The American workforce places a premium on efficiency, i.e., doing what you have to do in the least amount of time possible. While efficiency is important in many contexts, it can also be demoralizing. When all a supervisor cares about is efficiency, employees start to feel like cogs in a giant machine, not unique contributors with individual gifts.
Therefore, finding ways to validate employees for their unique contributions may help to inspire more creativity and better morale. This may even translate to—yes—more efficiency in the long run.
1. Provide Opportunities To Have Fun
The question, “Where can I find pool builders near me?” may seem like an impractical one to ask. However, giving your team the opportunity to cut loose and have some fun once in a while not only serves as a pressure valve to relieve work stress. Opportunities for play help to encourage more creative thinking, which has practical applications for problem-solving. Also, your employees are more likely to want to come to work if it isn’t an unrelentingly laborious slog-fest.
Take Michael Eisner and Frank Wells as an example of what not to do. When they took over leadership of the Walt Disney Company in the mid-’80s, it was a more laid-back place where teammates would knock off early for a game of ping-pong. An efficiency nightmare? Maybe, but it made the company a place where people wanted to go to work every day. Eisner and Wells put a stop to such shenanigans immediately when they came to power, and yes, they had a string of impressive successes, but at the cost of the company culture and resentment from their team members, many of whom soon found new, more accommodating professional outlets for their creativity.
2. Change Your Meeting Routine
If you vary the structure of your meetings, at least every once in a while, it can help to shift your team members’ paradigms and encourage more engagement and creativity. There are many different ways to accomplish this. You can vary the meetings’ structure, e.g., a creative brainstorming session instead of the usual status report. You can change the meetings’ duration, e.g., a short daily check-in instead of a two-hour weekly meeting. You can even change the meeting’s venue. If the weather’s nice, consider holding a meeting outside, or even by the pool.
3. Encourage More Effective Communication
You should always communicate clearly with your team what you expect of each individual member as well as goals for the whole. Remember, though, that communication is a two-way street. You need to be willing to listen to what your team members have to say and foster an environment that allows them the opportunity to speak out.
Even when given the opportunity, many team members may be intimidated to speak their mind, fearing that there may be repercussions if they say something that you do not like. You need to establish very clear parameters for team communication. You cannot allow threats or personal attacks, for obvious reasons, but there should not be any penalty for a team member advancing an unusual or unpopular idea with the good-faith belief that it could be of benefit. It could be that the ideas that your team members have been suppressing out of fear of reprisal may be just the outside-the-box thinking that your company needs to survive and thrive.
4. Provide Positive Enforcement
Many leaders make the mistake of not acknowledging it when their team members do a good job. It is often easy to focus on areas where your team needs to improve. However, if you do not praise good work, it can be demoralizing. Your team may start to get the idea that nothing they do is good enough, and as a result, they may no longer see the point of putting forth their best efforts. Make a point of providing positive feedback to each team member. Set a goal of giving two compliments for every criticism.
Above all, be sincere in your efforts to inspire your team members. If you’re just going through the motions, your team will likely see right through you and be unimpressed by what they find.