Sustain Motivation for New Year’s Resolutions

As this year winds down and the new year approaches, many of us are reflecting and setting new goals. Maybe we want to get a new job, or form closer relationships with partners, colleagues, or friends. Maybe we want to get more involved in helping our communities. Maybe we want to get fitter or healthier (this is mine, by the way… again…).

Our underlying motivation for these goals is crucially important in determining whether we will be stick with the pursuit of a goal or not. So often when setting goals, we focus on what we want to do and do not dig into why we want to do it. Yet it is this deeper self-reflection that drives sustained commitment to a new habit or behavior. Michelle Segar, a faculty associate at the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations, has called this process “finding the right why.”

So what is the right why? “People are more motivated by immediate rewards than they are by ones they have to wait to experience,” says Segar. In other words: when debating whether to lace up your running shoes, thinking about the endorphin rush coming your way in 30 minutes is often a more sustainable motivator than living a little longer in thirty years. This translates to organizational goals too. If you are considering organizing a team-building activity, focusing on how fun it will be may encourage better attendance than emphasizing that the group might experience less turnover or burnout next year.

Segar suggests four action steps to begin applying the Right Why to changes you want to make in 2017:

#1: Reflect
Consider your “whys” for initiating a lifestyle change; and ask yourself if it has symbolized that this change/behavior is a chore or a gift?

#2: Reset

Know that we’ve all been socialized to think about and approach “healthy” lifestyles from the same perspective, one that has turned them into medicine instead of the vehicles of joy and meaning that they truly are – let go of any sense of personal failure because the formula we’ve been taught sets us up for starting and stopping but not sustaining. People feel like failures and this is very bad for motivation.

#3: Choose

Consider the specific experiences, that if you had more of them in your day, would lead you to feel better and drive greater success in your roles. Do you feel drained and need more energy? Do you need more time to connect with loved ones? Then pick one of these experiences – this is what the Right Why is – and identify what lifestyle behavior might deliver it to you. It’s important to focus on changing one behavior at once because the goal is to institutionalize it into our lives. Humans have a limited capacity for decision making so we must strategically use it as the limited resource it truly is.

#4: Experiment

Experiment with a plan for one week to see what happens, including the types of things that get in the way. Plan a date on your schedule to sit down and evaluate whether that behavior helped you realize your Right Why and also what you might want to tweak going forward. Because it’s an opportunity to learn, there is no failure. It’s about continuing to experiment with whys and ways to achieve them until you discover what works for you.

What is one of your goals for 2017, and what is your motivation for pursuing it?

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

 

Originally at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/great-work-cultures/sustainable-motivation-fo_b_13580772.html

In Defense of Doers

Leadership experts make it sound easy: “Follow these simple steps and you will have amazing results!”

The typical format is somewhat formulaic. With poise and pithy quotes, we deliver our sticky stories. We boil down thousands of hours of research and experience into a set of snazzy slides and talking points. When they go well, our sessions help people make sense of the chaos around them. At our best, we provide practical tools and approaches that may make people more effective or happier at work.

I say this with some basis in experience: I could probably be perceived as one of these “leadership experts.” I run a research center with a mountain of relevant content. I teach an MBA class at a top business school. I blog regularly throughmainstream media outlets. I give dozens of external talks and workshops a year. I have written a book through a prestigious publishing house. The resume adds up to the picture of a “leadership expert.”

Yet I have also been leading teams and organizations for the last eighteen years. This allows me to say unequivocally: leading and managing people is much, much harder than talking about it.

The reality of organizational life is messy. It doesn’t fit neatly into the two-by-two frameworks, or three step processes that make for compelling 700 word blog articles. The people we work with on a day to day basis have their own baggage from previous jobs. Maybe their previous boss was a tyrant, always looking for what was being done “wrong.” The people we work with have their own lives outside of work. Maybe he or she is exhausted from working a second job, or going to evening classes, or has young children who are not yet sleeping through the night. The people we work with have diverse strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. Maybe a struggling team member could be a superstar in a slightly adjusted role or working environment. The complexity is mind-boggling.

And you know what? The same goes for me. I have my own baggage from previous jobs. I have had a controlling boss. I have experienced a sense of betrayed trust in the workplace. I too have my own life outside of work. I am spending much of my time excitedly preparing for a wedding next year, with all the new challenges and opportunities and growth that weddings and married life bring. I have my own strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. Connecting dots in strategy and networks comes naturally to me; defining and implementing consistent processes does not. I am far from perfect.

So what advice might I share with someone brave enough to show up every day, trying to build a positive organization in the messy, complex real world of work?

Be humble.

When you are wrong, or fall short of what you expect of yourself, admit it. Admit it quickly and unreservedly, to yourself and others. Apologize. Being humble will both manage expectations, and build trust. And try again.

Be gentle with yourself.

Accept, right now, that things will rarely go exactly as planned. Some things you try will not work the way you hoped. You will find some people harder to work with than others. Just do your best, and be kind to yourself about the emotional bumps and bruises along the way. These psychological knocks are simply the cost you pay for caring about your team. Being gentle with yourself will help you sustain yourself and gather up the energy needed to make your organizational change efforts successful. And try again.

Keep learning and improving.

Never fall into the trap of believing that the formulas proposed from most “leadership experts” will work perfectly in your organizations. They will require skilled adaptation. You will need to become comfortable using the tools that they recommend. Ask for feedback often. Look for subtle feedback in what you are told and not told by those around you. Continually learning and improving will make you better and inspire those around you to want to partner with you. And try again.

What is the best advice you have for someone trying to build a positive organization?

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

Originally appeared at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/great-work-cultures/in-defense-of-doers_b_12441314.html

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4 Ways to Build High-Quality Workplace Connections

How could you become more creative, healthier, resilient, think faster, and feel better about yourself? How could your team become more creative, trusting, and better learners? How could your organisation move faster and more effectively within its teams and across its silos? How can even the budget-constrained achieve these kind of (research-based) outcomes?

The answers are all around us. It’s not what you know, it’s not who you know, it’s how you connect with others.

High-quality connections are often short-term interactions, the micro-bits of a relationship over time. They occur when both people feel a sense of positive regard from the other, a sense of mutuality, and feel vitality or energy in the connection,” says Professor Jane Dutton from the Center for Positive Organisations at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “They strengthen both people who experience them– leaving them stronger, both physiologically and psychologically.”

Dutton identifies four pathways for building these high-quality connections:

1. Be here now

I was recently walking through the park when a young mother with a stroller approached in the opposite direction. “What, no phone?” she asked, laughing. A bit confused, I smiled at her and kept going. It slowly dawned on me that every single person in the park was glued to their mobile phone and was missing out on experiencing the golden sunshine, the glistening water, the luscious green trees.

Especially in this day and age, paying complete attention is the ultimate compliment. We feel heard, respected, and valued when someone gives us their full attention. “Increase attention to and presence with each other,” advises Dutton. Be present, even if only for a moment. Put down your phone. Open your door. Listen.

 2. Build trust

Trust can sometimes be elusive in the workplace. Most of the time, I have been fortunate to have incredibly energising relationships with my colleagues and collaborators. Yet over my career, there have been a few work relationships that have just felt fragile and tentative, for no reason obvious to me. Those times when I have not been successful in building authentic and positive working relationships nag at me for longer than I care to admit.

It is easy for us to forget that what we see of the other person is just a tiny fraction of the whole. All of us bring “baggage” to our work, and our relationships, that is accumulated from our past experiences. These residual perceptions and beliefs can be hard to leave behind, in order to build high-quality connections. Yet, if our motivation to build high-quality connections are sincere, all we can do is try. It is a daily process. “Help others know you have their best interests at heart”, encourages Dutton. By being open, being reliable, and being competent, you can make a great start in earning trust, and feeling more comfortable in trusting others.

 3. Offer support skillfully

What is helpful to one person may be acutely unhelpful to another. “Know and provide what other people need to be successful,” suggests Dutton. “Make others succeed. Catch them when they fall. Know what ways of helping others really work for them.”

This may sound like it is easier said than done! Implementing #1 (listening and being present) will help. Professor and bestselling author Adam Grantrecommends a practice of “five minute favours”, in which we set aside a short block of time to do helpful deeds. An additional resource to help with this is theTask Enabling Exercise (TEE). The TEE helps identify and strengthen the relationships that are most important to you in being successful at work, and the relationships in which you are equally important to others.

 4. Play more. Play often

Sometimes we can take ourselves too seriously that we may be fearful either to initiate or engage in playful behavior. We believe that people around the table may be too busy to join in, or that we may be negatively judged for suggesting such a silly idea as being playful in the workplace.

Getting past this fear of resistance of judgment in order to play more, benefits the overall team culture. Indeed, for humans and many other species, the instinct to play with others is hardwired into us from birth.

Dutton encourages us to try different, contextually appropriate, forms of playing in order to build connections in psychologically safe ways. For example, at theNeutral Zone, a youth-driven space for leadership development, teen leaders often begin meetings by asking a fun, thought-provoking question to everyone before the meeting gets underway. This enables participants to use more creative parts of their brains first before jumping into the work.  At Menlo Innovations, on the other hand, much of their coding work is done in pairs. As such, when two people are reporting out to the broader team on projects, they hold the two horns on a Viking helmet. This physical artifact strengthens the bond between the two people, and keeps an element of silliness in the room.

So often, we look for what to do, or with which company to do it in order to thrive at work. It turns out, who we do it with may be an equally important question to ask. How do you build high-quality connections as you go about your day?

 

Originally at http://blog.gotomeeting.co.uk/2016/09/21/build-high-quality-workplace-connections.html

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.

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.

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.

How to help your new hire get off to a great start

Originally at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/great-work-cultures/how-to-help-your-new-hire_b_9410882.html

The sun was shining as Katie set off for her first day at work on her dream job. Heading to the office with a brisk walk, a little smile, and the flutter of butterflies in the stomach, everything seemed bright about the day to come.

As managers, we know that there are many things to be coordinated to help Katie start off on the right foot. Generally, I find that these fall into four main categories: logistics (computer, phone, payroll, etc.), information (understanding the strategy and systems of the organization, for example), relationships (the people with whom Katie will be working most closely), and projects (the areas for which Katie will be responsible, prioritized in order of importance and urgency).

One special ingredient that most managers tend to overlook when helping new hires make a running start is Identity. We know what Katie’s resume looks like, how she came across in an interview, and what her references say about her. Yet we do not really know her deeply. Who is this person? What is she like when at her best? How can we help her bring her best self to work as often as possible?

According to recent research, understanding and reinforcing Katie’s positive sense of self will make a big difference to how she performs and how happy she is at work. In the series of experiments by Dan Cable, Julia Lee, Francesca Gino, and Bradley Staats, two findings are particularly relevant. First, when individuals are given feedback on how they are at their best before individuals start their team task, they outperformed the teams that did not do this. Second, when this positive identity-boost was given as part of corporate onboarding procedure, newcomers who went through this exercise felt that their relationship with the company is less transactional, felt less emotionally exhausted, and less likely to quit, as compared to those who did not do this exercise. These findings suggest that learning about one’s reflected best-self can help teams to work better together and improve employment relationships.

What actions could you do right now to put this research into practice?

    • Provide opportunities to give and receive best-self feedback

In the study, the researchers implemented a tool called the Reflected Best Self Exercise, which was developed by the scholars at the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations. This powerful exercise allows employees to learn about their positive impact and contribution to others through the eyes of their social network (family, friends, colleagues, etc.). Over the last ten years, the exercise has been implemented at business schools including HBS and the Michigan Ross, and in leading companies such as KPMG.

    • End meetings with appreciations 

Saving a few moments at the end of meetings to give room to express gratitude for the contributions of others can be a way to routinize a culture of best-self feedback on an ongoing basis. Zingerman’s co-founder Ari Weinzweig writes:

“Every meeting always ends with a few minutes of Appreciations. Appreciations can be of anything or anyone; in the room or not in the room; work-related or not; past, present or future. No one is required to say anything, but most people usually do. This one small systemic change has made a huge impact over the years. Think of it like ending a meal with a good cup of coffee; because every meeting ends with them, people almost always return to the organizational world with positive feelings. Its regularity disciplines us to devote time and mental energy to positive recognition.”

    • Rethink performance evaluations

“Most corporate performance evaluations (e.g., 360 performance evaluation) tend to focus on identifying weaknesses rather than celebrating strengths, because people tend to focus on limitations and blind spots,” says Julia Lee. “Plus, studies have found that existing performance evaluation tools failed to foster learning and personal development but rather became punitive to employees, increasing a perception of threat and vulnerability.” Lee suggests following in the footsteps of companies such as Adobe and Deloitte by tweaking or even overhauling performance management systems to be based on empowerment, rather than fear and anxiety.

How people see themselves at work makes a big difference to how they perform. How do you help people bring their best selves to work?

Chris White (@leadpositivelyleadpositively.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 Consortium of Positive Organizations, a catalytic co-learning community of leaders actively building high-performing organizations where people thrive.