As a student, you almost certainly spent more time dreading general education courses than actually paying attention to them, and following the final, you quickly forgot the material altogether. After all, you’re never going to use calculus again, right?
Psychology 101, however, is one course that does play a pivotal role in business operations — particularly team management. Reacquaint yourself with the basic principles of psychology to boost your leadership, your team’s motivation, and your company’s success.
Remember the time when that boy in your fourth period class made fun of your glasses and it totally ruined your day? Fifth and sixth periods offered up tons of new knowledge but you were too busy swimming in a sea of four-eyed misery to notice?
Maybe it wasn’t your nerdy specs, but we’ve all suffered similar affronts to our self-image. It’s amazing how negative experiences and the emotions they elicit can hijack our brains. And what might have once been fodder for teenage drama actually continues into our professional adult lives. Research on emotions and cognition suggests personal wellness has real implications for your company’s bottom line. In a fast-paced knowledge economy where we must innovate more quickly and more often to get ahead, leaders can’t afford, literally, to ignore the well-being of their employees.
A recent meta-analysis examining research into the relationship between employee well-being and business outcomes showed that business performance improves as employee engagement goes up (Harter, Schmidt, & Keyes, 2002). This is not news but rarely does this idea get linked to the bottom line. Consider perhaps the most obvious outcome of employee engagement: retention and turnover. If your company replaces its employees to the tune of $30,000 per person, it makes good sense to fight to retain your talent. This is not to mention less immediately quantifiable outcomes of engagement such as productivity, creativity and collaboration – just the stuff your company needs to reach optimal performance.
To avoid perpetuating those brain-hijacking negative emotions in the workplace, leaders need to make employee wellness a priority. But before you gather everyone in the conference room for a soothing kumbaya or attempt to win hearts and minds by starting up a Taco Tuesday tradition, here are a few quick questions to gauge if you are building the right environment for employee actualization:
- Do your employees know what’s expected of them? While autonomy is important, at the end of the day employees need to know what they’re expected to achieve. More importantly, however, is making sure they understand the value of their contributions to the organization’s work.
- Is your rewards system oriented toward the long-term? It’s imperative that employee’s basic needs like fair compensation and appropriate resources are readily available. But the best leaders look to the long term by considering how rewards and opportunities can benefit all aspects of employee health. Giving someone a raise might make her happy in the short term, but employees need emotional and intellectual fulfillment to commit for the longer haul.
- Are you all in this together? The well-known cliché that we spend more time with our coworkers than our loved ones shouldn’t necessarily be a sad commentary on our lives. Work provides us with a casual social outlet, but research shows that when an employee feels a strong sense of belonging at work, well-being goes up. Feeling that someone in the organization cares about him can not only increase the chances he’ll stay there but has also shown to increase productivity and even the quality of service that he then passes on to customers.
- Do you know what your employees love to do? Perhaps the best things leaders can do is understand not just their employees’ strengths but also what they love to do. You might ask, “If you could focus on just one part of your job all day long, what would it be?” Studies show that business outcomes and long-term retention rates improve when employers give employees space to indulge and grow their most beloved talents.
gothamCulture recently worked with a client who closely considered these questions. To explore how they could invest in the not just the physical but also emotional, intellectual and social health of its employees, they asked us to design a program for some of its senior team focused on employee well-being both in and outside of work. What was clear to them, and to us, is that organizations that want to move beyond surviving to thriving in the marketplace need to pay more attention to employees’ “higher level” needs.
gothamCulture is a truly virtual work environment. With a team that is separated by geography and time zones, it is imperative to learn how to best work together in ways that help us live our value of Authentic Community. Here are a few of the tricks we’ve learned along the way
1. Use technology to your advantage
This seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how challenging it can be to break people’s old habits to get folks to adopt new ways of using technology to get things done. We make a concerted effort to utilize chat and videoconferencing technology on a daily basis to help maintain and foster effective working relationships with staff and associates. Every effort is made to minimize the “space” between people.
2. Keep the team “up to speed”
In a fast-paced small business like ours, with team members who may be in a different city each night, it’s easy to get caught up in our own little worlds- working feverishly to provide top quality services to our clients. Based on feedback we received from our staff, we instituted structured, weekly team meetings where team members log into a Google Hangout from wherever in the world they may be to connect with the rest of the team. Everyone contributes to the weekly team meeting. We not only get a chance to give the team a feeling for the bigger picture, we are also able to identify areas of risk and reallocate resources in the short-term to ensure that all of our client engagements are executed flawlessly.
Typical weekly meeting at gothamCulture.
3. Set rules of engagement for virtual work
In order to help expedite effective working relationships virtually, we recommend setting clear rules of engagement up front that team members can agree upon and to which they can hold each other mutually accountable. These norms may evolve over time as you refine the ways in which you interact virtually, but we’ve found that setting some ground rules at the beginning really helped us to bake virtual work into our culture in an effective way.
4. Be crystal clear about your purpose, mission, and values
We can’t overstate this enough. When all else fails, we know that our team members will know exactly where to spend their time and attention and how best to prioritize their workload. By ensuring clarity of purpose and alignment around what is truly most important to us as an organization, all team members can manage themselves to be most productive – even in the absence of direct and timely supervision. If you aren’t clear about who you are and where you’re going, how can you expect your employees to know where to focus their energies?
5. Find ways to encourage collaboration on project work
At gothamCulture, we are deliberate about structuring work in ways that force team members to collaborate across great distances. Not only does it result in higher work quality, but it also creates reasons for team members to interact in ways that they might not have otherwise done. These long-distance collaborations give newer members of the team a chance to learn from our more seasoned experts.