Thursday, March 28, 2013

Purpose and Morale

Take a moment (just a minute and a half) and watch this video from my friends at Maria's Bookshop in Durango, Colorado.



They love what they do.  They understand their purpose.

Here's what Jeanne, one of the bookseller's at Maria's said about purpose:
"After 20 years in the world of bookselling, I believe more than ever, that people come in our store for a human interaction- for a point of connection.  I get to be that point of connection.  Our booksellers get to be that point of connection.   Those interactions have the potential to change lives- mine, ours and those of our customers.  How could you not be inspired by that potential?"
Purpose is understanding why you do what you do.  It's understanding the need that was fulfilled by starting the business.  When everyone in your business understands that core principal and how their specific job is important in achieving it, morale is naturally high.  As these booksellers pointed out, they "get" to work with customers and each other.  They don't "have" to do it.

I'll repeat: they love what they do because they understand the purpose of the business.

When employees don't understand the purpose of a business, other than it's there to sell things or services, that they are there to make money for the company (because the company mistakingly equates making money with purpose) and to take home a paycheck, work becomes drudgery.  They "have" to be there.  They probably don't love what they do (the majority of employees in the United States say they hate their jobs), and morale is low.  Employees with low morale only do what they "have" to do to keep their jobs and collect the next paycheck.

How much better would your company be doing if morale was high?  If your employees loved their job?  If they understood their role in the purpose of your business.

Like I pointed out in the previous post, most mission statements don't inspire.  But, understanding purpose, the entire reason the business exists, and why the role they play is important to that purpose, helps them understand how what they do matters.  That's why you need a Purpose Statement.

In the next post, I'll pose some questions to help you think about and understand the purpose of your business.

Related Posts:  You Don't Need A Mission Statement, You Need a Purpose Statement
                        Find the Purpose of Your Business

Monday, March 25, 2013

You Don't Need A Mission Statement, You Need A Purpose Statement

I think company mission statements are useless.  Most of them at least.
Here's a selection of some mission statements from companies large and small:


  • "Dedicated to convenience, excellence, and serving everyone."  Wow!  Be still my heart.
  • "Be the best in the eyes of our customers, employees, and shareholders."  Please pass some sugar for that bowl of oatmeal.
  • "The Company's primary objective is to maximize long-term shareholder value, while adhering to the laws of the jurisdictions in which it operates and at all times observing the highest ethical standards."  Good to know your primary concerns.  Yawn.
  • "We are committed to attracting, developing, and keeping a diverse work force that reflects the nature of our global business."  How politically correct of you.  Next!
  • "Undisputed Marketplace Leadership."  Ooookay.  And what was your product?

What's the problem?  I could slap any one of these on the wall of any company, anywhere.  They are bland, impersonal, and interchangeable.  They don't inspire employees to meaningful action.

And, most importantly, they lack purpose.  A company's reason for existing.  The drive for doing what they do.

What's the purpose of your business?  If you answer that by saying "to make money," I'm going to reach right through this computer screen and slap you.  Making money isn't the raison d'ĂȘtre of your business.  Money is simply the measurement of how well you're communicating your purpose to your employees and customers.

Why is purpose more important than mission?  How is having a clear and meaningful purpose important to building employee morale in your company?  In the next post I'll talk about the link between purpose and morale and why you should toss your mission statement and create a Purpose Statement.

Related Posts:  Purpose and Morale

Friday, March 22, 2013

Are You a Bully Manager? Take the Test.

This week has been "Fear Week."  I've discussed why trying to drive productivity through intimidation and threats doesn't work, as well as why people become bully managers.

Today, I'm giving you a short self-test to determine whether or not you are a manager who uses fear to try and motivate employees.  These are not things that you might normally think of as making employees afraid of you, but they are things that they notice and it makes them wary and puts them on the defensive.  Ask yourself each of the following questions, then think carefully and honestly about your answer.  Give yourself one point each time you answer yes:

  1. Are you inconsistent?  (Do you make a decision then change your mind within a few hours or days?).
  2. Are you dismissive of the ideas and suggestions of subordinates?
  3. Do you schedule or cancel meetings at short notice? (Within hours of the meeting).
  4. Do you avoid, or give the silent treatment to, employees you are unhappy with?
  5. Do you often work in your office with the door closed?
  6. Do you make a big deal out of little mistakes or problems that have no long term importance?
  7. Are you a micromanager?  (Hovering over employees or constantly directing every move).
  8. Do you make snap decisions without fully understanding a job, procedure, or process?
  9. Do you take credit, or allow credit to be given to you, when others did the job?
  10. When things go wrong, do you deflect the blame onto others?

How did you do?  Take the total number of times you answered yes and see what you your score reveals about you below.

  • Answered "yes" 1-3 times:  We all make mistakes.  We all have bad days.  You're not necessarily a bully, but you need to be careful about consciously noticing your behavior, make changes where you answered "yes," and resolve right now to avoid letting your behavior slip into any of the areas where you answered "no.".
  • Answered "yes" 4-7 times:  You are likely a bully and your employees resent your actions and don't enjoy working for you.  Morale among your employees is moderately low, but will get worse as time goes on unless you make changes.  You may be losing a few good employees who found new jobs.  Productivity and customer service (internal, external, or both) are not as high as they could be.  Be careful as your behavior could start to affect profits (lack of efficiency, increased hiring and training costs).  You need to be very conscious of what you are doing and why and work to make positive changes.  Read some books on leadership or find a mentor.
  • Answered "yes" 8-10 times:  You are a bully.  Your actions affect nearly everyone who works with you.  Employees don't like working for you and try to avoid dealing with you.  Morale is extremely low and employees are leaving for other jobs, looking for other jobs, or thinking about leaving.  Morale is also affecting customer service, which in turn is leading to lower revenues and profits.  You need to do some serious soul searching about why you treat your subordinates with such disrespect and look for help and training to become a better manager before you find yourself fired or your business fails.

Starting next week I'll focus on understanding morale in the workplace and some "big picture" things that you can do to make a positive change in the morale of the office.

Related Posts:  Fear and Loathing in the Office
                        You Can't Train an Old Dog, But You Can Ruin a New One

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

You Can't Train An Old Dog, But You Can Ruin a New One

Photo by HunterJumper
In the previous post, I explained that leading through fear may increase short term results, but also increases long term damage.

So why do so many managers use fear to try to motivate employees?

The problem is, too many managers have been trained in the art fear management.

I once worked for a bully.  He came from a place and time where management through fear was an accepted way of doing things.  He was awful to work for and he refused to change.  You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Unfortunately, you can train a young dog the wrong way.  He hired a new assistant store manager.  When this new assistant started, he was excited, enthusiastic, and we enjoyed working for him.  The departments he oversaw had good morale and high productivity.  But, the poor management techniques of the store manager were taught to this new assistant and eventually he was using management through fear as well.

Managers who use fear tactics are under the illusion they work because they can see immediate results.  Intimidation and threats make people afraid that they might lose their job.  They may work harder or work extra hours in the short term in order to keep their job and avoid the threat.  Inevitably, the manager sees the positive results he achieved using fear and continues to use it.  The manager equates fear with productivity.  But, what they really end up doing is accumulating negative long term results in order to acheive the immediate, high productivity outcome.

The problem is that fear is the foundation of anger and those who make us afraid also make us angry.  Angry employees resent what they are told to do, who tells them to do it and morale drops.  You can do this for only so long before anger and resentment overcome the fear, then your productivity plateaus and eventually falls.  Turnover rates increase and hiring and training costs rise.  You may drive short term success through fear, but long term success will be elusive.

What eventually happened where I worked for a bully (and his assistant)?  The results were predictable.  In the short term, sales were high and the business successful.  But as the manager and his assistant continued to use fear to motivate employees, morale fell, turnover increased, customer service suffered, and revenues shrank.  Interestingly, neither the store manager nor his assistant could understand why things were declining.  They refused to believe that it had anything to do with them.  They were in denial that fear management was a failure.

Do you manage by fear or are you in denial?  In the next post I'll look at some of the traits of a bully manager and you may see some things you might not have realized are part of fear management.  Who knows?  You might discover something about yourself.  Better to discover it now and change, than to continue down the road to long term damage, low morale and falling profits.

Related Posts:  Fear and Loathing In the Office
                        Are You a Bully Manager?  Take the Test


Monday, March 18, 2013

Fear and Loathing In the Office

Fear isn't a motivator.

It's a demoralizer.

Someone who intimidates, threatens, or belittles their employees in order to increase productivity, isn't a leader.  They're a bully.

Over the course of my career, I've worked for a few bullies who used the "fear factor," attempting to make employees work harder and faster.  They pounded their fists, yelled, told us to go find another job if we didn't like it, and made subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) threats about terminating our employment.

An abusive environment, leads to "greater job frustration, tendency to abuse co-workers, and a lack of perceived organizational support."  It's difficult to actively engage and supervise employees when they are constantly being defensive with you and their co-workers.

Employees remember the times you act in a threatening manner and they internalize it.  Every time you walk through the office door, show up at a meeting, or call them on the phone, their reaction will be the same.  They'll be asking themselves, "What did I do this time?"  They immediately go on the defensive, looking for ways to deflect the abuse.  Employees who work in this kind of environment are constantly distracted by potential threats and they waste time devising ways to avoid them.  With less time available, they are inclined to do only the minimum to keep their jobs and this affects the workloads of other employees and departments.  When companies find themselves in this situation, morale decreases, productivity falls, turnover increases, and profits go down.

A true leader is out front, leading through respect and loyalty.  Employees follow because they want to.  Managers who use fear will find themselves driving results from the rear, constantly cracking the whip and pushing, because employees don't work hard for someone they don't respect. They move forward only because they are forced.

Before you're tempted to use fear as a blunt instrument of motivation, stop and ask yourself:  What will yelling, threatening, or pounding my fist accomplish?  Short term results and long term damage.

In the next post, I'll discuss why managers continue to use fear as a management technique.

Related Posts:  You Can't Train An Old Dog, But You Can Ruin A New One
                        Are You A Bully Manager?  Take the Test