Encouragement is an important tool in the hands of leaders who want to create a good working environment.
The dynamics of the modern workplace are challenging for leaders and managers alike. When contemplating the nature of a good working environment, another way of thinking about the nature of the topic is to correlate it with a sustainable working environment. If leaders want to create an organization that will stand the test of time, or even the challenge of tomorrow, must apply their effort to building a good culture. While many leaders feel lost when navigating the modern workplace environments, citing difficulties connecting with millennial employees, many of the most effective methodologies are also rather simple. We previously discussed the power of listening on creating a good working environment. In this article we will discuss the importance of encouragement when building a thriving team.
To create a good working environment leaders need to provide encouragement
Encouragement is defined as the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope. Those in a position of leadership (PIAPOL) have to embody and exemplify these values if they want to see them practiced throughout the organization. Too often we are people of extremes, we often engage in some aspect of leadership to the exclusion of others. When addressing topics related to culture, environment and emotional intelligence the instruction provided often gloss over the realities of management. There is a balance between encouragement and expectations so that the team vision, values and purpose are carried through in the real world.
Compliments are low cost and high yield investments in your most valuable assets.
To create an environment of encouragement leaders need to provide support
Management is not about finding a place of luxury within an organization, the role of leadership is to ensure those in their supervision have the clarity, resources and support to achieve success in their roles. Long time insurance agent and business owner Josh Gourley states that success for a team starts with everyone knowing their jobs and corresponding job expectations. The reason Josh believes investing in a clarity is that, “A good working environment will culminate in a culture where everyone is clearly rowing in the same direction.” Josh recognizes that in order to lead he must set an example, “What’s in my power is leading by example and regular meetings that reinforce the activities and values that make success possible. Managers should be excellent at identifying and acknowledging those activities that move the team in the right direction.” When we support those around us we contribute to their success, our collective success and our own, it’s a win-win-win.
“Help others achieve their dreams and you will achieve yours.” Les Brown
To create an environment of encouragement leaders need to boost confidence
Tom Los who works in city management in the public sector views listening as key to providing opportunities for building confidence with employees. “I listen to my staff and then give them projects and tasks which mixes their job up. They really enjoy it. If someone has an idea, I try to embrace it as much as possible and let them do it.” Creating a good working environment does not mean that leaders cater to their team without accountability. Boosting confidence can be accomplished even when a manager has to say no to an idea without de-motivating team members from contributing creative solutions. Tom sees disagreement as an opportunity to provide support, “If I don’t see the value in the direction that one of them is proposing, I explain that to them. Sometimes by explaining how much more work it would take and who exactly would be available to manage the change they can see the need to move in a different direction.”
Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.” Mahatma Ghandi
To create an environment of encouragement leaders need to create hope
Creating hope encompasses communicating clearly on the vision, being consistent with values and developing a culture where accountability required from everyone on the team. Long time pastor Aaron Day notes, “Early on (hiring) let them know what you expect and let them know you will model this (fulfilling the expectations) for them. Acknowledge them when they do and correct them when they don’t. If they continue to do well reward (raises, praise, popsicles) if they do poorly correct, train, discipline, fire.” Even in a faith based or non-profit environment, there is still a purpose and the mission must be carried out for the team to be successful. Clarity, consistency and accountability are as essential for a good working environment for volunteers as well as paid staff. Aaron recommends a book that he says is both good and corny called Lead For God’s Sake by Todd G. Gongwer. Hope is not something magical, it comes from having a vision and a good environment with encouragement motivates everyone to remain on purpose.
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” Helen Keller
Creating a good working environment requires encouragement
The core principles that lead to a good working environment are simple, that doesn’t mean that they are easy, but they cost very little to implement. The difference between being successful in building a good and sustainable working environment is often a few small changes in perspective, effort and follow through. Investing in encouragement, support, confidence and hope is a good place to start. Author Daniel Goleman analyzed the brain and behavior in relationship to encouragement, in his book Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, he shares his research results. Belle Beth Cooper recaps on such finding in her article published with Fast Company Magazine, “In one experiment, the emotional tone of a leader delivering news to an employee made more impact that the news itself. When negative feedback was delivered with a warm tone, the employees usually rated the interaction positively. On the other hand, good news, such as achieving a goal, delivered with a negative tone would leave employees feeling bad.”
Resources for leaders who are trying to create a good working environment
Our first segment in this series on creating a good working environment started with the topic of listening. We continue to interview and consult with leaders in various industries to draw out the practices that have made them successful in their roles. Do not allow fear of the navigating the modern workplace environment or difficulties with generational employees deter you from realizing your vision as a leader.
Please note this is one segment in a series related to creating a good working environment based upon brief interviews that we conducted with multiple professionals across various industries, leadership roles and viewpoints on the topic. Stay tuned for more. Shoot us an email or comment if you have something to say on this as well.
In the quest for exponential growth hacks those in a position of leadership ought to be careful not to become entrepreneurial hacks themselves.
News of General Electric being removed from the Dow reminds business leaders to analyze whether their growth mindset is in line with their values.
General Electric is one of the largest organizations in the world with a diverse investment portfolio. When it comes to history, it doesn’t get much richer than GE who was founded by inventor Thomas Edison and banking mogul J.P. Morgan. In 1896 General Electric was one of the 12 original companies to be listed on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (the Dow) which is utilized as a reference for health of the market and investments strategies. GE has grown internally as well as by acquisition and diversified their portfolio of businesses to become a leader in multiple industries to become a multinational conglomerate ranked in 2011 as the 6th largest firm in America.
Recently General Electric was removed from the Dow as an indication of its lack of performance, down 55% over the past year (a net of nearly $100 billion) with is stock being valued at an average of $13 per share in comparison to Walgreens which now replaces GE and has a value of $68. Many speculate that this is another brick in the wall, which the Wall Street Journal notes as, “The unraveling of its finance business and competitive problems.”
If your exponential growth strategy is through acquisition do you reach a point where there is nothing more you can buy?
If you grow by acquisition what is the collateral impact of poor integration of cultures between business units?
Back in 2009, Forbes reported on a $50 million dollar fine issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that General Electric had to pay after, “An investigation into accounting shenanigans that severely tarnished the company’s reputation and helped set the stage for last years collapse in its stock price.” Forbes compares GE’s shifty accounting practices to those of professional baseball players using and covering performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in order to keep up their appearances on paper that they were meeting or exceeding analysts expectations. Chairman Jeffrey Immelt, the hand chosen predecessor to famed CEO Jack Welch, carried practices which many convinced themselves were in the spirit of teamwork where the company would shift money from businesses to reduce or minimize losses in other areas and in this particular case sold locomotives to what appear to be ghost companies to increase sales numbers.
If you focus on rapid growth does the haste have an impact on long term internal systems such as accounting and production with regards to sustainability?
If the accounting goals become the metric for growth, rather than a measure of progress, what consequences are there when an organization begins to manipulate the numbers to see what they want to see?
We can learn a lot from the fall of pyramid schemes such as the $60 billion dollar ponzi scheme pulled off by the now infamous Bernie Madoff in that the glut of growth can cast a wide net. While Madoff took the fall for being the master-mind behind the scheme, something he still seems to believe and relish, no participant in the earnings or the machine can wash their hands in the collective draw from the system. WNYC Studio’s Radiolab created a podcast titled Ponzi Supernova which dug into the story behind the worlds largest con and was able to get feedback from Bernie Madoff himself. In short, Madoff viewed himself as an outsider and refused to be dismissed which started a process of winning by any means and he stumbled across a method for doing just that.
If the accounting goals are the driver for business growth rather than the checks-and-balances of you operation, you can convince yourself – like General Electric, Bernie Madoff, or perhaps more notably the employees and participants in both declines – that what you are doing is necessary. What do we tell ourselves? Everyone is doing it. If you hear yourself say or think these four words then you shouldn’t ignore the historically proven red flags. Like professional athletes, do we tell ourselves, I’m only going to do this to jump start or get back in the game and then I will go back to doing it the right way? Again, our systems have red flags, but if we ignore them we are headed down a path that it is difficult to return from. The gains of rapid growth are alluring but the consequences are severe as in the examples above where building on shaky ground can erodes over a century of performance or shady dealings can land you in prison.
Three simple principles for checking yourself before you wreck yourself:
Why don’t business leaders, entrepreneurs and employees ask for help?
No one wants to appear weak
“I don’t need help.”
People in a position of leadership have to take a hard look at whether the culture they are building is conducive to facilitating team members feeling comfortable asking for help. Does the leadership team at the corporate office lead by example in asking for help? Do local managers ask their teams for help? When was the last time someone on the team asked for help?
If our organization's culture has the bravado where if you can’t hack it then don’t let the door hit you on the backside, we will not hear anyone asking for help. This environment is expressed in much more subtle ways as well, wherein the organization does not exemplify how to ask for help or create avenues for team members to reach out without repercussions (real or perceived).
Five questions that can help us build a culture that is conducive to collaboration:
No one wants to be overrun
“I need help, but…”
Perhaps people are asking for help but they are not getting a positive response. We have to be mindful as well as intentional to create a culture where asking for help does not lead to exclusion or imperialism. Being mindful and intentional with how we address a request for help starts something as simple as paying attention, management expert Tom Peters reminds us to ask the question, “Do I make eye contact 100 percent of the time?” Being positive and approachable, as mentioned above, could start with the act of putting our phones down, making eye contact and giving 100 percent of our attention to whomever we are interacting with.
Imperialism is the expansion of power through brute force or diplomacy. In the work place there are hostile takeovers of another’s position, the scenario where someone is asked for help or told that they need help and then they are steamrolled by the one providing assistance. “I was just trying to help,” the imperialist will say, and they may believe they have the best intentions but their process does not lead to independence for the workmate that they are “helping”.
Exclusion is much more subtle as is imperialism by diplomacy. On paper or to the outside world, exclusion may appear like assistance but it nets the same result as a takeover it is just done with a bit more savvy. When the person asking for help is subtly pushed out of their role or responsibility then the process of exclusion has begun. Many well-intentioned leaders are guilty of taking over the kitchen rather than teaching their employees how to bake bread.
Assistance should lead to independence rather than dependence or takeover. Many organizations create internal competitiveness which may build towards growth goals but if not managed with the correct environment could suffer greatly in lack of internal collaboration. Working together to make the whole team stronger allows us to compete and collaborate.
We should remember to listen before we speak and listen longer than we think we should. Listening unlocks doors and removes bricks in those walls that have created barriers to interaction. If employees perceive leadership and the culture as one that is not open to being helpful then they will not engage in seeking assistance.
No one ever taught us how to ask for help
“I don’t know who or how to ask for help.”
We cannot take it for granted that everyone knows how to ask for help or to whom they would go for help. This could be a significant gap both in the onboarding process as well as the ongoing development of the team – who can help you when you need it. There may be people asking for help they just may not be clear about communicating what their needs are. If people approach the boss but they are always busy or appear too busy, opportunities may be missed.
If people have reached out but they were shot down, ignored or even scorned, opportunities are definitely being missed. Raising our emotional intelligence (EQ) allows us to understand that perception is a tricky thing and it often overrules reality so it is important that those in a position of leadership are intentional about interacting with their teams in positive ways to open up channels of communication. In a training outline from McKinsey & Company on how to take charge without taking over, they recommend that new leaders or teams in a process of change should, “Keep all messages explicitly positive and defer all penalties until it is clear that positive behavior will not emerge without them.”
If you are trying to create a culture of collaboration - start with listening. Start listening with purpose with a little help from Lola.
If you are in need of some help and mentorship - own your mistakes and consult with a trusted source.
IZ Ventures - more than business coaching and consulting, we help you connect, collaborate and conquer.
Six keys to leveraging positive conflict applied to team building.
Whether you are a person in a position of leadership (PIAOPL) in an industry like property restoration, or any other business where people are involved, you are no stranger to conflict. The key in conflict is to embrace it and utilize it for something positive in the development of the culture of the organization.
Our article published with Restoration and Remediation Magazine (R&R) will help you identify 6 Keys to Positive Organizational Conflict. Whenever you are dealing with people there will always be issues. Even good people have disagreements. The issue with disagreements is not in having them but in how we conduct ourselves. Leadership requires constant effort to improve one's will, skill and chill to rise to the ever evolving demands of the marketplace.
There will be conflict. Will there be solutions? The key perspectives include distinguishing between constructive and destructive conflict. The questions those in a position of leadership must ask are, “Does the situation of resistance show someone who has made a mistake, someone who is processing the changes or someone who has decided to be an obstacle to progress?”
See other articles included in publications such as Facility Management (FM) World, The Daily Positive, Young, Fabulous and Self-Employed (YFS), Project Management Times, Insurance (Ins) Nerds, Facility Executive, Business Analyst Times and more.
Jon Isaacson is a freelance author helping organizations clarify their vision and get their message out, contact for inquiries.
IZ Ventures - more than business coaching and consulting, we help you connect, collaborate and conquer.
Jon Isaacson / IZ Ventures - More than coaching and consulting, we help you Connect, Collaborate & Conquer. #MTWSL
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