Engagement

The power of positive questions

When it comes to workplace improvement, what’s better than good ideas? Good questions. By posing good questions on issues that matter, you can engage colleagues, deepen their thinking, and find common ground through dialogue. You’ll even come up with better ideas, powered by all that additional brainpower and experience. Here are seven sets of questions – waiting for a brave person (you) to start the conversation. Engaging your mind
 When was the last time you got so caught up in interesting work that you lost track of time? What were you doing? What was it — about the work itself, how you were going about it, its connection to a greater good — that made this such an engaging activity? Seeing results When you want to see the results of your work, what do you look at? How do you know that your effort is having a positive impact? If you could wave a wand and instantly create a more meaningful system for tracking results, what would it look like? Tackling problems What is your biggest challenge at work? What makes it so tough to address, and what is the great opportunity that lies within? How would you go about pursuing this opportunity if you had none of the workplace barriers that seem to exist? What creative approaches might make the difference? Serving customers
 When your customers talk about your organization behind your back, what do you think they say? Who has the highest praise, who is most critical…and why? What are they really saying? If you were in your customers’ shoes commenting on the work you do for them, what would you say? Achieving unity and diversity
 What gets greater emphasis in your workplace, unity or diversity? If it’s unity, does the pursuit of oneness prompt people to downplay their differences? If it’s diversity, does the workplace ever feel like a loose collection of conflicting styles and agendas? How can unity and diversity gain strength from each other? What can be done to achieve both of these workplace imperatives in maximum measure? Giving and getting respect
 Johann von Goethe said, “The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.” How does this play out in your workplace? What could be done right now to make respect one of the workplace’s greatest strengths? Acknowledging the elephant Is...

Read More

A loud lesson in team motivation

If you want to motivate a group, you’d better be all in. I learned that lesson the hard way some ten years ago – at a July 4th parade, of all places. After the parade had passed by, I slowly followed on my bicycle with 10 or so other riders. Our ranks grew as more bikers joined us. So did our enthusiasm as we rode past festive crowds. In fact, my enthusiasm grew so much that I endeavored to lead the crowd in a group cheer. This was in Columbus, Ohio, home of the Ohio State University, where Buckeye football fever runs strong year round. For Buckeye fans, the easiest sure-fire cheer involves a solo shout of “O-H” – which is always followed by a fervent response of “I-O” from anyone within earshot. Well, almost always. When I tried the cheer with a big group of parade enthusiasts, my “O-H” got dead silence in return. The crowd just stared at me like I had quizzed them in some foreign language. After riding on for a block, I managed to recover – enough to try the cheer again, this time a little louder. “O-H.” Again, silence. Painful silence. Ego-bruising silence. Two city blocks later, I decided to try the cheer one last time. But this time, I didn’t just tweak up the volume. I turned my bike to face the crowd, I looked left and right to get their attention, and I cued the crowd with a high-volume “Hey, everyone!” Then I unleashed an “O-H” that was full-throated, full-commitment, and fully heard by all Buckeye fans within a fifty-yard radius. The crowd went wild. “I-O!” “O-H!” “I-O!” “O-H!” “I-O!” In years since, I’ve repeated this drill every time I’ve been in Columbus on July 4. It always reminds me that group motivation can’t be a half-hearted effort. Whether you’re in a parade or in a workplace, people respond best when the leader lets loose with confidence and conviction. The bicycle is optional. By Tom Terez •...

Read More

Edison’s power source: Naps, music, and dancing

We know many of the factors that feed innovation: creativity, imagination, expertise, dialogue, hard work, and more. But who knew that we’d also benefit from occasional naps, frequent music, and full-on dancing?! Thomas Edison enjoyed his work and did a lot of it. He sometimes logged more than 24 hours at a stretch. He often worked three days straight, followed by a couple days off. But the Wizard of Menlo Park was hardly all work. He seems to have invented the power nap, and he used it often. He’d plop on the nearest horizontal surface, shut his eyes, turn off his ears, and get a quick mental recharge. He also had a penchant for play. Edison had several of his mechanics install a pipe organ in the main work room. They’d crank it up to mark every big breakthrough. The room would fill with singing, spontaneous dancing, and a thick haze of cigar smoke. There was even a Menlo Park band, and Edison sometimes served as the grand marshal, leading boisterous parades around equipment-covered tables. Was all of this just fun and games, or did Edison have something else in mind? Many of today’s workplaces are full of rules, layers, protocol, and bureaucracy. Edison minimized those things while maximizing the free flow of dialogue and building in plenty of informality and fun. The results speak for themselves: 1,093 patents. I’m not saying you should cue up the music and grab your dancing shoes. And don’t put in a purchase request for a pipe organ. But I’ll bet there’s a lot you can do to lighten up and have some purposeful fun with co-workers, even if you’re not the person in charge. Edison made it a priority. Maybe we should too. By Tom Terez •...

Read More

10 ways to jump-start that apathetic co-worker

You can’t use jumper cables, but there’s a lot you can do to energize your unengaged colleague. Here are ten steps for a sure start. 1. Adjust your own attitude. Instead of writing the person off, identify their one or two biggest strengths. Focus on these positives whenever the two of you are working together. 2. Tell them their strengths. That’s right, when you get an opportunity, pay them a constructive compliment that affirms what they’re good at. Don’t be surprised if they’re surprised, because most people go through life all too unaware of their greatest gifts. 3. Cite the importance of their role. When the time seems right, mention how their job contributes to a greater good. “John,” you might say, “if it weren’t for your great work on these applications, we’d never get these grants, and we’d never be able to serve as many people as we do. 4. Seek their input. When challenges arise, approach your listless colleague and ask them to weigh in with their thoughts. If their first few comments are meager, keep asking until they say something substantial. 5. Involve them in anything new. Got a new project or a new task force? How about a new training event or a new initiative to hear from customers? Get them in the mix, preferably in a role that taps their strengths or interests. 6. Give them more control. If you’re a manager and you find yourself frequently telling people what to do, stop being directive — and let them figure out their own approach. If several things need to get done right away, let them decide where to begin. If you can circulate information that will bring more people into the loop, start sharing. 7. Make a habit of it. All of the above actions work best when they’re done day after day. They’re like dental braces: You have to leave them on for a year or more before they work their change-management magic. 8. Have a one-on-one. If the apathy persists and you’re concerned about your co-worker, consider talking with them. Share your observations in a caring way, then ask if there’s anything you can do to make their work more engaging. 9. Know when to fold up. Some people seem hardwired for apathy. If your best long-term efforts with a colleague fail to generate a spark, direct your energy elsewhere. Just make...

Read More

Humanizing the workplace can be this easy

Can customer engagement be as simple as a few lines on a piece of paper? In the case of a branch office where I do my banking, the answer is a big yes. Positioned at each teller station is the associate’s photo — and below that are a few lines of personal bio information. So when I stepped up to Michael Day’s station one day, I learned from the sign beneath his photo that he has two dogs. I asked about them, since I’m a devoted dog owner. “They’re spaniels,” he said. That caught my attention, because our mixed-breed dog is mostly spaniel. Michael and I spent the next couple minutes talking about dogs while he processed my transaction. He was as professional as can be, but the dog talk somehow made the whole experience a lot more enjoyable. On another visit to the same branch, I was served by a different teller. Her bio mentioned that she wanted to visit Ireland. That sparked a quick conversation about Dublin. I asked Michael how the bio idea came about. It wasn’t a big deal, he said. Someone at the branch suggested it and they gave it a try. Some customers don’t notice, or they notice but don’t comment. Many others (like me) get curious, ask, and enjoy the resulting conversation. It’s a great reminder that humanizing the workplace can be this easy. By Tom Terez •...

Read More

This one word can change everything

Most workplace conversations have to do with what we’re doing. Or how we’re doing it. Or who, when, or where. What’s missing is why. With why questions, you rarely have easy answers. That’s what makes them so powerful. A good why can open the way to crucial discovery. Here are some examples: Why are we in business? Why are we doing it this way? Why can’t we do it this other way? Why don’t we get together with staff from ___? Why do people work here? Why would someone want to work here? Why was last year our best (or worst) year? Why do our customers pick us? Why does everyone else pick someone else? When used with skill and persistence, the word why is like mining equipment. It can help you dig deep and find rich insights. Take that first question: Why are we in business? When people keep digging with one why after another, they can tap into a meaningful mission. Even when nothing good is uncovered, that can be an important discovery in its own right. It can prompt a rethinking that leads to major improvement. It’s worth noting that this type of mining does not require special training or certifications. Keep that in mind the next time your colleagues are stuck on the surface with what and how. By Tom Terez •...

Read More

What snow shoveling teaches us about job satisfaction

It’ll whack out your back and wrench your rotator cuff, but snow-shoveling will also teach you everything you need to know about job satisfaction.

Read More