Image Lic. via GL Stock Images
Image Lic. via GL Stock Images

Have you ever looked closely into a really successful project? Have you considered the person leading out on it? Looking closely and scientifically at those projects that achieved great results and comparing them with projects with less than great results and what do you find?

  • Results don’t depend on your boss or your resources.
  • Results don’t depend on your age, youth, your gender, tenure, or even your company’s size.
  • In fact, even your tendencies at work that people usually hire for, like proactivity, interest, helpfulness, outgoingness, and having a sense of calling only affect project results half as much as something else—what you do.

According to research by the Corporate Leadership Council, highly engaged employees were 87 percent less likely to leave their companies than their disengaged counterparts. That’s a winner no matter how you look at it. Why would you want to keep having to hire, train, fire, rehire and retrain over and over again?

Ask yourself another question: What would you do with your time on the clock to improve your odds of achieving great results? Let me give you some advice courtesy of people who know…

Starting Points

Last week, I interviewed the people at O.C. Tanner—a company that develops employee recognition strategies and rewards programs that help companies appreciate people who do great work—for the second time in six months because what they do is impressive and refreshing to me.

During my interview with O.C. Tanner’s CTO, Mark Cook, and with Kevin Ames, Director of Speaking & Training, I asked them what kinds of questions they put to those organizations who take advantage of their services. Based on the company’s years of experience, here are five questions you should ask yourself that will give you an answer because they are tied to great results on thousands of real projects mathematically:

  1. Did I jump right into this project or have I paused to ask myself the right question: What difference could I make that those people would love?
  2. Have I stayed in my office or did I go see for myself the work used in its environment, maybe a cool similar environment?
  3. Have I only brainstormed with my own team or have I asked adjacent experts in my outer circle?
  4. Is what I deliver the same set of parts or have I added or removed an element or two?
  5. Did I just “send” and move on or did I deliver the difference to make sure the people loved what they got?

Do you see what’s happening?

  • The manager becomes a partner in getting these difference-making skills developed and used. One at a time, the manager “version” of these questions relates to the employee “version” within the typical one-on-one between the two throughout the project. [And guess what? The two “versions” are the same…]
  • The manager assumes positively that the employee has done these things and simply asks: “Tell me what you came up with when you did [insert skill]?”
  • If the employee hasn’t used that particular skill, the manager asks with encouragement if the employee is going to do it this week.

Get the picture?

It’s the total opposite of the standard “don’t think, just do as I say” mentality that ruins employee after employee by dint of ignoring their needs in lieu of yours. What these kinds of ballistic bosses miss out on is the fact that they are all in it together. The owner may have started the business, but eventually they need others to partner with them for continued growth and success.

“A motivated employee is one who has been engaged,” says Ames. “The best way to motivate your employees is to empower them. This means giving them the room to take positive, beneficial action when problems occur, when things could and should be done better and when extra effort is required. In other words, you want your employees not just to punch a clock, but to take ownership of their job. I’m not saying you do this all in one shot, but little by little while you assess the employees ability to act on their own initiative.”

Sadly, most managers lack the skills to engage and encourage their employees, which is why many start working solo—they claim to be “sick of employees,” yet the blame is usually at their feet—not the employees. If you start as you mean to go on, meaning positive reinforcement and true managerial structuring as well as considering the needs of your employees, most likely you’ll be fine. But those who assume others will “get it” usually become the worst and unhappiest of managers/business owners. And the pattern continues again and again through the years. But it does NOT have to be that way.

“When an employee feels as though they’re part of making decisions, they’re motivated,” says Cook. “A slave driver doesn’t achieve loyalty or the efforts required to go the extra mile. We’re driven to go to work every day and do our job by virtue of financial need. Most of us will do our jobs well. But when you want the next level—someone akin to an Intrapreneur—you have to lay the right groundwork and follow it up. Not just once, but on a day to day basis.”

It’s all true. How many employees can take ownership of their job when they feel unheard and disempowered? In my experience, none. They very quickly become unhappy, and this leads to the dreaded higher turnover rates, absenteeism and an overall lower quality of work.

Is that what you really want?

So, What Can You Do?

As a business owner or manager or supervisor, you can either continue to be a part of the problem or be the change you want to see—and it starts with you. It is your business to manage your business—isn’t it?

Below are ten simple tips you can follow in order to achieve something above and beyond the usual “do as I say” routine that, more often than not, never achieves the kinds of success with employees every owner and manager seems to crave: In the words of the people at O.C. Tanner, it’s “how to achieve Great Work” as opposed to good or mediocre work.

  1. Embrace the idea that appreciation drives great work. “Effective recognition is not a reaction to great work, but the cause of it.” –Marcus Buckingham, First Break All the Rules
  2. Engage leaders in sponsoring and modeling the principles of effective recognition.
  3. Equip employees with a range of innovative tools to help appreciate great work. Make it intuitive, easy, and fun by leveraging the power of technology and mobile experiences.
  4. Encourage day-to-day effort, reward results and outcomes, and celebrate team member’s careers.
  5. Empower managers through ongoing communication and training.
  6. Enlist champions to inform and inspire peer-to-peer recognition.
  7. Measure recognition’s effectiveness in achieving cultural and financial results.
  8. Apply best practices in conducting highly effective moments of recognition.
  9. Tie recognition to organizational values; recognize what matters most to the company.
  10. Understand that nothing is as loud as the silence where a Thank You should be!

For an example of how well these axioms work, here is a short video courtesy of O.C. Tanner. It’s a revelation…or it should be.

Change for the better doesn’t happen overnight. But if you start today and do things wisely, not only will you have better, more engaged and more effective employees, you’ll be a better business manager.

What have you got to lose?