Help Staff Stay Engaged, Energized

[Originally written 01/14/2011]

It’s a new year, and just like sports teams at the beginning of each season, it’s time to look to the coming year with eager optimism. After all, the recession is over, holiday sales were strong, business is coming back and the world will soon be right again.

Not so fast. We still have big problems with housing. We still have big problems with jobs. And businesses are still fighting to get out of the red and into the black.

Bottom line, if you’re a realist, it still feels like more of the same hard times we’ve had for the last three years. That’s right, three years. Remember, this all started with the last year of George W. Bush’s second term.

If you think the economy has been hard on you and your family, multiply your difficulties and frustrations by the number of people you have working for you. Then maybe you can begin to see how critical it is for you and your entire management team to begin 2011 with a laser-like focus on helping your staff re-energize and stay fresh.

Starting the New Season:

A happy staff is a productive staff.

When a company is small or in startup mode, keeping staff happy is relatively easy. There’s a lot of excitement and more work to be done than can be finished. Because things are often very busy, there isn’t a lot of time to sit around and chat (or complain). People have many options with the work they are going to do, whether in the yard, on the house or at work. Your management team better be looking for ways to reengage and reenergize your staff or you’re going to have a long, profitless slog through 2011.

If this sounds difficult, remember these two important facts:

1. Those businesses that sit tight and wait for a recovery are doomed. The world has changed. The way we used to succeed in business isn’t ever going to work as well in the future as it has in the past.

Moral: your business has to change to survive, much less thrive.

2. Opportunities are abundant. The prospects for change and improvement are limitless. And the best way to keep people engaged is to challenge them and give them a chance to perform.

Moral: Your staff can save you and make you better than you were before if you let them, help them, be creative.

As organizations grow, the things that once made the company a fun, attractive place to work start to fade into tedium and repetition. The excitement felt in the early days dissolves over time and before you know it, a large portion of your top people start looking for other new and exciting places to work. Places that are experimenting and exploring new business challenges. Places that are fast-paced and fun.

Don’t be fooled by high unemployment. There are a lot of jobs waiting to be filled. Problem is the needs of today’s successful businesses are vastly different than they were a short two years ago. Technology and the economy have conspired to change the way businesses work and function, and that has taken a heavy toll on the work force and well established organizations.

Rules to Live By Part 1

Let’s go back to some simple truths. There are only two reasons people work. The first is to accomplish some earthly human good. The second is survival.

If you think survival comes first, ask yourself how many people over the last 30 years have given up the corporate life of big fancy cars and lots of money to lower their cost of living and move to a quiet place in the country away from the hustle and bustle. Someplace where they can think and do things they really care about.

Don’t fool yourself — self-realization and personal growth is like heroin. Once you get a taste of the high, you never can have enough. If you don’t have an enthused and happy staff, you have people who are just trying to survive. And you can’t build a successful business wit them.

Rules to Live By part 2:

People are smarter than you think. Believe it … please. The most successful people in history have always ignored boundaries and those that told them they couldn’t do something. People have an uncanny ability to be creative and grow … if they are given adequate space and nourishment. If you miss this critical aspect of human nature, you’re doomed.

Recent events have presented your business with a golden opportunity to reinvent itself, to change and take the guesswork out of survival. Your job for the next 12 months is to learn how to trust your staff and help them develop their creativity, talents and abilities without exposing the company to unnecessary risk or harm. Because without it, you’re not likely to find your footing again in this new business environment, and you’ll sink so fast you’ll think you’re in quicksand.


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