Maureen Leif, President, Grays Peak Strategies
I had a difficult time last June turning in my badge and saying goodbye at my last job at the State Court Administrator’s Office in Colorado. I knew it was time to strike out on my own and take a leap of faith in starting a business, but it was still heartbreaking to walk out of the building for the last time. The job was incredible, I was able to use my brain and make an impact on policies for families and children and almost every day was fun. Is it wrong to have fun at work? Is an office filled with laughter and comradery mean people are not getting their work done? I argue that offices that are filled with positive energy are the most productive and efficient and that as leaders it is our job to create a positive work environment.
A recent study published in the Harvard Business Review shows that happier employees are more productive, innovative and help to create a work environment that your competition would be envious of. There are increased demands on employees and the stress can take a toll on their health and resiliency. There are small and inexpensive things that we as leaders can to do increase workplace positivity:
- Say Thank You
- Create Opportunities for Personal Growth
- Foster Creativity
- Celebrate Success
Just as important events should make an appearance on your calendar, so should time to practice thankfulness and appreciation. Take 10 minutes each day to find something to thank someone for. Did someone stay late, go the extra mile, or did they help a co-worker? It is great to recognize people publicly in the quarterly all hands meeting, but sending a quick email out frequently to thank people will pay dividends. Everyone wants to be appreciated and recognized, it is motivating and assures people that you are paying attention to what they are doing. Millennials have taken credit for appreciating training and personal growth opportunities, but everyone wants a chance to learn new things and have an opportunity to expand their horizon. Bring in outside trainers to help staff with leadership development, time management, customer service or other skills that are transferable among divisions. What about setting up an internal site visit program where people have a chance to sit with a colleague in a different division for part of a day and learn a different piece of the business? Make sure to give it a jazzy name and think outside the box. The two colleagues could give a report out at the next meeting about what they learned, or write a newsletter article. Which leads me to my next thought for creating positivity and that is to foster creativity. Allow team members to express ideas and be creative. It may allow for inefficiencies to be pointed out or it may lead to an idea for process improvement that nobody had thought of yet. When a person expresses an idea, your first response is ALWAYS, “thank you for bringing that to me, I like that you’re thinking about these ideas!” Are there projects on your to-do list that you could share with team members who are trying to stand out? Give them room for expressing themselves and foster creativity and stand back because there is magic to behold!
New employees often have a fresh set of eyes and should be encouraged to provide feedback and ideas. Mentorship programs are valuable and are not only a great on-boarding initiative, but even for seasoned employees can create a sense of friendship and teamwork leading to office positivity. Provide mentors and men-tees with additional training opportunities and a feedback loop where they can share their experiences with the team. Often just getting to know a team member on a personal level can lead to increased job satisfaction and the sense of being part of the greater mission. If you do not have time to oversee this program, refer to paragraph above and ask if there is a team member who would like to take a stab at building a mentorship program *again use a jazzy name.
All of this leads to the concept of celebrating. You know the situation where everyone has pitched in and worked tirelessly on something and before the ink is dry on the final report, the next high stress deadline is looming. I promise you that you have 15 minutes to take time to celebrate your success. The appreciation, recognition, and positivity that comes from celebration of success will lead your team right back to the top. Go person by person and say their name and say one personal compliment. “Jim, the way that you took those graphs and made them fancy was amazing, Joe you made the editing look easy, Jill, you stayed calm when things got tense and were a great teammate.” See that was not too bad and it was free.
To recap, do not fear fun, embrace it and be a leader who smiles and encourages fun, creativity and celebration of success. You will have more fun coming to work and your teammates will be happier, healthier and more productive and in the end make you look better too. Contact Us and we can help you come up with strategies to create a more positive workplace.
 “Proof that Positive Work Cultures are More Productive” By: Emma Seppala and Kim Cameron, Harvard Business Review, December 1, 2015 https://hbr.org/2015/12/proof-that-positive-work-cultures-are-more-productive