5 Reasons to Cut Your Employees Some Slack.

Remember the first time you were in charge?

Someone promoted you to supervisor or lead or manager or Chief French Fry Cooker. You were then Chief PooPaw and everyone had to bow to your desires. You promised to make sure that everyone on your watch had their nose to the grindstone! And you, the Chief, would squeeze your direct reports to death to make sure you had the greatest productivity.

photo-1448125776346-5d8e6972ccec

Not so fast.

There is recent evidence that holding the reigns too tightly on your employees might be the worst thing you can do for their productivity. Happy employees make for more productive employees and, in turn, more profitable businesses. I’m not suggesting you have a daily corn hole tournament but cutting your employees some slack might just get you that next promotion. Validation and empowerment are the secret sauce to success. Don’t you want to be acknowledged for your efforts and know that you can make a difference? So do your employees.

So what are the reasons? Here they are:

1. Short breaks actually rejuvenate employees to be more productive. This was found in a study at Baylor University. Emily Hunter and Cindy Wu looked for ways to enhance breaks. The employees who were studied who completely left their work (i.e. not multi-tasking) and were permitted to use their time to engage in activities like social networking or meeting with friends’, experience greater recovery. I knew a manager who unilaterally I outlawed breaks. Anecdotally, I found that her employees were less productive, called in sick more and generally had lower morale. Make sure your employees have time for breaks.

2. Give employees autonomy. This is one of the main drivers from Daniel Pinks’ book, Drive. From the age of two, you exercised the right to say “No.” Your employees have the same need. They want to be able to choose. And being able to choose means being able to say, “Yes or No.” I’m not talking about insubordination. I’m saying that if your assistant wants to do the report in Access versus Excel, give him the autonomy to decide. When your employee decides on the best avenue for success, they will have been brought in and make sure it’s a success.

3. Stay away from working lunches. Employees are most restored when they actually get out of the building. Staying at one’s desk and plodding through some project will invariably lead to poor quality. Even thirty minutes outside of work can help you focus better when you return. Some employees may feel like they have to work at their desk during lunch from a work culture standpoint. Be the manager who is making sure that Jane has left her desk for lunch. As a consequence, you will get better quality end products from Jane.

4. Give your employees the tools to be more productive. I have facilitated Franklin Covey’s 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity. After learning how to fully utilize Microsoft Outlook in the class, employees reported being 50% more productive and the main reason was how they used Microsoft Outlook. With a clear understanding of how to use the Outlook tools (there are hundreds), I can tell you that when they reported back to me sequentially after 5 weeks, 2 months and 4 months they were much less stressed out. Who do you think is more productive? A stressed out employee or a knowledgeable, trained employee? Right.

5. Understanding the SCARF model. As developed by David Rock, the SCARF (Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness) model shows that when an employee is in the same room as their boss, they immediately have a fear reaction. Fear is not good when it comes to productivity. Your employee is in the back of their head or in their “lizard” brain as it is frequently referred to. You want to make sure that you have your employee working in the front of their brain or the prefrontal cortex. This means you need to make clear instructions and then get out of the way. The more you pester or micromanage, the worse your employee will do.

I have found in my career as a manager that, the most difficult thing is to get your manager to loosen the reigns on employees. I hear manager’s say that “if you want it done right, do it yourself”. Not delegating in the long run is a career killer. Empowered employees end up making you look good. Loosen the reigns and watch everyone grow. What has been your experience?

Autonomy. The Ultimate Gift to Everyone in Your Life.

Have you been a helicopter boss? Helicopter parent? Helicopter friend? I have. Constantly restricting the flow of information so only you make the decisions. You make sure all procedures are followed to the letter….or else. You set unrealistic goals so that your direct report will certainly fail. You keep a tight grip on someone else’s autonomy so you can feel in control.

Have you been on the receiving end of this deal? This takes me back to my first husband who had a motorcycle. We went to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco so he could show me how to drive the bike. Well. When I got on the bike and started to push the throttle, he held onto the back of the bike and it practically tipped over. No injuries but he just couldn’t let go. End of bike lesson. I have never driven a motorcycle since.

autonomySo how do you give the gift of autonomy?

Here are some ideas.

Let them fail. Yep. You read that right. You need to be able to let the people in your life either at work or at home, fail. I know I just made some parents out there wince. What? Let Johnnie flunk out? Let Suzy lose her job for being tardy all the time? As Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. From failure comes immense learning and innovation. Autonomy is about letting them fail.

Quit expecting perfection. This is why managers don’t delegate. They want everything to be perfect. I have news for you. You never get to perfect. The perfect job, the perfect size, the perfect presentation. It is not attainable and paralyzes those around you. Acceptance of imperfection is where it’s at. People work harder if they know that you will be fair in your assessment and not point out every missed period or exclamation point :-)he he…

Ongoing and going and going positive feedback. If you did not get ongoing feedback from your mother, you would never have walked. So even if you fell down, she didn’t sit on the couch reading a newspaper. She gave you constant and ongoing feedback. So think about that the next time you delegate an important task. Dr. Marcial Losada created and studied this ratio of positive to negative messages within relationships and organizations. What he found was that organizations that have 2.9 or more positive messages over negative messages thrive. Those that fall below fail. In a marriage, it’s got to be 5.0 or better (thanks for emptying the garbage, Honey). Give positive feedback.

Don’t focus on problems. Focus on best outcomes. Ask your friend about what his best outcome would be. Focus on The What that he’s interested in. So Joe, “What would you like to see happen with this project?” “What can you control in this situation?” “What would make you feel like you accomplished something?” As David Rock espouses, focus on solutions (and stay clear of the problems). Keep it outcome based.

Don’t always have the answer. I am completely and utterly guilty of this. I am the Answerer in Chief. Life is one giant Jeopardy game and I’ll take Potpourri for $1000. Autonomy is all about your co-workers figuring things out on their own. If you always are giving the answers, they will never learn to “do” or “think”for themselves; they will merely mimic you. Autonomy is all about folks doing their own thinking. Let them make the connections. Teachers don’t give exams and sit there and give all the answers….right?

Mindset, talent and skills are not fixed. Embrace the growth mindset. As Carol Dweck defines it,

“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

Autonomy involves having the growth mindset. Don’t look at what they can’t do, look at the possibility of what they can do.

So there you have it. How to encourage those in your life to have more autonomy. One of the three parts of motivation in his book Drive as written by Daniel Pink – autonomy, mastery and purpose. Pink says “Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.” Imagine what we all could achieve with more autonomy. So give it away starting today.

Originally published on Change Your Thoughts on September 26, 2015

Carrot or Stick?

How do we get people to fall in line?  Is it best to use a carrot (incentive plan, appreciation or chocolate cake) or a stick (“you’re grounded”, late payment fees or speeding tickets).  As Daniel Pink outlined in his book “Drive”, it can be a puzzling question.  There is a study outlined in a book done by Dan Ariely where three different groups in India were given tasks to do in a same period of time but they were compensated at three different rates.  The equivalent of $.50 (a day’s pay), $5 (two weeks pay), or $50 (five months pay).  The group at $.50 and $5 were comparable in results but the $50 group underperformed! More compensation had the opposite affect.  Those who receive the larger amount of incentive actually perform slower.  This really doesn’t seem to make sense.  Wouldn’t more money mean more output? Wouldn’t 5 months pay drive performance in an underdeveloped  country?  It didn’t. Carrot or Stick

I was in training at a “Telling Ain’t Training” workshop taught by Harold Stolovich.  In one of the sections of the training, we all did a Boggle challenge with 16 letters to use to make as many 3 letter+ words as possible.  On my page, it stated that “You have 3 minutes to make at least 20 words of 3 letters or more.  People at your level usually obtain this result.” Half the group had this instruction, the other half did not have it.  I was in the group that had the expectation that I would be able to make at least 20 words.  My brain locked up!  The expectation for performance shut my brain down.  The group that didn’t have the expectation of 20 words out-performed my group. So how do we go about motivating people?  How do we get them to perform in a maximum way?

Here are some tips to drive performance:

1. Simple.  If the job is simple, the carrot will work.  If it doesn’t take creativity, imagination or analysis, then use the carrot.  I have a very weak stomach.  If someone says their kid is throwing up at home, I immediately feel queasy.  I inform you of this because once my beloved dog got sick in the middle of our living room.  I went to my purse and took out a twenty dollar bill, gave it to my son and said “Take care of it.”  Simple and straight forward.  Telling him to clean it or be grounded, would not have worked. There are times when a carrot will work.

2. Pain.  There are some things that require pain to drive performance.  Pain generally will work if the result is immediate and is obvious.  If there is going to be a painful result, such as a late fee, or loss of use of a cell phone (oh no!) and the person knows that will be the result of paying the bill late or staying out past midnight; it will drive performance.  I implemented a wellness program some 4 years ago in which the penalty was up to $200 more per month additional for health insurance premiums.  We had 100% participation.  Most other wellness programs with a reward attached were considered successful with 30% participation.  Pain works in the right situations.

3. Autonomy.  Most of us want to decide for ourselves what we are going to do today.  Micro managers who dictate every “dot of an i and cross of a t”, in the long run actually diminish performance.  I can assure you that if I come in the house and tell my son to clean his room “right this instant”, I am not likely to have a great outcome.  But, if I say, “I’d like your room cleaned.  Can you get it done by 6PM when your grandparents arrive?” the outcome will likely be better.  Now my son understands the rationale and is given the latitude to decide when and how he will get it done.  Autonomy sparks performance.

4. Time Warp.  I get my best work done early in the morning after I have mediated, eaten and exercised.  My daughter gets her best work done in the afternoon and rarely is well rested.  My son is a night owl.  His peak performance could be from 8PM until 2 AM.  Here is the problem.  Many bosses, teachers and organizations want you to work a certain set of hours….or else! So what are we giving up in creativity and performance by shoe horning folks into certain hours.  Find your (or your employee’s) best time warp.

There is a time and place for all carrots, sticks and autonomy.  They all don’t work for all situations.   If you want to drive the best performance, you might want to try out a few of these ideas to see if you can move the needle on performance.