2016-08-09-1470750155-6965886-FlatDesign34_570px-thumb

How to motivate people? Don’t do it yourself.

How do you motivate employees to greater levels of engagement and productivity? Maybe you shouldn’t try to do it yourself.

For many people, the popular TV show The Office strikes just a little too close to the reality of their day-to-day experience. It is funny because it is true. Consider this example: manager Michael Scott often gives “motivational” pep talks to his team. Just about every time, the effort backfires. Michael’s efforts to pump up his colleagues are greeted with rolled eyes and cynicism. Whether sincere or not, his words and deeds are viewed as inauthentic and superficial. By contrast: seldom if ever do we actually see or hear from fictional company Dunder Mifflin’s customers in the show.

There are specific, research-based steps toward an alternative possibility: a world of engaged workers who are happier, healthier, and more productive. Employees are more likely to be motivated and engaged when they feel their work is meaningful (which researchers Brent Rosso, Katherine Dekas, and Amy Wrzesniewski define as “significant, challenging, and complete”). It seems logical: people who feel that their work is “making a difference” are more likely to engage in it. Usually, when we think of “meaningful work,” we think of teachers, nurses, physicians, social workers: people whose jobs directly impact the lives of others. However, many employees in other kinds of roles are doing work that indirectly impacts the lives of others but are unable to see the effects of their work. These employees may hear about how their work affects others, but are otherwise unaware of their impact and therefore remain unmotivated and unengaged.

Take telefund callers, for instance. Many of us receive calls regularly from our alma maters, asking for donations. These calls are often placed by young students, paying their way through school by making fundraising calls to alumni. The work is repetitive, and the callers have to stay motivated and persistent even in the face of frequent (and not always very polite) rejection. Not necessarily a job that comes to mind when we think “meaningful work.” However, in How To Be A Positive Leader, Adam Grant shares a study of how outsourcing inspiration contributed to a more engaged workplace.

In 2007, University of Michigan Telefund experimented with inviting a scholarship recipient to help motivate its employees. Telefund callers are often students without much work experience, and face frequent rejection as they try to raise money for the university. In the experiment (since widely replicated), a scholarship recipient shared her story with some of the callers before their phone shift—how her scholarship helped ease a financial burden. In the month after hearing her story, those callers obtained on average 215 more pledges and $1670 more in donations per week than a control group that didn’t receive a motivational talk from a scholarship student. The kicker? Both groups of callers used the exact same script.

Outsourcing inspiration can and will look different in each organization. Here are three helpful strategies from Grant’s study that organizations can use to get started:

1. Make the face-to-face connection. Hearing first-hand from the beneficiaries of their work is the most direct (and most effective) way to connect employees to the impact of their work. In the case of Michigan Telefund, a 5-minute story from a scholarship student measurably boosted employee engagement.

2. Encourage employees to swap stories. It might be the case at an organization that some employees are very connected to their impact, while others are not. When employees are given the opportunity to share their contributions with each other, they can make connections about impact that they may not have been able to make otherwise.

3. Become a linking pin. What good is an inspiring story if not connected to the mission of the organization? Connecting employees’ contributions with the mission or vision of the organization can be even more engaging for employees than simply hearing the story of an end-user.

With these ideas as a starting point, you can start outsourcing inspiration quickly. Today at lunch, encourage employees to share stories of contributions they’ve made toward your mission. Reach out to one of your team’s beneficiaries to see if they would be willing to share the impact your organization had on them. Make your mission known and connect it to the day-to-day work of your employees. Perhaps an added bonus will be a boost to your own motivation, as well as that of your team!

 

Chris White (@leadpositively, leadpositively.com) is managing director of theCenter for Positive Organizations (@PositiveOrg) at the University of Michigan’sStephen M. Ross School of Business. The Center is the convener of the Positive Organizations Consortium, a catalytic co-learning community of leaders actively building high-performing organizations where people thrive.

Interview with David Burkus

In this interview, we talk about how to make even large, established companies a force for good through social intrapreneurship.

Originally at http://davidburkus.com/2015/04/0608-chris-white/

 

2016-07-06-1467834101-1906003-ResizedDepositphotos_67115661_original-thumb

Could your calling be all around you?

Today, students and professionals are hungering for purpose. Rarely a day goes by without experiencing some manifestation of the great search for meaning in work that is currently underway. Sometimes it appears in the frustration of a loved one about her boredom at work; she wants to contribute more — and more meaningfully. Other times it shows up in the emptiness that our best friend feels when he has found himself going through the motions at work, rather than being fully present and engaged; he wants to do things that stretch him and applies his strengths, values and passions in the pursuit of something worthwhile. Often, it can be seen in the relentless job hopping that seems to be so prevalent nowadays in just about every organization; sometimes we just think that the occupational grass here is bland, and it will be greener and tastier elsewhere.

 

Michigan Ross management professor Andy Hoffman thinks that the solution — the biggest calling of our generation — is all around us. “The sustainability challenges we face today are of a completely different order than those of the past”, says Hoffman in his new book. “Business must be the source of the solutions to those issues. The market is the most powerful institution on Earth and business is the most powerful entity within it. If they are not solving these problems, they won’t be solved.” And it appears that many students are heeding the call. Hoffman notes that “students that wanted to make a difference in the world twenty years ago went to graduate schools of government or non-profit management. Today, more and more of them are going into schools of business.”

I will be the first to admit that I am far from perfect. Indeed, I feel more than a twinge of hypocrisy as I write this article. I drive a gas guzzling car! I enjoy a nice steak all too often!

But Hoffman’s point is that none of us are. But that shouldn’t stop us. There are myriad ways that individuals or organizations can make a difference starting today. Some yield small and immediate results. Others will be the work of many people over decades or longer. We do not all need to be Elon Musk and lead the reinvention of the auto sector, but we can aspire to create products and services differently. At the recent Ross Positive Business Conference,Cascade Engineering CEO Mark Miller told us how his company took an environmental challenge to their business and turned it into an extraordinary commercial opportunity. (See the story here, starting at 49.08). He was driven to do this by a deep sense of purpose about both building his business and serving society.

 

Having a calling changes our subjective day-to-day experience of work. Some may not feel the compulsion to make environmental stewardship their calling. They may feel drawn more toward helping their communities or their families, perhaps. One of my colleagues says that her calling is simply “to make each room better than how she found it”. Everyone who experiences the events that she produces knows that this is something that she takes seriously. Her calling energizes her actions on a daily basis.

 

For many people, the challenge is where to begin. Here are two concrete steps to get the ball rolling:

 

1. “Start small”, suggests Hoffman. “Begin to explore what your passions are and where you want to devote your life’s energies”. In order to do this, you may choose to find a mentor or keep an energy journal. For two weeks, simply note down the times when you feel excited and energized by situations you come across. Over time, as you reflect on your notes, you will find common themes across the people you interact with, the issues you consider, and the tasks you do when you find yourself being energized.

2. Connect to something bigger than just your immediate needs and wants. This will give you a purpose beyond yourself and a community with which to connect; both will fuel your energy and excitement for the long run. Many workplaces have Green Teams (grassroots networks to help with environmental initiatives), or diversity councils, or other such groups that fit your energy that welcome new contributors. Outside of work, many attend Green Drinks events or volunteer in environmental work.

Do you feel you have a calling? What is it? How did you find it? Share in the comments!

Chris White (@leadpositively, leadpositively.com) is managing director of theCenter for Positive Organizations (@PositiveOrg) at the University of Michigan’sStephen M. Ross School of Business. Andy Hoffman (@HoffmanAndy) is a professor at the Ross School and his new book Finding Purpose: Environmental Stewardship as Personal Calling is available here.

Originally at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/great-work-cultures/could-your-calling-be-all_b_10839066.html

2016-06-14-1465873750-2136138-fourlevers-thumb

Four Vital Levers to Sell Your Ideas Internally

There is a huge opportunity cost embedded in our highly bureaucratic organizations. Consider a story that Milan Samani, founder of the Intrapreneur Lab, shared with me recently:

A group of senior employees at a big pharmaceutical company saw an alternative use for a drug normally used for cosmetic surgery (it also worked as type of local anesthetic). Management were not interested in exploring these alternate uses so the team left, started their own company, received VC backing, and became very successful. The only loser was the original company — who lost a potential business-line, some high performing talent, and use of a technology that was ‘on their doorstep.’

Is there an alternative to hemorrhaging innovation out of the company? Short answer: yes.

By supporting the intrapreneurs — those who navigate organizations to create positive change, even when they do not have formal authority — companies can foster innovation, both advancing their bottom line objectives and, often, having desirable social or environmental impacts. Furthermore, this unlocking of ideas and energy reflects higher employee engagement, and can translate to retention of top talent.

In an intrapreneur-friendly environment, all kinds of people get involved. A new product development manager artfully navigating the ‘corporate immune system’ in pursuit of a ‘better user experience’ for the customer (i.e. selling more product). The sustainability executive works with scrap, grit, and dedication on a social impact project, unsure of its future viability. The team manager develops new ways of working to bring unprecedented levels of dignity, excitement, and performance to the workplace. In positive organizations such as these, innovation bubbles up from all angles.

“The right mindset, skillset, and toolset are the starting points to actually create viable, profitable ventures that create social value in overlooked and unimagined ways,” says Samani. “Some of these are the same as an entrepreneur, but many are quite unique. Processes and structures can be developed that actively foster this capability.”

So what can you do to get started in selling your ideas internally? In Changing Your Company From the Inside Out, Jerry Davis and I highlighted four levers to pull when trying to create positive change without authority.

When?

A great idea pushed at the wrong time is unlikely to get traction. Conversely, a counterintuitive idea can be successful if the timing is right. Look for shifts in leadership priorities, which create an urgent need for new solutions. Your goal, like a skilled dancer, is to position your idea to be carried along by the momentum of the system — not swim against the tide.

Why?

Make the case for your idea using the language and strategic priorities of your company. In many corporate cultures, making the ideas sound like a natural evolution rather than a radical departure, can reduce resistance to adoption. Your goal is to create a mental image that activates the support of important allies, but does not trigger alarm bells for potential resistors.

Who?

Take time to map the decision makers for your idea, and the influence system around them. What are their priorities? How will you need to adapt your case to each of them in order to be effective? Your goal is to build support along the way, making the eventual decision a straightforward signoff.

How?

Look for what Center for Positive Organizations Faculty Associate Sue Ashforddescribes as “sensible solutions” to organize your initiative. Maybe it is a smaller pilot program to manage risk smartly. Maybe there is a previously successful program that can be largely replicated. Your goal is to make this an easy idea to grasp as rollout begins.

What other levers do you pull to get your ideas heard — and adopted — in your company?

Chris White (@leadpositively, leadpositively.com) is managing director of the Center for Positive Organizations (@PositiveOrg) at the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

This post was originally at http://new.www.huffingtonpost.com/great-work-cultures/the-four-vital-levers-to_b_10449248.html

Follow Great Work Cultures on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GWCLeadLink

2016-05-10-1462904064-3475851-giving-thumb

Four Ways to Create a Giver Culture

Originally at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/great-work-cultures/four-ways-to-create-a-giv_b_9888580.html

Imagine coming to work each morning feeling cared for and supported as a professional—and as a human being. When you need information, help with problem, or some good advice, your coworkers are there, freely offering their assistance. If necessary, they tap their networks inside and outside the company to find the resource you need. And, you freely do the same for them.

What I just described is the product of having what Michigan Ross Center for Positive Organizations‘ Professor Wayne Baker calls “A Giver Culture.” For some of us, this is our workplace reality. For the rest of us, there are research-based ways to get there.

What is a Giver Culture?

A Giver Culture is one where people freely ask for, and offer, help to others. They give to others routinely, without expectations of receiving anything in return for their acts of generosity. And, they ask for what they need. “When people ask for what they need and generously help others,” Baker explains, “they become more engaged at work and more productive. They experience positive emotions and thrive. Giver workplaces are more productive and profitable, experience lower turnover (and costs), and have more loyal customers.”

How to do it?

Getting people to help usually isn’t the problem, Baker says. Rather, getting people to ask for what they need is the challenge. Making requests is the fuel that drives the cycle of giving and receiving. To create a Giver Culture, you have to improve peoples’ skills at asking for help and assistance. To enable this, Baker recommends making specific, detailed requests; being sure to explain why a request is meaningful and important; and letting others know by when you need the help. And, never underestimate others’ willingness and ability to help! You never know what people know or who they know until you ask.

When it comes to giving, two factors are at work: gratitude and reputation. Baker and Bulkley found that people are more generous when they are grateful for the help they have received (commonly known as Paying It Forward), and people are more generous because of reputational concerns (they believe that being a giver will make them look good and get help in the future). While Baker and Bulkley found both gratitude and reputation to have an impact; perhaps surprisingly, the gratitude effect was much stronger than the reputation effect. In other words, feelings of appreciation are much more likely to lead to generous acts than an awareness that others may think more highly of you for your generosity.

What can you do to get starting building a Giver Culture today?

1. Empathize

As an individual, you can actively listen to others and figure out what they need. Then, you can help meet that need yourself (you have the resource) or you can tap your network and make a referral. If you do this as a giver—without expectations of return—you will start the chain of generosity.

2. Act

There are many ways you can take action to help others. Adam Grant, bestselling author of Give and Take and Originals, advocates setting up a block of time to do some five-minute favors: short acts of generosity. As a bonus: As well as helping others, five-minute favors have a measurable impact on your happiness level! And Grant’s research showed that bundling the helping acts together creates an even bigger impact on your sense of wellbeing than spreading them out. Go ahead—block off thirty minutes now to give yourself a big boost!

3. Ask for what you need

Making requests is a critical part of the process. To make request, you need to figure out what you need and then communicate that need to others. It helps to do it with the right spirit: Make requests without being attached to a particular outcome. Help often comes in unexpected forms from unexpected places!

4. Activate others

Individual actions will help, but to create a Giver Culture, you have to intervene at the group level. Two ways to do this are the Reciprocity Ring from Humax, and the Give and Get App from Give and Take, Inc. These resources give groups structured platforms to enable people to ask for and offer meaningful help to one another. These tools are intrinsically energizing, and create measurable value for the people involved, and for their organizations.

How do you create a Giver Culture in your organization? What challenges do you run into? Share your experiences below!

Chris White (@leadpositively, leadpositively.com) is managing director of the Center for Positive Organizations (@PositiveOrg) at the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business (@MichiganRoss). The Center is the convener of the Positive Organizations Consortium, a catalytic co-learning community of leaders actively building high-performing organizations where people thrive.

2016-04-13-1460561543-1885290-Depositphotos_52695501_original-thumb

4 Leverage Points for Being a Positive Leader

Originally at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/great-work-cultures/4-leverage-points-for-bei_b_9671564.html

When meeting with leaders interested in building positive organizations, one question recurs more often than the others: “where do we start?” As a manager myself, I can certainly relate to this. Good advice is seemingly limitless. Help to put it all together, however, is in short supply.

Followers of the Center for Positive Organizations, based at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, might find this challenge more acute than most. For the last fifteen years, over 300 scholars around the world have been working under a broad umbrella of Positive Organizational Scholarship. Topics include transformational leadership, compassion at work, meaning and purpose in organizational life, ethics, forgiveness, energy, negotiations, generosity, and more.

Being a positive leader does not mean being perfect. We are all human beings, and will often fall short of our own personal expectations. Being a positive leader, however, does mean aspiring to build relationships and teams that are both high performing and enable people to thrive. It does mean choosing to focus on what is working well, and on peoples’ strengths, more than addressing their weaknesses.

So where to start: some moments as a leader are more important than others. Here are four leverage points for being a positive leader.

1. It all begins with you

There is no point in aspiring to be a positive leader unless you are sincerely committed to the journey. Indeed, trying this system in the hope of quick fixes or Band-Aid solutions may be counterproductive. If you are insincere, your colleagues will be able to sense it a mile away.

How can you take steps to integrate the identity of positive leadership in your own life? Consider starting with Ryan and Bob Quinn’s practical advice on how to be a transformational leader in their book, Lift 2.0.

2. Hire for energy, not just capability

To have a positively energized team, you need everyone on board to be either positive energizers or at least neutral. The moment you bring a negative energizer onto your team, it can suck the life out of the team. Michigan Ross Professor Wayne Baker, who has done fascinating and important work on energy networks in organizations, calls these people Black Holes.

To find positive energizers and create an upward trajectory for team dynamics, I ask myself three questions during the hiring process:

1. Does this person have the potential to be the best on the team in his or her area of responsibility?
2. Will this person not only fit our culture, but also enhance it with his or her own character?
3. Is this person committed to the same mission and vision as we are, to the extent they will stick around to make it happen, rather than jump at the next shiny opportunity that comes their way?

By only hiring people who meet these criteria, we are giving ourselves a good chance of continually improving our capability and culture.

3. Build high quality relationships

Being a positive leader involves creating and sustaining productive and energizing relationships with those around you. The social fabric you build will not only help in the day to day course of creating a great workplace, but will create a reserve of commitment and resiliency for when times are tough.

To get started, consider reading Energize Your Workplace by Jane Dutton, and then continuing with the Task Enabling Exercise. These resources will help you identify the most important relationships you have in the workplace, and how to strengthen them to make them even more meaningful and productive.

4. Unlock potential in the group

Many people view meetings as the bane of organizational existence. However, meetings also provide a great way to build alignment and work toward a defined culture. Work at a more collective level is a key step in becoming a positive leader. How can you create processes and systems to enable people to support and unlock potential in each other, even when you are not around?

One tool to help build this capacity in your team is the Positive Leadership Game. This exercise helps teams understand what it means to lead using the positive lens, and get into the habit of asking for and offering help to each other.

These are four leverage points you can prioritize in order to be a positive leader. How else might you make a positive difference in your organization?

Chris White (@leadpositively, leadpositively.com) is managing director of the Center for Positive Organizations (@PositiveOrg) at the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business (@MichiganRoss). The Center is the convener of the Positive Organizations Consortium, a catalytic co-learning community of leaders actively building high-performing organizations where people thrive.

Lead Positive Change Without Authority

What factors should you consider in order to make your next change initiative successful? Jerry Davis and I did the Positive Links session this month. Click the image above to view it!