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.
How gardening best practices can be applied to management and organizational behavior.
Gardening best practices affect landscaping behavior. As you drive through your neighborhood, the conditions of the lawns either make you feel better about yourself or question your abilities. It may be much the same when you assess the conditions of the marketplace when you size up your competition. Beautifully manicured lawns are a site to behold and the majority of the population, the status quo, wonders who has the time and resources to maintain such a high level of performance. Management best practices affect organizational behavior.
Status quo does not create success.
Organizations that sit atop their industry are revered in much the same way that the best garden in your neighborhood is. How do they do it? What is it about these individual and team practices that lead to such a consistently high level of organizational behavior. We revere their productivity so what can we learn from their approach that will help us improve our own systems? What do we need to do in order to compete in that same level of success?
Let’s explore some of the lessons and similarities between gardening and organizational behavior.
Organizational behavior: The misuse of the grass isn’t greener ideology
Those in a position of leadership often lament how modern employees show no loyalty to organizations. A common phrase among short sighted leaders revolves around how employees will leave for fifty cents more to a sub-par competitor but they don’t realize, “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.” Unfortunately the reverse isn’t true, its not as though organizations have remained distinctly loyal to their employees in a manner that would warrant reciprocal loyalty. In their book Insuring Tomorrow, Author’s Tony Canas and Carly Burnham discuss this workforce schism, “Millennials have a different definition of loyalty than previous generations did. For Millennials, loyalty means, ‘I worked very hard while I was there.” Both parties have grown to distrust each other and organizations that want to thrive will need to reinvest in means to demonstrate to their existing employees and recruits that they value performance.
Organizational behavior: The cattle isn’t always fatter on the other side
Organizations need to understand that the cattle on the other side of the fence aren’t always fatter. Leadership may think that their employees can be easily replaced, but it may be harder than they think to find good talent. Additionally, their competition may not be working with any greater talent than they are but perhaps their structure, systems and culture enable people to thrive in their areas of strength rather than focusing on their areas of weakness. Good gardening and good management practices facilitate organizational performance by working with what you have. If leadership does not want good employees leaving for marginal increases then they will need to create workplace environments that communicate greater value in the person, position and development of their team members. Leaders have to care for their gardens.
Organizational behavior: The grass is greener where you water it
Do you want your team to grow and thrive? You have to water it daily. Areas that you neglect in your yard become obvious rather quickly as the grass withers, flowering weeds pop up and crab grass infiltrates the landscape. Each of these conditions is a symptom of a lack of care or neglect in areas of your yard as well as your organization. Within the organization these indicators are not always as obvious, they require greater awareness of the people, processes and productivity of the team. What can we learn if we take a few of these under performing manifestations from gardening and apply them to organizational behavior?
Management best practices: Withering grass within the team
Keys to change:
Management best practices: Flowering weeds within the organization
Landscaping that has flowering weeds is one that has the resources to flourish but there is a misapplication of effort and/or values. This team has resources and may well be stocked as well as staffed for success but negative behaviors are being rewarded. Greenery can be observed across the yard but it is riddled with weeds that from a distance appear to be flowers. This type of organizational behavior is common in high producing teams where structure is ignored. Cultures that are led exclusively by the numbers or results, regardless of the long term impacts are often the ones that fail to correct negative behaviors before they come back to bite them hard.
Keys to change:
Management best practices: Crab grass woven into the fabric of the team
What is the definition of crabgrass? Crabgrass (n.) a creeping grass that can become a serious weed. This may be the more difficult of the three examples to identify and resolve as symptoms such as crabgrass are rather sneaky in how they infiltrate teams. From a distance it looks like its green and healthy but up close it isn’t right. The underlying leadership issues is the failure to identify and address issues when they are small. Bad behavior isn’t being rewarded but it also isn’t being addressed and the culture is not being proactively cultivated. This could be the wrong people on the bus, to borrow concepts from Jim Collins Good to Great, meaning team members that don’t fit the vision and values (if those are even clear). It could also be that the right people are on the team but they aren’t yet in the right positions and therefore are struggling to affect change due to misplacement.
Keys to change:
Average effort applied to organizational behavior will result in below average team performance
Any business today that embraces the status quo as an operating principle is going to be on a death march. – Howard Schultz, former CEO of Starbucks
If you want to have a presentable (above average) yard, it does not require a great deal of effort but it does require consistency. A good yard does not require super human abilities. To cultivate a beautiful yard, you will need to make an above average effort in the system and maintain consistency. A beautiful yard does not require a wizards touch. Much of the work is in the preparation of the yard in a manner that it can be maintained. Often the difference between the results is found in the consistency of the effort. Understanding the best practices for management and organizational behavior can help you move in the right direction for the performance of your team.
Above average effort applied to organizational behavior will result in above average team performance
We cannot effect meaningful change if we become complacent, if we become comfortable with our own positions in the status quo. – Cyril Ramaphosa, president of South Africa
Good leaders find enjoyment in the challenge, the process and the results. Good leaders are not super heroes they just refuse to melt into the mess of the status quo. High performing organizations are not unicorns, they are composed of teams of people who take pride in performance and rise to the challenge of their competitive environment. There is no myth or mystery to consistently building towards high performance as an organization, it takes a lot of hard work. The tools for success include vision guiding effort, values directing productivity and consistency in the collective contributions of the team to reach the goals of the organization.
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UFC star Conner McGregor was arrested for assault? The account sounds like he threw a vindictive temper tantrum to prove a point that his team can’t be messed with. Conner's decision to participate at any level is a reflection of bad judgement. Analyzing bad judgement in a fit of rage is an interesting exercise in armchair psychology. Some of these reflections are helpful and applicable to personal as well as organizational leadership.
If you haven’t heard yet, here is the initial story from ESPN on the news regarding UFC mega star Conner McGregor.
1. Is this a reflection of that person showing their true colors - it’s them being them culminating in a public display that they cannot deny? On a broader scale than Conner, when someone rages what does it communicate about that person? As a person in a position of leadership daily decisions reflect on character and build up over time to shape the perspective of who you are as a person and your effectiveness as a leader (PIAPOL). Leaders must remember that their primary responsibility is to lead themselves first. Effective leaders lead by example.
2. Is this a reflection of poor team choices? How many celebrities as well as those in a position of leadership choose to surround themselves with yes men? It is important to have complimentary and contrary voices in your inner circle, regardless of your position, so that someone can tell you, “This is a bad idea.” Effective leaders have to bring people into their teams that can build upon their strengths, supplement their weaknesses and are empowered to input especially where there may be blind spots.
3. People in a position of leadership often choose to deal with conflict in extremes - either disappearing from the picture or overreacting to an issue. Both extremes have consequences and can be equally detrimental to the health of a team. Conflict can be valuable and positive even handled correctly. There is not clear manual for these interactions but dealing with the issues in as calm and clear a manner as possible is key to productive resolution. Leaders have given away the luxury of looking around the room to see, “Who is going to deal with this issue.” Take the conflicts head on while you establish processes that build clarity, consistency and accountability.
4. The broader view for organizations such as UFC and president Dana White is to reflect on what behaviors were or were not addressed throughout their history with McGregor. I don’t know enough about their relationship to have an opinion about it but know that this will be part of the discussion. Leaders have the greatest point of power and influence at the point of hire - who you let in the door is one of the most important decisions you can make. Training, engagement, development and discipline are secondary to that primary decision. Dana is drawing a line in the sand on this incident, speculation will circle around whether that line should have been drawn sooner and if the organization did their due diligence in managing their employees prior to this public display.
Do you have more thoughts on this incident in particular as it relates to leadership?
Do you have more thoughts on this incident in context with personal and organizational leadership?
Trust is important for leaders as well as employees. Trust is important at every level. At the core of trust is doing what you say you are going to do. If you can be trustworthy and build a team of trustworthy members, you will have a strong culture.
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