Tag Archives: managers

Monday Morning Moment – What Stirs Motivation, Initiative, and Innovation – What Kills It

Photo Credit: Flickr

We all have the capability of motivating those around us…or demotivating them. We can stir initiative or slow it down. We can grease the tracks for innovation or derail it.

How are motivation, initiative, and innovation defined? Considering the definitions will help us remember how crucial they are to forward progress – in serving others, in product development, and in employee (or volunteer) engagement.

MotivationInternal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy in people to be continually interested and committed to a job, role or subject, or to make an effort to attain a goal. Motivation results from the interaction of both conscious and unconscious factors such as the (1) intensity of desire or need, (2) incentive or reward value of the goal, and (3) expectations of the individual and of his or her peers. These factors are the reasons one has for behaving a certain way.

InitiativeAn individual’s action that begins a process, often done without direct managerial influence. For example, an employee might take the initiative to come up with a new product or service that the company could offer…Demonstrat(ing) initiative by sharing their ideas, helping to improve our business, speaking up about problems, and suggesting potential solutions.

InnovationThe process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay. To be called an innovation, an idea must be replicable at an economical cost and must satisfy a specific need. Innovation involves deliberate application of information, imagination and initiative in deriving greater or different values from resources, and includes all processes by which new ideas are generated and converted into useful products. In business, innovation often results when ideas are applied by the company in order to further satisfy the needs and expectations of the customers.

We can celebrate situations where we experience daily motivation and have the freedom and support to run with our initiative and participate in innovation. It’s in other situations that we need internal and external encouragement to press on, even without the help or support of our managers, leaders, bosses.

Dealing with bottlenecks, micro-managing, and continually reiterating leaders or bosses can tempt us to disengage and slow down in our own work…even in areas where our passion and commitment are high.

“One of the signals that managers might need more training is when their engineers aren’t taking initiative.”Jean Hsu, Why Aren’t My Engineers Taking Initiative?

“We agree completely that micromanagement is a big mistake. It diminishes people’s self-confidence, saps their initiative, and stifles their ability to think for themselves. It’s also a recipe for screwing things up—micromanagers rarely know as much about what needs to be done as the people they’re harassing, the ones who actually do it.” – Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

Photo Credit: Flickr

This piece today is really not to vent about those in authority over us who make our work or volunteering difficult (and sometimes joyless). Listed below (in the links) are several lists on particulars that stifle or kill motivation, initiative, and innovation. Especially if you are a manager or boss, these would be important to consider.

We may need to process a bit about our struggle to get a project finished or an idea embraced. This particular blog came out of such a frustration. Still, what I hope is to take the power to spoil out of the hands of our bosses (most probably that is not their primary intention) and to empower ourselves to push on in ways we can. Without being divisive or insubordinate. Empathy is one of the tools we can use.Photo Credit: Brian Solis, Flickr

Empathy is defined as “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings”.

The Truth About Why Empathy is a Required Skill in the Workplace

Empathy probably seems a bit counter-intuitive when you’re feeling blocked by a controlling boss. Think about it. Once you think through her reasoning on slowing down a process, you can then give support to your ideas with language that speaks to her concerns.  For example, a micromanager may have several critical and costly projects going at the same time and could be afraid himself of dropping the ball on some, so he slows everything down and reins in decision-making. It can make a work team nuts, but if you determine to understand something of his position, you can stay in the conversation rather than just bolting.

Hating on your boss will only cloud the relationship from both sides. Then there’s the ripple effect to other relationships. None of us really want that. See link below…wisdom.

Workplace Wisdom – Dave’s Observation on Work (and Other) Relationships – What You Think of Others Matters – Deb Mills

You can help here, respectfully, by thinking through other ways to get to the solution of the problem or impasse. Empathy is a discipline that keeps conversations positive and inclusive of all those needed to make the decision on a new direction.Photo Credit: Career Contessa

Empathy at Work – Why It (Really) Matters – Jacqueline McElhone

Besides empathy, I have also discovered a different path. Maybe like you, I am one of those persons who generates ideas like other people generate the responses “we tried that” or “that’s good, but”. Creatives aren’t always well-received in the decision-making hierarchy. In recent years, I went through a season of de-motivation and diminished initiative. Life is too short to spend long in that mindset.

I finally shook off the troubled slumber of that season, in three ways:

  • Making the decision to continue working with the same organization, but
  • Looking for other avenues (non-profits, start-ups) to express the energy and passion of these ideas which I believed would make a difference.
  • Playing with and developing these ideas in an environment of inclusion and all-voices-wanted-at-the-table.

It wasn’t long that my confidence and sense of how to work smarter helped me to re-engage my workspace, with empathy. The bottlenecks may still be there, the control may still be weighted, but I am the one who changed. More ready for the battles and taking them less personally.

You matter. Your ideas, your solutions to problems, your presence at the table.

Thoughts? Would love to hear them (in Comments).

Photo Credit: Needpix

What Kills Motivation at Work – Justin Reynolds

7 Ways Toxic Managers Stifle Employee Motivation and Productivity – Kristin Marquet

7 Ways Micromanagement Stifles Creativity – Wayne Hastings

Nine Rules for Stifling Innovation – Rosabeth Moss Kanter

10 Ways Weak Managers Stifle Innovation – Liz Ryan

10 Things Companies Do That Kill Employee Motivation – Paul Petrone

Why Aren’t My Engineers Taking Initiative? – Jean Hsu

5 Friday Faves – Millennials, Christmas Lights, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, “a Good Man is Hard to Find”, and a Christmas Album

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! Hope you’ve had a sweet week in the crazy of December…snatching some quiet moments from all the loud. Here are my favorite finds for this week:

  1. Millennials –  Mat Luschek’s Millennials at Work offers a quick and thoughtful read on our workplace, especially as it is changing or must change. “Millennials will outnumber the Boomers in the workplace this year.” So what are they looking for in a job? The paycheck is still important, for sure, but also import is the work culture. Luschek describes 4 areas that are especially engaging for millennials: 1) Flexibility, 2) Coaches not managers (as a Boomer I favor that as well), 3) Boredom at a minimal), and 4) Collaboration & Leadership. Fascinating read. Bottom line for all of us in the workplace is that what’s good for these millennials is good for us as well…maybe, we just didn’t consider pressing for it.Blog - Millenials - bpnews.netPhoto Credit: BPNews.net

2. Christmas Lights – Previously I wrote about Richmond’s Tacky Light Tour. Christmas lights in our own neighborhood are lovely as well, especially when we know the folks inside. Our neighborhood is an old one tucked into an ancient forest. In the yard light displays around us, there are few nativities. Christmas lights here are more whimsical than worshipful…still they warmly light the cold winter nights, and invite us in to the home of a friend.Blog - Neighborhood Christmas Lights2015 December - Christmas Community Group, Tacky Light Tour 0042015 December - Christmas Community Group, Tacky Light Tour 011Sometimes, neighbors are “best-in-show” Tacky Light Tour participants. All you have to do is walk down the street and enjoy them. Not our neighbors, but friends of ours. So fun!2015 December - Christmas Community Group, Tacky Light Tour 080

3. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event…if the symptoms get worse or last for months or even years and interfere with your functioning, you may have PTSD. Getting effective treatment after PTSD symptoms develop can be critical to reduce symptoms and improve function.”

We often think of PTSD as a post-war calamity of our military veterans. There are also others among us who suffer from the smoldering aftermath of a tragedy (either a single event or years of abuse). PTSD can be very damaging to the person suffering from it and those who love them.

Dr. Brad Hambrick is the counseling pastor on staff at Summit Church, Durham, N. C. He has produced a video series on PTSD which I found very helpful recently in dealing with the PTSD of a friend.   He also makes available his seminar notebook on the subject, free of charge. You can request a copy from Summit’s counseling office at counseling@summitrdu.com. Whether you are a Christ-follower or not, this video series and notes will help you understand PTSD better and give you steps to deal with it.Blog - Brad Hambrick - PTSD

Photo Credit: BradHambrick.com

4) “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” – Ashlin Horne’s They Say a Good Man Is Hard to Find may not be at all what you’re thinking. No pity party for one here. She handles a sometimes hurtful subject so sensitively. As I read her blog, it felt like sitting with coffee across from a good friend. You women (AND men) will want to read this and pass it on to others. Following is just a bit of it: Men are not God. If there’s one thing I’d like to tattoo on the arms of girls everywhere it’s that truth. They will not heal you. They are not your redemption. I think it’s time to stop loading up the shoulders of the good men in our lives, or the ones we’ve yet to meet, with expectations that only God can fulfill.” Read on, Loves.Blog - Good Men - Ashlin Horne - vine.coPhoto Credit: Vine.co

5) Latest Favorite Christmas Album – David Crowder Band’s Oh For Joy. This album is a rowdy mix of Christmas standards arranged as only Crowder does it. It was released in 2011 before the original David Crowder Band “disbanded”, and it’s a “must-own”.  My favorite track on the album is the last song. Here’s Sarah Fine’s description of it: As amazing as this album as this is, the true standout track is the final song on the record. Another live Passion recording, the band puts their stamp on what has quickly become one of this generations most beloved holiday songs, Trans Siberian Orchestra’s “Carol Of The Bells / Christmas in Sarajevo.” The song starts off with a brief introduction from David, stating that Christmas doesn’t technically end till Epiphany on Jan. 6. Spoken in a way only he could master, the intro leads directly into one of the best versions of this song I’ve heard since the Orchestra recorded it themselves. Dare I say, this version might even be better. If there ever was ever a way to end a Christmas album with a bang, this would be it.” The YouTube video of this song follows.Blog - David Crowder Band Christmas - Oh For JoyPhoto Credit: Amazon.com

What are some of your favorites of late? Would love to hear about them in the Comments. Make it your own kind of special weekend.

Life Skills – Stewardship of the Essential in the Workplace – 5 Helps

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A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.                      Proverbs 16:9

“He who believes in Me [Jesus], the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” John 14:12

5 Helps to Keep Essentials in Focus

1) Pray – do business with God on the issue of stewardship of work.

2) Re-visit your job description/annual goals. Do they match up?

3) Determine when you’re sharpest or freshest & guard that time.

4) Practice intentionality with meeting invites & other distractions.

5) Do what only you can do whenever possible.

Books, blogs, and experts abound in the field of leadership and workplace productivity. A challenge for me at work is the constant press of the urgent, and the seeming necessity of meetings upon meetings. I actually don’t really mind meetings; processing in group is my method of choice for information-sharing and developing strategies. Yet, there are those colleagues of ours whom we depend on for deep thinking and creative planning and who need time in quiet to accomplish that.  Too often their work-day is packed with people (either across a meeting table or through electronic communications). They’re then less able to be proactive in their thinking and more prone to reactive decision-making.

Shane Parrish (@farnamstreet) wrote about this phenomenon several months ago. The title of his article was intriguing: “Most of what you are going to do or say today is not essential”.

I don’t want to spend my life doing things that don’t matter, especially in the huge investment of life at work.

In the above article, Parrish continued: “If you’re a modern knowledge worker, odds are you’re going to go to work, read some emails, reply to some emails, attend some meetings, grab a coffee, have lunch, attend another meeting or two, catch up on emails, and finally head home. You’ll be busy from the moment you get to work until the moment you go home. When you do find a nook of time, you’ll likely be bombarded with beeping, dings, calls, and other people who only need a sliver of our time. After all, they too have something urgent to do. They too have a deadline.

After a long day, you’ll come home mentally and physically drained. Eventually you’ll reach a tipping point and say enough is enough. The very next day you’ll head into the office vowing to change things. You’ll start to think about how to work more productively when, ding, a meeting invite pops up for an urgent meeting to decide the fate of a product.”

Later in the article, he said, “Sure we do more busy work, but we’re doing less real work. To get any real work done we come in early, stay late, or both. That’s the only way we can get some peace and quiet.”

We must take a step back from our hectic workday and refocus our thinking on why exactly do we have our jobs anyway. Why were we given the responsibilities we have or how are we to use the authority/influence we have? Are we being good stewards of what is absolutely imperative or are we just ticking off what is necessary? We have to recapture the essential elements of our work before they’re lost in a muddle of ineffective organizational structure.

There has been lots written on effective leadership, workplace productivity, and time management. For me, these 5 helps encourage me in resetting my priorities when I lose balance or energy or joy in the work:

1) Pray – really do business with God on the issue of your stewardship of your work. Are you being faithful in the essentials?

2) Re-visit your job description and annual goals. Do they match up or have your time and mental energy been outsourced to other activities eroding your creativity and productivity?

3) Determine when you are the sharpest or freshest and guard that time of the day for the most essential thinking and decision-making you need to do. “Silence” the distractions for that block of time.

4) Practice intentionality in dealing with meeting invites, drop-ins, phone calls, or email. Urgent matters will come up and may need only your attention for some part of them. Just beware that you don’t fall into a habit of doing what may come easy – for example, filling up your day with meetings generated by others leaving you with little time for  your own responsibilities.

5) Do what only you can do whenever possible. You’re in the position you’re in, hopefully, because you are just the right person for that job. What is it that you need to be focused on? You don’t just ignore the other needs of the office or organization that vie for your attention, but you help work out how best (either through a process or another person) those needs are met.

What has helped you in stewarding the essentials in your work life? What are your particular challenges?

Shane Parrish – What You Do Today Is Not Essential

Biblical Time Management

Michael Hyatt on Cutting Your To-Do List in Half

Time Management Matrix

5 Tips for Increasing Workplace Productivity

5 Real Tips to Get More Done at Work