Celebrate, Motivate, Get Passionate

Three ideas for the new year.

1. Plan a Celebration

It is common at the turn of a new year to set “resolutions” for things you want to do, change, or achieve in your life.

The problem with new year’s resolutions is that, if they had been really important to you, you would have set them earlier without needing the new year as a prompt.

Achieving goals is more important than writing wish lists.

Instead of making a resolution, make a plan for a celebration you plan to have after your goal is achieved.

As Tom Peters has said, “celebrate what you want to see more of.”

2. Motivate Others

Zig Ziglar once said “people often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

It can sometimes be hard to find motivation because working towards a meaningful long term goal requires short term effort. Delayed gratification is not easy.

One way to increase your motivation is to try and motivate your family, friends and colleagues. Some of your positive energy will rub off on you.

A second reason to motivate others is that there is a limit to what you can achieve by yourself. In the long run, your success will be limited unless you can motivate and inspire other people to work with you and for you.

3. Get Passionate About A New Idea

Life is a wonderful journey.

Find a new idea, person or project to be passionate about, and set aside some time for your new passion each week.

There is no limit to what you can learn. However, for many people (especially if you are in the corporate world) their job requires them to carry out routine tasks which sap their energy or bore them half to death.

“The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting.” (Plutarch)

Find something new to get excited about.

How to make yourself work when you’re not feeling it

This is a guest post from John Cole.

Being boss doesn’t mean you get to demand results – it means creating the conditions for those results to be achieved. If you’re running your own business and are responsible for a team, you’ve probably cast a judgmental eye over some of the trendy quirks and gimmicks that your contemporaries in some of the better-known start-ups have applied to their workspaces. Yet, these environments became famous because the businesses are successful. The management at Google, Vimeo et al. recognize that staff motivation is a complex beast. No matter how devoted your employees might be, there are certain mental and physical limits that affect us all.

At this time of year, when serotonin is scarce, it’s more important than ever to ensure that your team’s work environment is conducive to sustained motivation. Perhaps you already have some reward system in place for when projects are completed, but have you considered the idea of daily rewards – before work is begun? A morning morale-booster, be it a box of donuts, a shared video or song can actually provide a dopamine hit for your staff, so that they plunge into work all the more motivated.

When you’re done with the donut solution, you can also attack from the other direction: exercise! If you have team members who like to hit the gym in the morning, do what you can to facilitate it: allow them a bit of extra time to get to work, or even consider making a deal with the local gym to get memberships as a job perk. It’s not because you want a team of buff jocks, but because exercise in the morning can actually improve motivation to work. As long as they don’t overdo things, getting the blood pumping is a good idea. This is also why you should ensure your team have regular breaks, and do what you can to help them be active on these breaks. We’re back in quirky work environment territory here: think about making a small, private space for quick bursts of activity, for example with a ping-pong table or exercise bikes.

Getting results from your team requires the use of your imagination, but it also requires engaging with the basics of how we work as human beings. Check out this infographic which covers some great motivation tricks for individuals – they’ll work for you, and with some of that innovative thinking that got you where you are today, you can use them to motivate the whole office.

John Cole is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans.

5 Strategies To Create Workplace Happiness

5-strategies-that-create-workplace-happiness

This is a guest post from Riya Sander.

Creating a happy workplace can make it easier to retain your workers, allowing you to avoid the costs related to employee turnover. It can also increase the morale of those who stay, which may lead to higher productivity and a greater likelihood that your people take ownership of their work.

If happy workers are more loyal and productive workers, then worker happiness will have a direct impact on the profitability of your business.

What are some steps that you can take to ensure that your people are happy at work?

1. Emphasize Employee Wellness in the Workplace

If you want to keep your people happy, you will need to keep them healthy. Emphasizing health and wellness in the workplace ensures that employees don’t come to work sluggish, sick or injured.

Ways that you can improve worker health include providing an on-site gym, an on-site urgent care center or allowing workers to take time out of their day for a short walk. As a general rule, a brisk walk to reduce stress is a much more healthy and effective way to keep energy levels up compared with common alternatives like a cup of coffee or energy drink to perk up in the middle of the afternoon.

2. Ask Employees for Their Input

Conducting an employee happiness survey will allow you to learn more about what your people like and what they wish they could change about their jobs. For instance, you may discover that they don’t mind working 12 hours a day so long as they have the flexibility to choose when and where they work. By asking your people for this type of input, you can craft a schedule or create other working conditions that best meet the needs of the company and those who work for it.

ask-employees-for-their-input

3. Provide Office Cleaning Services

Employees may have a hard time keeping their mind free from clutter if the office is a mess. Therefore, it may be in your company’s best interests to hire an office cleaning service that can vacuum the floors, take out the trash and get rid of dust and other irritants in the air. In addition to helping your employees get more done, they may be healthier for it in the long run.

Hiring an office cleaning service may be a good idea even if employees share a communal working space. In fact, it may be even more important if employees share one work space since you don’t want insects or rodents running around or germs being spread between people who are working in close proximity to each other.

4. Provide Financial Incentives for a Job Well Done

You should give your workers as much incentive to do a good job as possible. For those who go above and beyond what is expected of them, you might want to compensate them for their efforts. Providing workers with a bonus for doing a good job with a client or for adding a new account will show your people that their efforts are recognized and valued. You may also want to give employees stock options or an equity stake in the company if it makes sense to do so.

5. Give Your Employees a Chance to Step Up

Employees generally don’t want to feel stuck in the same position for their entire careers. If an employee doesn’t think that they have a chance to make the most of their talents with your organization, they may look elsewhere. This is generally true even if the person enjoys working for your business. Therefore, it may be worth implementing a training program to help workers develop their skills and communicate their desire to expand their role. This will allow you to identify your potential future leaders, which will make it easier to promote from within and to replace your top managers when they eventually leave.

Your employees deserve to have a rewarding and fulfilling work experience. If you can provide them with the right incentives and encouragement, then your business will find it easier to attract and retain a large pool of talented, loyal and productive employees. This is just what you need to keep your business thriving for years to come.

Riya Sander is a reader and Australia-based writer. As a freelancer, Riya understands the importance of productivity at work. She never stops finding new ways to increase her productivity. Follow her on Twitter.

(Image Source: Pexels 1 and Pexels 2)

The Gift of Giving

The Gift of Giving

Merry Christmas to you, dear reader!

This is a special time of year when people give gifts and send messages of happiness, peace and good will to family and friends.

Christmas is a unique and valuable tradition because the practice of gift giving reminds us what life is all about.

As social animals, our identity, survival and prosperity depends on being part of groups. And by giving gifts at Christmas to the people we care about we help to build the social bonds and positive relationships which give meaning and value to our lives.

This is a positive idea that we can reflect on throughout the year.

May you have a happy and prosperous year ahead!

(Image Source: Flickr)

The Perpetual Motivation Machine

The Perpetual Motivation MachineMotivation is about being in the moment, and being fully present; in that state, deciding what you want and then taking steps towards it tend to happen naturally.

How often do you hear of a baby that failed to learn to walk?

The strange thing about motivation though is that it can often feel illusive. Why is this the case?

To understand where things may have gone wrong, let’s start at the beginning.

The education system is valuable in many ways but it is also designed to provide students with the illusion of progress.

Students are almost always advanced to the next level even if they have failed to grasp basic concepts (this rarely happens in the workforce or in start-ups or in life).

Students are also forced to study a broad range of subjects, even ones which they find boring, difficult and pointless (people who tend to excel in later life usually pick activities that they find easy, interesting, and useful).

In short, one of the key lessons that the school system teaches young people is that they should persevere in the face of boredom.

And having learnt that lesson, many of us continue to do so for the rest of our lives.

Evidence of this fact is that there is an entire industry dedicated to helping people stay motivated.

Famous motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said that “people often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.”

This is good advice in that it is helpful for people who find themselves trapped in difficult, boring or meaningless jobs. And if this is the case for you, then following Zig’s advice is probably a very good idea for the time being.

The problem with Zig’s advice though is that lack of motivation is probably a symptom of an underlying problem.

Society and our families often place subtle or direct pressure on us to shoot for the high paid or prestigious job options, even if these are not the ones which are the best fit with our interests and aptitudes.

People often talk about “selling out”, and what I think they mean by this phrase is that when we allow ourselves to accept more money or more prestige for a job which we don’t enjoy, aren’t good at, or which has little positive impact on the community, then we have sold ourselves drastically short.

Selling out costs us our time, and with it the freedom to create and produce things that we can really put ourselves into.

It can also sap our motivation, making future success just that little bit more illusive and harder to achieve.

We now live in a world where it is possible to connect and collaborate with more people more easily than ever before; all you need to find is the motivation to do so.

What are you waiting for?

Go, hurry, we need you.

(Image source: Flickr)

Newspapers Don’t Get The Internet

Newspapers Don't Get The Internet

(Source: Flickr)

Yesterday we read an article in The Australian Newspaper entitled “The career advice I wish I had at 25“.

It was an insightful article in which The Australian’s Queensland Editor Shane Rodgers provided thirteen pieces of advice that he wishes he had had back when he was 25 years old.

We were going to link to the article in The Australian, but discovered that although the article can be read when accessed via Facebook it can’t be read if accessed via links on other websites (ironically a version of Shane’s article can be read freely on LinkedIn).

LinkedIn doesn’t charge a subscription fee for its content, but The Australian and many other newspapers do.

This is not only slightly ironic, but clearly demonstrates that newspapers (including mastheads like the New York Times) don’t understand the Internet and are currently in the process of fighting a losing battle online.

If businesses that make their bread and butter by creating and distributing news content are determined to charge for that content while more successful online players like LinkedIn, Facebook and Google are giving content away for free, then it begs an obvious question. How long can we expect traditional news content providers to survive?

As we argued last week, the Internet has fundamentally changed the strategic landscape. We are now living in a connection economy in which content is ubiquitous and cheap (typically free) but connection and attention are valuable and scarce.

By charging a subscription fee for content, The New York Times and The Australian may be ensuring their short term financial survival but they are doing so at a significant long term cost.

Putting a price on content limits subscriber numbers and ensures that these content providers will be unable to participate in the new online business model which revolves are connecting with more readers than ever before, and allowing those readers to connect with each other.

On the boundary

On the boundary

(Source: Flickr)

Failure can be painful but it tends to mark the boundary between what’s proven and what’s possible, between your comfort zone and your potential.

Failure is feedback, an opportunity to learn and grow stronger.

Keep pushing.

Discipline and Decency

All too often partners in professional service firms know how to issue orders, but forget about the need for kindness.

Employees develop fear rather than fondness for their managers, and quickly learn how little they can produce to keep people happy.

In professions where the quality of the final product hinges on the quality of the thought process used to develop it (e.g. law, accounting and management consulting), monitoring effort is often impossible and employees have significant lee way about how much effort they choose to exert.

In this context, discipline and punishment are unlikely to be effective motivational tools unless employees have first been treated with common humanity, and given a chance to develop an attachment to the organization, their managers and the role itself.

Being good to people, can be good for business.

Happy New Year!

Happy new year, and best wishes for a prosperous and productive 2015.

Cavett Robert, founder of America’s National Speakers Association, once said that “character is the ability to carry out a good resolution long after the excitement of the moment has passed.”

May you have the character and conviction to persevere with your plans for the year ahead.

Persistence

The night is darkest before the dawn. Keep moving. You’re closer than you think.

“You will make mistakes. Are you going to be able to get up off the ground when you get smacked down, and keep driving. Persistence and resilience are very important, and there are going to be very difficult trade-offs to make, fundamental trade-offs in terms of how you’re running your business, and you’re going to have to make them very quickly without all of the data.”
~ Dominic Barton

“The majority of men meet with failure because of their lack of persistence in creating new plans to take the place of those which fail.”
~ Napoleon Hill

“The most interesting thing about a postage stamp is the persistence with which it sticks to its job.”
~ Napoleon Hill

“Success is never final and failure is seldom fatal, it’s courage that counts.”
~ Winston Churchill

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
~ Winston Churchill

“The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. That’s the essence of it.”
~ Vince Lombardi

 “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”
~ Winston Churchill

“A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.”
~ Jim Watkins

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
~ Confucius

“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.”
~ Peter F. Drucker

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
~ Calvin Coolidge

“Never, never, never give up.”
~ Winston Churchill

Tourist or Adventurer

If you’re waiting for the bus, and missing it throws out your whole day, then you’re a tourist.

Some people go through life this way.

High school, university, respectable office job, marriage, house, children, death. A safe bus ride with a predictable number of stops.

There is an alternative, but it won’t fit neatly on your itinerary.

You can choose to meet life on its own terms. To see problems and try to solve them. To passionately pursue opportunities as they arise. To help the people you meet, and those you can reach, as much as possible. To figure out who you are, and how you can bring that to the table. To be amongst it, and not just an observer from the window of a red double-decker bus.

You may end up making all the same stops, but you will have seen more, felt more, and have many more stories to tell.

Is someone else driving the bus, or are you?

Giving and Growing

Business can step up by reaching out, but it needs to adopt a new approach

Shared Value

THE OLD MODEL of corporate giving involves the CEO championing a particular charity, and then writing a cheque.

The old model is broken.

Broken because it relies on the whim of the CEO, who could change her priorities at any time. And, while the generosity continues to flow, the beneficiaries of this corporate largess become dependent on hand-outs rather than learning to catch their own fish.

Broken because it fiddles shareholders, who pay the CEO to reinvest profits or pay a dividend. And, if the CEO instead uses shareholder money to champion her favourite charity, then there would seem to be a problem. Would it not make more sense to pay a dividend and allow shareholders to decide which charities to support?

Supporters of the old model will tell you that it works just fine, so long as the chosen charity prominently displays the firm’s logo on the charity’s website or at a high-profile community event.

We agree. This works. But it’s not charity. It’s advertising, it’s marketing, or it’s a PR campaign.

Call it what you will.

If you care about charity, there is a better way.

Shared Value – the new approach to charity

The new approach to charity is to tie it in with what your firm already does, and to use your existing resources and capabilities to reach out to the community (people, charities, government agencies, and existing suppliers and distributors). For example, if you run a private healthcare centre, or a pharmaceutical company, then there may be opportunities to help the growing number of people who are struggling with substance abuse problems.

The naysayers will tell you that charity is for the Church and solving social problems is a role for government (and fortunately there are already public support services for addiction), but this kind of thinking is both defeatist and short sighted.

There are three good reasons why reaching out to help the community makes good business sense:

  1. Motivation: By giving back to the community, you can create a higher purpose for the work you do and increase employee motivation;
  2. Learning By Doing: As early as the 19th century, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus identified that (as you would expect) people become more efficient the more times they perform a particular task. And so, by helping the community, by doing what you do best, you are actually helping your employees learn by doing;
  3. Connections: Friendships are valuable, and you never know who you could meet by reaching out to help others.

So, take some time to consider your core values, investigate what your competition is doing, and consider your options for embracing the new model of charity.

Who do you plan to help, and why?

3 Steps for Greater Focus

Accept what you have, visualise what you want, and orient yourself in the right direction

DO you ever feel like ‘success’ eludes you? Like you should be achieving more? Like you’re not making progress with your studies, career, or business?

There are 3 steps you can use to achieve greater focus:

  1. Acceptance: understand where you are now. What are your skills, talents, tools, and resources?
  2. Vision: be crystal clear about what you want. Visualise the future and create a plan for getting there. Find people who have already achieved your goal, or who are further along the path to success. Your journey will be much easier if you can find people who are willing and able to help you navigate the path.
  3. Orientation: ensure you are making progress and heading in the right direction. Consider your lifestyle, friends, habits, and personal priorities. Orient your life so that it is aligned with your goals for the future.

I love my job! …

… do you?

YOU may be one of thousands of people who finished a vocational university degree (engineering, law, accounting etc.) and thought, “I need to get some professional experience to my name … and then I’ll branch out and do what I love!”  Two years later and you are still an engineer/accountant/lawyer.  You’ve learnt a lot and met some interesting people, but it wasn’t meant to be this way.  You have dreams of success and personal fulfillment!  Is now the right time to switch?  Is the economy strong enough or should you wait? There is no right time to stand up and go after what you’ve always wanted, but just don’t wait too long!

I Love My Job

I love my job, I love the pay.
I love it more and more each day.
I love my boss; he/she is the best.
I love his boss and all the rest.
I love my office and its location.
I hate to have to go on vacation.
I love my furniture, drab and gray,
And the paper that piles up every day.

I love my chair in my padded cell.
There’s nothing else I love so well.
I love to work among my peers.
I love their leers and jeers and sneers.

I love my computer and its software;
I hug it often though it don’t care.
I love each program and every file,
I try to understand once in a while.

I’m happy to be here, I am, I am;
I’m the happiest slave of my Uncle Sam.
I love this work; I love these chores.
I love the meetings with deadly bores.

I love my job-I’ll say it again.
I even love these friendly men,
These men who’ve come to visit today
In lovely white coats to take me away.

(source unknown)

Daniel Pink on the surprising science of motivation

There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does

DANIEL Pink puts forward the idea that there is currently a mismatch between what science knows and what business does.

Pink presents the Candle Problem, an experiment invented in 1945 by Karl Duncker. The experiment works as follows: I bring you into a room and give you a candle, a box of tacks, and some matches. Your job is to attach the candle to the wall so that the wax doesn’t drip onto the table. This is a seemingly simple problem, but the problem is difficult to solve because of the difficulty of overcoming something known as “functional fixedness”. The items are presented in such a way that there is a “mental block against using [them] in a new way that is required to solve a problem” (Duncker 1945). Watch the video to see a good explanation of the Candle Problem.

Now here is the interesting thing. At Princeton University, an experiment was conducted using the Candle Problem to look at the power of incentives. Two groups of people were taken and the first group were offered individual monetary rewards if they solved the Candle Problem quickly. The control group were not offered an incentive. The result was amazing, the incentivised group performed significantly worse than the control group … external incentives reduced performance.

Pink makes a number of insightful points on motivation, in summary:

  • As long as a task requires only mechanical skill, bonuses work as they would be expected – the higher the pay, the better the performance.
  • Once a task calls for even a rudimentary amount of cognitive skill, a larger reward often leads to poorer performance.
  • Extrinsic motivators, which Pink refers to as “if-then” rewards, often destroy creativity.
  • In early 2009, economists at LSE looked at pay for performance schemes and concluded that “financial incentives … can result in a negative impact on overall performance.”
  • The secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishment but rather that unseen intrinsic drive, the drive to do things for their own sake, the drive to do things because they matter.

Autonomy, mastery and purpose

The solution to achieving high performance in business in the 21st century will be based on intrinsic motivation, on the desire to do things because they matter, because they are interesting, and because they are important. Pink argues that this new operating system for business is to be based around 3 elements:

  1. Autonomy – the urge to direct our own lives;
  2. Mastery – the desire to get better and better at something that matters; and
  3. Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

As Pink argues, if we can repair the mismatch between what science knows and what business does, and bring our notions of motivation into the 21st century, we can strengthen our businesses, solve a lot of those Candle Problems … and maybe even change the world.

Book version of this speech

I wrote Dan an email to thank him for this great speech.  He informs me that the book versionof the speech will be released in the US in December and in Australia around April or May.  If the book is even half as insightful as the speech, I think it will be well worth reading.