I participated in a panel discussion around the ‘new normal’ in Michigan business that was sponsored by CORP! Magazine. If there is one message everyone is sure of it is that the economic recovery will be slow and the main thing individuals look for to measure improvement (jobs / income) might not get back to normal depending on your profession. Regardless of the speed of the rebound, there are things leaders can do to create more energy in the workplace. This also applies to followers. We need to create more JOY.
What is joy? Joy is not a superficial adjective, it goes deeper than that. The Joy I am talking about is a noun, and the Merriam-Webster dictionary says it is a source or cause of delight. Words are important, and the word source jumps out at me because it makes me think of a deep flowing spring that fills a lake or starts a river. Something that we know is down there because we see it emerge and create something powerful and beautiful. Thinking of that, as leaders we need to be a source for more joy in our workplace. Here are three ways to make that happen.
1. You first! Joy is a choice. Being able to look at what we do, at whatever the situation is, and commit to being hopeful is the first step. Jim Collins presented what he called the Stockdale Paradox in his book Good to Great, which was to “Confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be AND retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.” A first step, make it a habit to smile and greet people. Another move is starting each speech by recognizing a couple of people for their attitude as well as a specific accomplishment in the past week.
2. Ask others to join: It has been a tough few years for workers. At one point I saw a statistic that 69% of people had either taken a pay cut or lost their job. A simple first move for leaders, start every meeting with your executive team by asking people to share what they see is going right this week. Cover the tough stuff, but start with the positive stuff. For any name mentioned make a point to have people email them or call them after the meeting to congratulate them.
3. Allow space for the opposite – but get back to joy: I worked with someone who used to ask for what he called a “Carnegie free zone” every now and then. It was a break from the great Dale Carnegie’s mantra to never engage in the 3 C’s (criticizing, condemning, complaining). This zone was 5 minutes of unloading the thoughts and frustrations of the day. At the end, the goal was to ask a simple question – “So what can I do about it?” Choose a positive step, a potential solution to some nagging problem, and then get after it. A second move is to purposefully create this space in your one on one time with each team member. Accomplish this by inserting the following questions into the one on one agenda (that you should be doing at least monthly).
- What is your biggest frustration right now?
- What can I do to help make it go away?
- What move can you do to help make it go away?
Remember that joy is not ignorance. We need to face realities, both personally as leaders and in the presence of our teams. Joy is more about attitude. So Leader – you first!