I worked with about a dozen of the company’s top management team members over several days. We discussed principles that may help them with a solution. Ultimately, they wanted people to “love to come to work” again – like they used to! So, the team determined that they had to make the changes that would help their employees value coming to work. About halfway through one of our discussions, the team uncovered an important discovery I hoped they would find – that it is impossible to know how to help another's morale, unless you first consider what they value. What makes them tick? At that juncture, the whole conversation turned. Managers stopped projecting what they wanted and started to really try to see what the employees wanted. The management team began to think of their employees as “people” not just employees. What could they do to treat them as “people” to really consider their interests and needs. Then they began the process of finding natural solutions that the employment environment of their company could offer which may help those “people” get what they wanted – and no, it is not just a good paycheck. People want work to not conflict with their personal goals. Some people want autonomy. Some need recognition. Some need to find deeper meaning in their work. Some need to be challenged. Some seek personal development. Eventually the team had lists of several ideas posted around the room.
Too often we view things as only choice “A” or “B.” We get caught in the trap of feeling it is either your way, or my way. We forget that there may be other alternatives, better ideas that none of us have yet discovered. This experience was energizing. They had paved the way to several possible solutions – none of which were superficial or short-term.
It reminded me of the classic management article by Ralph Stayer, titled ‘How I Learned to Let My Workers Lead.’ Mr. Stayer was the CEO of Johnsonville Foods, Inc. The article was published in the Harvard Business Review in 2001, and remains an excelling case study for small businesses today. If you are challenged by this type of problem, stop in to your nearest library or take a minute to find it on the internet. Then, get a few Johnsonville bratwursts cooking and enjoy an interesting read! Cheers.