level of foundational attitudes.
Employees who are feeling positive and active are ready and eager to do what has to be done. They work quickly and well, they are good at solving problems, they learn fast, and they are in the right frame of mind to be creative when the need arises. It is in this positive/active quadrant where intrinsic motivation is strongest and works best for you as a manager-ensuring that you have "turned on" employees who anticipate what needs to be done and who rush to do it well. Such employees are eager to see what they can accomplish. They are internally motivated to do constructive, helpful things. They don't complain about hard work-they see it as an exciting challenge.
Don't Forget to Let Them Catch Their Breath
Of course, everyone needs to rest on occasion, and as a manager you need to allow and even encourage your people to take the occasional rest. When someone has worked really hard on a project or put in extra effort, see that they take a brief break or do something more relaxing for a little while to provide balance. If you do, you can keep them on the positive top half of the grid-and just let them cycle left and right between the active and inactive cells. If you don't ever let them rest, though, they may grow weary and slip from the positive top half to the negative bottom half of the grid.
Don't worry about employees who are in a positive but inactive frame of mind. Many managers instinctively come down hard on anyone who seems to be inactive. And this can turn their positive mood to a negative one. Instead of coming down on them, give them a challenge to rise up to. Inactive employees who are in positive moods are very easy to shift toward productive activity. All you need to do is show them that they are needed by presenting them with opportunities to do meaningful work and with the resources to do it well.
Excerpted from Motivational Management by Alexander Hiam Copyright © 2002 by Alexander Hiam. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Alexander Hiam (San Francisco, CA) is the author of Marketing Kit for Dummies, Streetwise Motivating & Rewarding Employees, and more than a dozen other books. His consulting firm, Alexander Hiam & Associates, specializes in motivational management, leadership, creative problem solving, and conflict resolution.
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