In a relationship-centric culture – one that is unafraid of retribution and unafraid of failing forward, failing fast and failing cheap – and particularly in a sluggish economy, it is critical to keep overall morale high.
But with added pressure to execute, stress to reduce costs, and continued corporate cutbacks in various resources, this is easier said than done. Within the Relationship Economics framework, there are some very specific ideas you can implement.
As always, it is seldom about the expense and more about thoughtfulness, relevancy and candor. And remember: version one is better than version none. As I am often reminded by one of my mentors, if you’re not failing, you’re not trying.
1. Go off-site. Get out of the office. Many offices are plagued by Corporate Relationship Deficit Disorder and the constant firefighting. Holding meetings at a local coffee shop or a friendly restaurant – or even outside on a comfortable day – can provide a much-needed refreshing perspective to getting the same work done.
2. Integrate flexible scheduling. If possible, once a month, encourage employees to come in an hour later on Monday morning or leave an hour earlier on Friday afternoon. That flexibility, especially when it is unexpected, provides a refreshing change in attitude.
3. Engage peer-level mentoring. Throughout the organization, there are pockets of best practices. I’ve yet to meet the Chief Best Practices Officer, so encourage informal collaboration at the peer level. Enable those with particular insights or proven best practices to coach and mentor others privately or in an open forum such as a brown-bag luncheon.
4. Remove the “un-wows.” I heard this from Nido Qubein years ago and it stuck with me. Examine your paperwork process. Look at why you do what you do and to the extent possible, aim to reduce sheer paper shuffle, e-mail exchange, and overall workload. Find ways to get rid of anything that doesn’t add real value.
5. Incorporate Kodak moments. Every office has an aspiring photographer. Ask them to take pictures – not just at picnics and events – but also of general interaction and moments of everyday brilliance. Capture examples of passionate, and even heated, discussions. Often, people will look back with fondness and say, “Do you remember how we worked through that tough time?”
6. Use humor to reduce stress. Humor is often a great antidote to stress. If possible, once a week, show episodes of Seinfeld or The Office in the break room or a conference room during lunch. To the extent possible, invite humorists to speak at your next event.
7. Make dress code fun. If the culture is appropriate, award lunch for two to the “ugliest tie” or “ugliest pants” contest winner.
8. Be kind. A smile goes a long way. Be friendly. Be nice. It is one of the simplest things you can do, but one of the most difficult to do consistently. When employees and co-workers are worried about their jobs, their home lives, etc., it is amazing how they will follow an encouraging manager with a positive attitude.
9. Proactively avoid e-mails. If you have ever heard any of my keynotes, I talk about using e-mail for facts and not opinions. It is much easier to walk down the hall and engage someone in a brief dialogue than it is to continue to add to the barrage of e-mails that have made e-mail pruning a must for all of us.
10. Share bad news quickly and decisively. If reduction in projects, resources, or people is eminent, share the news quickly and decisively. Lingering bad news creates a greater level of uncertainty, fear, doubt and reduced confidence – all of which lower the overall morale.
Although simple, these ideas will counter balance much of what many of us have to do on any given day and integrate more of the things we would rather do. Simple ideas such as holding a meeting outside or watching Seinfeld in the middle of the day relaxes and distresses the environment and creates a much-needed dialogue between functional, geographic and project-based silos, which are not conducive to communication, collaboration or the development of a relationship-centric culture.
What have you found to work in your environment to raise overall employee morale?