10 minute read
Epigraph for section - "You manage things; you lead people." Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
THE MORNING ROUTINE
Each workday, your employees roll out of bed thinking about what lies ahead. Is it a full day or light day? Are the tasks easy or hard? Is the work interesting or boring?
They don't take time to think through each question. There's a dog to walk or kids to prep for school. Maybe both.
Their morning routine is on auto-pilot. Where's the coffee? Where's the leash? OMG...where's my iPhone?!?
They scroll through the endless notifications that have littered their iPhone overnight. Feelings about the day begin to bubble to the surface.
Their minds bounce from thought to thought. Thoughts about the workday collide with the contents of their iPhone.
"I'm not ready for today's standup meeting...Aunt Mary looks fat in her Facebook selfie...my boss is out of touch...Lululemon is having a sale..."
Emotions begin to take shape. It feels like a pit in their stomach.
The caffeine kicks in.
The caffeine, bubbling emotions and growing pit in their stomach create another, more urgent priority. So they take a seat. Thoughts begin to center.
THE DAILY DECISION
As they deal with the business at hand, they also begin to confront a simple decision. It's the same decision they face each workday.
"What version of me will I be today?" 🤔 "Will I give my best? Or just enough to get by?" "Maybe I do all I can to be invisible?"
All managers share a common daily challenge. The challenge is to get their employees to make the right decision. The decision to do their best.
In the post-Covid workplace, the decision for employees is even tougher.
Employees base their decision on the information at hand. But they have questions you can't always answer. They want to understand decisions you can't always explain. They want assurances you can't give.
In Section 1 we talked about the vice grip of being caught in the middle. The only thing worse is feeling stuck at the bottom.
B.C. ("Before Covid") employees could commiserate with co-workers. They could share questions, information and best guesses. They still had questions, but at least they didn't feel alone. The daily decision seemed easier.
A.C. ("After Covid") the remote work environment has changed the team dynamic. In Section 3, we discuss how remote work makes people feel isolated, distracted and uncertain. The daily decision is harder.
When facing a caffeine induced pit in their stomach, people appreciate the remote working arrangement. 🤔 However, remote work also takes away a valuable coping mechanism for employees - their daily commute.
THE DAILY COMMUTE
The daily commute offered a transition period to employees. They didn't have to motivate themselves to be their best, they just needed a reason to jump on the subway or start the car.
While driving to work or watching subway stops race by, the employee had a chance to consider their bigger decision - how much effort they'd offer that day.
Maybe they found motivation along the way they couldn't find at home. Maybe not.
Maybe a subway delay or traffic jam gave a little time - time to objectively assess their thoughts about the workday. Maybe not.
Maybe they talked or texted with co-workers. Maybe that co-worker motivated them. Maybe not.
The commute gave people time to plan their day. To assess priorities, juggle schedules and to channel focus. Employees had a chance to be intentional about their day. That's gone.
Remote work has taken these opportunities away. The decision to lean in to the workday is made in the time it takes to walk from the bathroom to the kitchen table.
The chance to be intentional about the day lasts about as long as it takes to flip open the laptop and log into a Zoom meeting.
THE TRANSFER OF THOUGHT
In Section 1, we talked about your "inner-voice". Guess what? You're followers have an inner-voice, too.
That decision employees make each morning comes from their inner-voice. The beliefs, attitudes and ideas running through their mind influence how they feel and what they'll choose.
Attitudes have the loudest voice - attitudes they've formed about you, the job, the company and their co-workers.
If the attitudes are favorable, they'll find the motivation to engage and bring their best effort. They may even go that extra mile.
But motivation is elusive. It ebbs and flows...comes and goes. Managers know that employees have good days and bad.
Employees may find the motivation to give their best a few days a week, but decide to coast from time to time. It comes down to attitude.
Their attitude about you is key. It's the most important of all attitudes. Do they trust you? Do they think you care about them? Are you consistent? These are the thoughts about you that race through their minds.
Attitudes develop over time. The little impressions you make add up. Employees don't consciously evaluate each interaction.
Their inner voice is whispering conclusions based on their perception of you. It's a whisper because the thoughts are largely subconscious.
Perceptions that lead to positive attitudes are pretty simple.
Think about what your inner voices whispers about your boss. "Do they believe in me?" "Do they have my best interest at heart?" "Do they put me in a position to succeed?"
That decision employees make each day requires motivation. Motivation is simply a reason to act. When motivation is low, the employee has to find more reasons to act. Those reasons come from you.
Leadership is a transfer of thought.
When the employee's inner-voice synchs with yours, good things happen.
When the employee values what you value, believes in what you believe, and wants what you want - good things happen.
That's not to say they always agree with you. Diverse ideas are invaluable. Divergent values, beliefs and attitudes are trouble.
"Followership" is a choice. Humans are endowed with free will. That daily decision made each morning is a choice. It's their choice.
Will they choose to give the bare minimum effort, or their best effort? Optimism or pessimism? Positivity or negativity? Hope or despair?
Once at work, their behaviors are guided by choice, too.
Employees are confronted by two simple choices -
- Do I choose things I want to do, but know I shouldn't? And,
- Do I choose things I don't want to do, but know I should do?
Ex. "Do I focus on tasks I've been avoiding, even though they bore me to death?"
Ex. "Do I take a short-cut, when I know I can do better?"
Their inner-voice helps them choose. When their inner-voice synchs with yours, they choose right.
If people believe that you're trustworthy, they'll follow. If people believe you care about them, they'll follow you. If people believe that they can count on you, they'll follow you.
Where do these beliefs come from? Their inner-voice.
THE BEST PRACTICES
Section 2 is about your personal relationship with staff.
People don't quit companies. They quit bosses. But most employees don't actually resign.
The only thing worse than an able employee that leaves for greener pastures, is an able employee that quits trying.
They disengage. They become a lesser version of what they could be. The company is still paying them, but you only get a version of them. They're zombie employees.
The job you have is hard, that's why Section 1 is all about you. Section 2 is about them.
As they go through their morning routine, their inner voice needs to hear you.
It's not easy, but there are things you can do, and they're covered in this section.
- Have high standards, so they know you believe in them
- Empathize with them, so they know you care
- Clarify what's expected, so they know how not to let you down
- Explain your direction, so people understand you
- Listen to them, so they know you're in touch
- Give constant feedback, so people know where they stand with you
- Teach them, so they learn from you
- Coach them, so their skills improve through you
- Push them, so the realize their potential through you
Their attitudes about you will take a lot work. A transfer of thought doesn't happen without constant reinforcement.
In time, the whispers of their inner-voice will work in your favor. Each inner action will be perceived in the way you intended. The decisions and choices you want from them will follow.
So back to that decision employees make each morning. Some mornings, as they're sitting their finishing up their morning business, they're not going to be very motivated. That's the reality.
In that moment, they're either going to give themselves a pep-talk and bring the best version of themselves to work that day, or they're not.
Section 2 is about giving them ample fuel for that pep-talk. That fuel comes from their attitudes about you.