It’s Monday, and for most people the start of the working week. But how many people do you know who love going to work because they really enjoy being there?
In April this year the West Australian newspaper reported on research done by Curtin University. The research revealed that the unhappiest workers in the nation we here in WA, particularly employees working for big businesses. The reason given by the respondents was poor working conditions.
On one hand, this is good news because with creativity, attention and just a little flexibility, leaders can change working conditions more easily than other causes of poor profits and business growth.
On the other hand, this research is damning for precisely the reason above – that it can be more easily addressed. Studies abound showing that unhappy employees are less engaged, more stressed and take more sick leave, so why aren’t our workplaces enjoyable environments?
In the right environment people will do remarkable things. We are social beings – our full cooperation, our self-esteem, our happiness and fulfilment, all are dependent on our relationships with those around us and the environments we are in.
When people feel emotionally safe and comfortable amongst colleagues and with their leaders, they will naturally respond with trust and cooperation. It’s a natural human response.
TRUST NEEDS A SAFE ENVIRONMENT TO EMERGE AND GROW
Trust and cooperation are based on feelings, they’re not instructions. There’s no power-point or pitch that you can give to produce that. Trust is a feeling – and it needs a safe environment to emerge and grow.
Great leaders in any organisation, any company, any group, become great by creating environments that are safe and stimulating places to be; to share, explore, discover, engage, experiment, and work together cooperatively.
When leaders create such environments, their employees speak up more, offer more ideas and are more confident and compassionate in their dealings with others.
THERE’S ALWAYS ANOTHER WAY
Bob Chapman, CEO of a 7,000 employee, billion-dollar manufacturing company called Barry WehMiller, is such a leader. When the 2008 Global Financial Crises hit, his company lost 32% of recurring orders. His Board said they needed to implement ‘layoffs’ but Bob refused.
Instead he implemented a Furlough Program where every single employee, regardless of position in the company, had to take 4 weeks’ unpaid leave during the next 12 months. They didn’t have to be consecutive weeks, and they could be taken whenever the individual wanted.
Bob told his employees it was “better we all hurt a little than any of us have to suffer a lot”. Morale rose because when provided a circle of safety, fairness and inclusion, the natural human response is not selfishness. The natural human reaction is to look out for each other.
A trend began that wasn’t anticipated and that nobody predicted. People who could afford it more volunteered to take off more weeks than those who could afford it less.
You cannot steal these employees! They’re happy and fulfilled, totally committed to their jobs and their leader.
Leadership is an important role that has nothing to do with dictatorship, particular positions or ego. It is a role that serves the group.
Great Leaders show they care.