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I recently had a conversation with a leader about his lack of “competent” and “engaged” members of his team. In the conversation the leader talked about how he felt he could not trust his “second string” to come through for him. He felt these employees were unmotivated and seemed bored with their jobs, not taking initiative. As the conversation progressed it became clear to me that he saw his team as the issue, blind to how he was creating the lack of enthusiasm by not challenging them.
Let me explain. For those of you who follow #leadershipflow, you know that at its base #leadershipflow is how to bring the concept of Flow alive in your followers. In his book Good Business, Leadership, Flow and the Making of Meaning, Flow guru Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains how the convergence of challenges and skills leads to a Flow state (See Fig. 1). Basically, to create the state of Flow, the challenges one is working on need to be high and the skills they have to deal with the challenges have to be high also. Whether it is a recently hired employee learning a new job, or a seasoned veteran taking on a new big new project, there needs to challenges commensurate to their skills.
Notice in the diagram that when challenges are lower than the employee’s skills the mood and emotion of boredom kick in. We all have been there, we have a job or task that does not challenge us and we start to get bored. If we do not increase the challenges, we soon are in the blahs at work. As a leader, it is critical that you observe the mood of boredom in your team as an opportunity to work towards flow. How do you do that? Here are three conversations to have with your “second string” to create #leadershipflow in your organization.
1) Start: What things would your employees like to start doing which would get them more motivated and engaged? Would they like to reorganize a poorly designed process which is creating bottlenecks in their work? Are there missing conversations with other departments that they could start? Just the process of letting them start something new will likely create new challenges, which will grow their skills.
2) Stop: What things would your team members like to stop doing? All jobs have necessary, tedious, aspects to them that are boring and routine. How many of them are really adding value? By removing non-value added tasks, you are allowing your employees to redirect their energies to tasks and projects which will motivate and challenge their abilities.
3) Continue: What would your employees like to continue to do in their jobs? It is likely that not all of your employee’s daily challenges are demotivating or non-value added. Sometimes, we can increase their challenges just by doing more of what challenges them. So, it may be as simple as letting them interact more with customers on a more regular basis, or letting them spend more of their time on long term projects, instead of today’s fire fighting.
Whatever you do, remember that as a leader it is your job to create Flow in your employees. The more they are in Flow, the more engaged, motivated, creative, and happy they will be. Your second string may actually be your all-stars; they just need you to brush off the rust and get them going. As with the doors in the above picture, use will be good for them, before they rust away.
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