My wife has conducted a fair number of job interviews in recent years. One of the questions she always asks is: “What kind of supervisor do you prefer?” Never once has anyone said, “I’d love to be micromanaged.” Or, “I love it when my boss points out my mistakes and ignores what I do well.” Or, “I absolutely love to be berated in front of others.” As Harry Paul and I point out in our new book, Instant Turnaround!, these are the kinds of managerial behaviors that create unhappy and unproductive employees which makes you as a team leader, supervisor or manager look incompetent. On the other hand, if you want to succeed as a manager, why not give your employees what the truly want. Treat them with dignity and respect and then get out of their way and give them the opportunity to make you look good.
It’s a fact of life, when you’re nice to people, they’re nice back–it’s called The Law of Reciprocity. And, the more people you’re nice to, the more people you have out there who are looking for an opportunity to be nice to you. For example, how many times have you heard someone say something like: “I really didn’t want to take the time to help that person, but since he or she is so nice, I couldn’t tell them no.” This makes being nice a very selfish act because the more you give of yourself, the more you can expect to receive. As Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval say in their excellent book, The Power of Nice, “The power of nice will help you open doors, improve your relationships at work and at home, and let you sleep a whole lot better. Nice not only finishes first; those who use its nurturing power wind up happier, to boot!” Yes, being nice is selfish…in a very good way.
Having fun at work suffers from an image problem; hence it gets no respect. It has come to imply that you’re goofing off or messing around instead of attending to the business at hand. Well, that’s simply not true. Fun acts as a turbocharger in that it releases energy in people that they didn’t even know they had. As a result, they’re able to work much harder than they normally would. In addition, when work becomes a source of enjoyment or pleasure, whatever you’re doing never gets old or boring which means people look forward to coming to work every day—even on Monday. On the other hand, when fun is restricted or prohibited at work, unhealthy and costly symptoms quickly appear—boredom and negativity set in, people become irritable and crabby and their energy level goes down. As a result, people apply far less effort toward performing their jobs and productivity takes a big hit. The lesson here is that if there’s no fun, there can be no highly productive workplace.
It’s a fact of life; if you follow the crowd, you’ll never be highly successful. On the other hand, the minute you step away from the crowd, you invite criticism–people judge you and make disparaging remarks about your ideas and dreams which can be hurtful. So, how do you deal with criticism? You focus on its positive side. Criticism means you’re being noticed and people who get noticed have far better odds at succeeding than people who don’t. Criticism also means that you’re doing something worth remarking on. This makes you remarkable and being remarkable is a lot more fun, exciting and profitable than being ordinary. Finally, even though you’re being criticized, you can take comfort in the fact that you’re on your way to fulfilling your dream while the people who are criticizing you are still mired in mediocrity. Several weeks ago marked the 50th anniversary of the Barbie Doll. Ruth Handler, Barbie’s creator, knew the doll would be successful when everyone told her it wouldn’t sell. The lesson here is: If you want to be highly successful, you have to do something worth criticizing.
In 1927, three Harvard professors conducted research at a Western Electric plant in an attempt to find out what caused employee productivity. They found that the simple act of paying positive attention to employees had the dominant impact. Today, nearly a century later, we’re still finding that the vast majority of employees are unhappy in their jobs because their management doesn’t care about them or notice what they do. This leads to low productivity and high turnover. Their sentiment goes something like this: ”Why work hard or stick around if nobody cares?” At the same time, executives and managers, almost across the board, are saying that low productivity and high turnover are their biggest problems. Hello! What’s there not to get? If executives and managers would start caring about their employees instead of trying to exploit them, these problems will turn around immediately! Explicit instructions on how to do this are contained in my new book, Instant Turnaound! which will be launched on April 21.
I’m looking forward to my trip tomorrow. The weather will be nice (40 and rainey) and I’ll get to reconnect with some long-time friends. I still haven’t calmed down from that glowing review Publisher’s Weekly gave Instant Turnaround! I also opened my Twitter account, so I’ll be sending some Tweets very soon.
Publisher’s Weekly gave my new book, Instant Turnaround!, a wonderful review in this week’s issue:
“In this compact and accessible business parable, Paul and Reck (coauthors of Revved!) claim that savvy managers can turn any company around by creating a happy, positive workplace and valuing employees. While empowering employees is a straightforward concept, according to the authors, most managers “don’t live it.” Lessons in making this seemingly effortless turnaround are recounted through the story of an ambitious HR director at a distressed magazine publishing company. With the guidance of a successful entrepreneur, she revitalizes productivity and amazes her skeptical, numbers-oriented boss. While elementary in tone and message, a simple wisdom emerges that can be understood and shared by any manager in any industry. In dismal economic times, this small and genial fable provides the hopeful message that it is still the individual human spirit and cooperation that propels innovation and productivity.”
Harry and I couldn’t be happier!