One implication of a family-like work environment is that, just like in a family, you want your young ones to learn, grow, and become self-sufficient. Believing in continuous growth of employees not only leads to more “training,” but it leads to greater levels of autonomy, ownership of the work, and more sophisticated performance.
You facilitate employee mastery by sending the message that you believe in your employees: that they are viewed as grown-ups, as wanting to do a great job, and wanting the organization to succeed. This fosters the “less management” approach to leading them; one where you can spend your energy getting behind people instead of controlling or correcting them. In turn, workers move on to measure their success by doing the job well and by contributing; not by the approval or disapproval of their boss.
What you want is independent thinking by your team members. Anything other than that can produce sycophants who repeat back what they think is expected. No creativity, no innovative productivity, and very little job satisfaction.
Teaming itself fosters growth and autonomy. Since team members view one another as peers, they are more apt to contribute, to self correct, and to remind one another of outcome goals. Team members feel that the collective wisdom is in them, not the supervisor. It means they are responsible for finding the answers.
Essential to supporting the move to autonomy and employee mastery is emotional safety. People can think more creatively when they are not so worried that any mistake will get them in trouble. As an organization makes it safe to take on a challenge and the risk of failing, more and more of the staff seek opportunities for growth.
In fact, recent research in neuroscience only underscores this point. When people feel safe and seek growth, their brain releases neurotransmitters that improve brain plasticity and produce a sense of well-being. When there is no safety and people do only what they know, these neurotransmitters and not released, nothing changes, and they are less happy.
Tom DeMaio, PhD
In my last post I discussed the work of Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer. Their research indicates that worker’s well-being depends on a manager’s ability and willingness to facilitate accomplishments by removing obstacles, providing help, and acknowledging strong effort. They show that the most important way to engage people at work is to support them making progress in meaningful work.
This is the research and it provides direction for mangers. But what does it mean? It means more than that employees want to succeed at a task, it means that they want to achieve mastery. People instinctively want to do tasks and do them well. We are hard-wired to take on puzzles and to solve them. With such wiring people instinctively feel good about themselves when they are mastering their work. The good feeling also attaches itself to the organization that gave them the opportunity to succeed.
So my view of the work of management is to set up systems that support people, structure the system to measure organizational success, and then get out of the way. Do less “management” of your employees. Whenever managers are “managing” people they are getting in the way of creativity, worker ownership, teaming, and high performance.
It is what Daniel Pink talked about in his book, Drive. Managers ought to get out of the management business and find ways to engage their employees. The keys to a successful company, at least one where there is thinking involved, are in employees gaining increased amounts of AUTONOMY, MASTERY, and PURPOSE.
When people take ownership of their work you don’t have to “manage” them. You cheer them on as they achieve the goals of the organization. People WANT to do it and it makes them feel good. The work of Amabile and Kramer, as well as the research reported by Pink, coalesce into powerful proof that people want mastery. I will talk more about mastery in the coming posts.
It is a funny thing that people can’t make themselves go to sleep. What people actually do is set the right conditions for sleeping. You know: get comfortable, go to bed at the same time, turn off the lights, go to the bathroom, and don’t think about work. And then, it happens. You can’t force it and you can’t manage it. You just set the right conditions and it happens.
Tom DeMaio, PhD
American workers feel less job satisfaction than ever before, just check the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Workers are unhappy with their supervisors, apathetic about their organizations and disconnected from what they do. While this may not change soon, it is not a mystery how this happens and how you can prevent it in your organization.
We know that lower job satisfaction translates directly into a reduced bottom line. In fact, the lower job satisfaction scores may be costing an amazing $300 billion annually. Poor job satisfaction results in greater absenteeism, less engagement (and ownership of organizational success), and reduced productivity.
A study by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer at the Harvard Business School found that the inner work life of each employee has an incredible effect on creativity, productivity, commitment, and collegiality. Their real-time data showed that managers could help ensure that people were happily engaged at work. They found that worker’s well-being depended on a manager’s ability and willingness to facilitate accomplishments by removing obstacles, providing help, and acknowledging strong effort. The most important way to engage people at work is to support them making progress in meaningful work.
When workers experienced their labor as meaningful, their progress was followed by increased positive feelings about the work. The experience is a spiral of satisfaction about the work, the self, and usually the organization.
The premise of our book, The People Side of Business, is that people perform better when there is support and structure available to them. Increasingly, there is data that shows the power of knowing how people function, and how to meet their needs. Doing so produces satisfied employees who are happier by virtue of accomplishing their work. Doing so occurs in a family-like environment where there is just as much concern about worker well-being as work productivity. How interesting that one necessarily comes from the other.
Tom DeMaio, PhD
Yes, employees bring a family lens to seeing others in the workplace. One of the most important ways to utilize the positive aspect of this human dynamic is to see the critical value in team-building. Team-building is a fulcrum around which you can negate family projections, build mutual support, and develop a positive culture in your organization.
People are naturally comfortable in teams because being in one feels like being in a family. In teams people naturally support one another. They want to make the small group successful because they know all the members, almost as siblings. Helping other team members translates directly back into success in one’s own work.
In teams people give and take feedback much more comfortably. People will hear feedback from team members that they can’t or won’t hear from a parent figure. From parent figures feedback can sound pedantic, insulting, or intimidating. The feedback in a team works both for training and for corrective purposes.
Teams can also be better at self correcting. Because team members tend to own the work product, they are more invested in letting others know when there is a problem. “Your” behavior reflects on me and I won’t stand for you ruining my effort.
Employees tend to build on the strengths of the team members. Team members show each other relative strengths. More than an opportunity to learn from one another, people rely on the most skilled person to lead an area of teamwork. For example, teams usually have a member most technically skilled, a member more interpersonally savvy, and a member more interested in details. Each of these persons finds a niche that has the team function overall on the best talents.
When done right, teams become all for one and one for all. This is the camaraderie that creates togetherness, cohesion, and high production. It also creates better buy-in to the mission of the organization.
Teams are a key to cultural stability and improvement. As people share the knowledge and responsibility to accomplish goals they learn from one another and they embody that knowledge. When members change, the team passes on the tradition of the team in a very effective manner.
You don’t want to miss out on building teams as a way to creating a comfortable and successful work environment for your employees.
Tom DeMaio, PhD