A kooky idea about what to do


“The beatings will continue until morale improves.”  I saw that sign one day.  It made me laugh, but the sad truth is that a lot of companies continue down a path of self-destruction with apparent abandon.

In the leadership training that we do, it becomes evident that many managers are stuck and just don’t know how to get out of the rut.  The old “This is the way we have always done it” thinking is sinking the ship, yet there is a frustration over the inability to stop the madness.

I was listening to an audio book this morning that was talking about getting people to communicate that have had challenges.  It was an interesting slant, and got me thinking.  Sometimes we miss the obvious solution that is right there in front of us.

Communication is not just verbal.  We communicate in other ways:

  • Body language
  • Tone
  • Written

Much has been written about non-verbal communication.  We have all experienced the eye roll, the sigh, or the crossed arms as we talk.  Tone accounts for more misunderstandings than what is actually said, yet we often miss the tone in our voices.  Of course, written communication is both good and bad.  You can say a lot, but unless you punctuate appropriately, the tone is often lost and misunderstood. The problem with written communication is there is no opportunity for immediate feedback.

Here is a revolutionary thought:  If what you are doing is not working in communicating with someone, stop doing that.  Much could be accomplished if we just thought before we spoke.  Too often we allow our lips to flap before the brain has analyzed the consequences. If you have a quick wit like I do, you know what I mean.

Sometimes changing the environment is what is needed, not changing what is said.  Here is what I mean by that.  There was an example from the Restaurant Association where cooks and waitresses were literally yelling back and forth at each other.  If you have ever seen the TV show Hell’s Kitchen, you get the drift. Tempers often flared and customers suffered the results of the battle.  A simple system was introduced where instead of waitresses barking the orders to the cooks, they wrote down each order and put them on a carousel.  The first in first out system.  Tempers abated and everyone loved the new system….especially the customers who no longer were caught in the cross fire. They did not have to talk, they just needed to communicate!  Improving morale should be a constant goal.*

Here are a few simple suggestions for lifting the spirits of your team:

  • Celebrate successes publically.  Showing appreciation is a simple way to make people feel they are valued.
  • Correct privately.  Never dress someone down in front of their peers or in front of customers.  That is a no win situation and will end up costing you respect and trust. Once you have addressed it with them, let it go.  Don’t keep harping on it or you will crush their spirit.  Hold them accountable, yes, but correct with compassion.  Nobody is perfect. Making mistakes should not be fatal to someone’s career unless there is a breach of the law or blatant breach of company policy.
  • Whenever possible, include people in decision making where they have a vested interest.  Being part of the decision making process makes them feel part of the team and makes them feel heard.  Even if their idea is not the path that is taken, they are more likely to support the final decision because they were part of the process.
  • Drive decision making down in the organization.  There is nothing that frustrates the troops more than to have a minor decision held up because the CEO has not got around to it or he is on vacation.  Empowering your team develops their skills and builds their confidence.
  • If you are the one in the corner office, get out and mix with the team members as often as possible.  Taking time to listen to them and showing interest in what is going on with them helps them to buy in to the vision and strategy you have cast.

Morale in many ways is a fragile thing.  Value your employees like family.  Treat them with love and respect, and it will come back to you in spades in the form of loyalty, ingenuity, productivity, and collaboration.  Everyone wins when morale is a priority.


Dan Skognes

*Example taken from Influencer, by Joseph Grenny.

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