The Joy Of Meaningful Work
I think the key to success in an organisation is when lots of small changes add up to a big difference.
If you’re a leader of an organisation you need to know that the efforts of your team are continuously driving your organisation forward in the direction you want.
There are many potential ways to do this.
Delegate: You could choose to delegate specific tasks to members of your team. Usually, this means handing on a task or tasks in a prescribed way. You’ll want to track progress and stay in touch with your team member. This is a form of directed effort – which is useful.
Micro-Manage: You could try and micro-manage – not a recommended strategy – but if you want to maintain rigid control you can try and funnel everything in into you.
Do It Yourself: Even less productive is to try and do it all yourself. This creates a massive bottleneck and will also exhaust you in the process.
None of these approaches has the potential to be fully self-sustaining. There is a better way.
Release The Potential Of Your People
The more intelligent approach is to find ways to release the full potential of your organisation – by trusting your people to contribute independently and collectively to your goal.
Here's how to do it.
Releasing potential starts with having a clear strategy. As I have written elsewhere, a strategy is a document that tells people what they must do today if we want to get a better place in the future.
A good strategy usually has these components.
- Vision – a vivid statement that describes where you want to be within in a timescale.
- Mission – a broad statement which summarises what your organisation does which will make achieving the vision possible.
- A Set of Values – the things which you agree are important and which will define how you will work together to achieve the vision.
- Some Priorities – important areas that you agree need a sharp focus.
It is of particular importance to specify your values. These will shape people's behaviour. For example – by declaring that personal responsibility is an outstanding value – you are saying that you will treat people as adults and have high expectations that they will do the right things.
You need to spell out what each value means.
Then you must lead by example – show people how to behave in line with this value.
People want to know that what they are working on matters. That's why defining a clear purpose – your mission – is so important. It provides they ‘why' that many people need to give of their best.
The overall impact of a well-crafted strategy is that you form the basis for substantial alignment. Alignment is what's behind the best organisation's excellence.
People in these organisations know what matters, they understand what they have to do. They have internalised what their contribution is, and they believe in the outcome.
One definition of productivity is: Moving Consistently Toward Your Goal.
Consistency is where the magic starts to happen. When people have reached this stage, all of their efforts – large or small – all add up to the boat going faster.
You no longer need to tell people what to do – they already know.
Contact With People
A leader's work is always social. Crafting a well-written strategy helps – but it's when that strategy gets socialised that results are guaranteed.
Get out of your office and talk about the vision – inspiring people to believe in what your organisation's trying to do. Give consistent attention to reinforcing your organisation's mission and show by your words and actions what you mean by the values you have identified.
It pays to be systematic about this. Build time into your daily and weekly schedules to spend time out and about and in touch with people.
Create a communications mechanism that will allow you to hear about examples of the kind of progress you want to see. Have these at your fingertips and talk about them frequently.
Supplement with regular meetings when you continually emphasise what matters and why.
Gradually you will see small gains are happening. Make sure that you let your team know that you're keen to hear about achievements – however small.
The communication system you've built allows news of these achievements to flow quickly into your office. Then create a regular way to celebrate these accomplishments with the people who are delivering each small win.
Recognising and appreciating the efforts being made by people in your organisation does two important things.
It underlines the core message about your strategy – allowing people to see what you hope to see.
It creates a good feeling about the progress. It doesn't just affect the people whose work you're celebrating. It ripples around your organisation and raises the whole atmosphere.
The result is the creation of the kind of culture you want for the right stuff to keep happening.
A culture where people feel their efforts are appreciated, where work is purposeful and yes – where it is a joy to work.
The Joy Of Meaningful Work
Creating a positive climate for small gains to be made – and celebrated – is the mechanism which switches on people's best efforts. It's what makes small changes add up to a big difference.
You might call this a positive working environment. I just call it joyful.