Why proper motivation and performance at work go hand in hand
Thank God, it’s Monday! Blasphemy for anyone who has to contend with nosy officemates and incredibly tough bosses while nursing a weekend hangover. Unless, of course, you work for Bob Nelson.
Nelson advocates giving employees flowers and and having bosses serve free lunch just to make employees feel special. He believes that employers have to invest in the development of their teams even if it means going out of their way to connect with subordinates.
Nelson’s book, 1001 Ways To Energize Employees, is chock-full of anecdotes and ideas to improve morale and performance of corporate teams. He writes about the unconventional, wacky, and eccentric ways that hundreds of American corporations have motivated employees. Stories from real CEOs underline the importance of keeping employees enthusiastic about work.
Don’t be fooled by the book’s cheery, almost whimsical front cover. Nelson’s ideas are supported by case studies, and are products of serious research.
Nelson says that empowering each employee is critical to a company’s success. For instance, Microsoft has an espresso bar, a very casual dress code, and regularly gives employees breaks to step out and play basketball. That kind of work environment may sound odd, but the according to a poll by Towers Perrin, a New York-based consulting firm, 75% of Microsoft employees feel that they have made a direct contribution to the company’s success. Around 72% also report getting a sense of fulfillment from their work.
Another anecdote is about Chaparral Steel in Texas. Workers are sent out with sales representatives to meet clients. Getting out of the plant and seeing how the steel they make is used gave workers a sense of owning the company. One employee felt so strongly that he was part of the team that he even personally guaranteed Chaparral products. “I got to talk with the people who run the companies and tell them that if they had complaints, they should let us know,” he said.
One of Nelson’s sources distills the book’s message well. As Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, says, every person we meet wears an imaginary sign around their neck saying, “Make me feel important.” Nelson’s 1001 Ways tries to teach you to do just that.
Companies resolve more complex assignments in teams. Motivated and passion-driven teams achieve results faster and more effectively. He says, however, that each member of a team needs to be familiar with the group’s objectives, recognize his place on the team, and follow working guidelines in order to function well. Otherwise, the group loses energy and focus.
One interesting example of how a well knit team works comes from Viscosity Oil in Illinois. The customer service group was so energized, employees themselves created their own code of conduct. Among their rules: no backstabbing, always wear a smile, and settle grievances with a colleague privately.
Energizing teams doesn’t necessarily mean spoiling employees with gifts and perks. A former supervisor at telecommunications firm MCI shows that even a simple reward helps. He took on the challenge of boosting the performance of MCI’s lowest-rated telemarketing team and did it in three months. His approach? He told the team that if they became the best team in the company, he’d call their mothers personally to let them know. The group soon went from being called the “F-Troop” to becoming the top-rated team in MCI.
Bob Nelson has a great way of writing about innovations. Instead of drowning the reader in theories and jargon, he presents his ideas in a friendly, anecdotal manner. The book doesn’t require the reader to commit for any long period. You can just as easily read it in one go, or read it in short spurts while waiting to board your flight, or take the train, or during a short commute.
Best of all, 1001 Ways is a good read for both employer and employee. Nelson clearly believes that even the lowest person on the company rung is important to an organization, and that nurturing a feeling of camaraderie is as critical to employee morale as a good paycheck.
Print ed: 01/10