3 Ways to Energize Employees
Treat people like tools – they act like zombies.
Machines get things done, but people have heart.
What are you really doing?
The tee-ball coach is teaching Freddie to hit the ball off a tee. The task is learning to hit. A skillful coach knows there’s more.
“Freddie, why are you learning to hit the ball?”
Freddie says, “Because you said to, coach.” The skillful coach says, “That’s one reason. But why are YOU learning to hit the ball?”
Freddie might say, “Because I have to learn if I’m going to play ball.” Coach says, “That’s true, Freddie. But why does hitting the ball matter?”
Freddie’s eyes light up, “Because I want to get to first base.”
Coach says, “Let’s work on getting you to first base.”
I asked a skilled technician what he did at his plant during a recent Train-the-Trainer workshop. He said, “I tear down engines and clean crankshafts.” I asked, “Why?”
“Because it’s my job.”
“But what’s important about cleaning crankshafts?”
He replied, “So we can put them in re-manufactured engines.”
“But what are you really doing?” I asked.
He said, “I’m taking the vibration out of engines.”
(The above is a condensed version of the conversation.)
Imagine a basketball coach telling a player to run to the side of the court. The player asks, “But why am I running to the side of the court?”
The foolish coach says, “Just do what I tell you.”
The wise coach says, “You’re drawing the defenders away from the basket.”
Help people find reasons for work.
Purpose is energy.
3 ways to energize employees:
- Help people find their reasons for work. “Why do YOU want to learn to hit?”
- Ask, “Why does it matter?”
- What’s the bigger picture? “We’re getting to first base.”
How might leaders help team mates find energy?
“Why” is one of the most powerful words for any leader’s vocabulary. “Why” releases the employee to truly invest himself in any activity because there is larger meaning and value than what is at hand. Why is usually the driver behind any excellent customer experience and what propels greatness in teams. A “Why” bigger than yourself will take you very far.
Thanks Jason. Overall, I’m not a fan of “why” questions. They can feel like accusations. However, when it comes to purpose, “Why” is so powerful. Once people find a why things change radically. Thanks for jumping in.
I think Why is OK when used inside a contextual statement. ” I was thinking about that Pete and wondering why your process works?” or “I heard what you said about the Y project and it made me wonder how that fits with our goal to sell more/provide better service”. That context provides alignment in thinking which is essential to coaching.
All too often though, there is no big picture. The janitor at NASA who said he was helping put a man on the moon did that because that was what NASA was doing, and everybody knew it.
But what happens when the organisation’s big picture is “to make money for the shareholders” and the customer couldn’t care less provided the price is right? Nobody celebrates getting a new widget or knowing how many beans there are, so energising bean counters and widget makers is incredibly difficult.
Thanks Mitch. When the organization’s big picture runs counter to yours, try to find a new place to work. Or, find your own internal “why” and move forward.
In the end, making a profit matters. But, there’s more to business than shareholders. Some leaders have expanded their thinking from shareholders to stakeholders. That term is more inclusive.
Dan, what I’m saying is that many organisations don’t have a “big picture”. Or, the “big picture” is on the wall in the foyer for visitors. Many times that big picture isn’t shown to the little people – the big picture they see is “do what you’re told, how you’re told, when you’re told. The “internal why” for those people is “keep a roof over my head and feed my kids”. For many people I’ve led, the “big picture” and the “internal why” are first-world problems.
Just because the *organization’s* purpose is to make rich people richer, doesn’t mean that’s my (only) purpose. I can be helping customers solve their problems, giving the sales people who represent our products and services a reason to feel good about that, making the day smoother for the person who processes my time sheet and expense report, etc. Chances are, you’re working with people, and there you can usually find a Why.
Those of Christian persuasion might find a bigger picture from Tim Keller’s “Every Good Endeavor,” which explores the theology of work from eight (I think) perspectives.
…but the widgets go into something bigger. The bricklayer who’s building a cathedral.
The bigger think may be very exciting and energizing.
Hey Paul. Love “bigger think.” Good use of language.
Dan when my son Mike was in tee ball, I was the third base coach. I learned a valuable lesson in management there. The key was to get the young people attention first, then to have them focus and listen to me as they tried to run the bases. To do that I had to jump around, call out their name and swing my arms in the direction I wanted them to go.
Young people starting in business don’t really know what to do either, so a good base Coach or Mentor can help but you need to get their attention and start with short, basic tasks.
Thanks Brad. Love it. You remind me of when I coached tee ball. The little player connected with the ball and ran directly to 3rd. By the time the coach got his attention he was proud of himself for runnng to the wrong base.
When he realized where he was supposed to go, he took off over the pitcher’s mound for 1st. It was hilarious.
Thanks for adding value today.
Maybe I don’t understand, but WHY did you emphasize YOU? I (hope) I would have emphasized WHY, as in WHY are you learning to hit the ball. Chances are you have a reason that I’m not picking up on. Regardless, today’s blog is great. The more everyone understands the end goal, the better the decisions are along the way. We are much better because of your depth of wisdom.
Great question, Alan. It doesn’t matter why the coach wants you to hit the ball. What really matters is why you want to hit the ball.
Sure, the coach has some power to pressure people. But the idea is to energize the fire within an individual.
So glad you jumped in. I hope that helps.
The energy comes from “enjoying what we do”, if we “don’t enjoy the process” we are in the wrong game. Much of doing is out of survival compared to total enjoyment what we do.
Thanks Tim. Sometimes we feel that we don’t have the luxury of enjoying because we’re surviving. But, in the end, finding our purpose fuels our energy. Thanks for being a regular contributor.
I have been experiencing some of this lately, however I am the learner in my scenarios. Leaders must be clear on what the bigger picture is when giving work instructions or projects. If the vision is not there in the instructions or the initial assignment, people will assume its just more work for them to do. However, if you are up front with your vision, your employee will accept the task or project willingly because they see how it will benefit others, themselves, etc. WIIFM? What’s In It For Me? is a huge concept for people to accept tasks willfully. If you show them the WIIFM it is a lot easier at the forefront. I have been getting a little overloaded at work and I am constantly trying to see the bigger picture so I know how the end result will benefit the company. This thought sort of keeps me going.