The ONE thing that separates a great leader from an ordinary one


Over the years, I have become a student of leadership. I am especially intrigued about what makes some leaders great. Why is it that there are some leaders that you would run through a brick wall to support? What makes some leaders so compelling that individuals will do the impossible for them? What is it about some leaders that make everyone around them better than anyone ever thought possible? Great questions. I’m sure we have all seen these great leaders in action. Today, I would like to express my theory on that missing link… what is that element that makes a difference in great leaders?

I believe there are three key components or reasons individuals follow any particular leader:

RESPECT (or innate compliance)

For almost every individual, there is an innate desire to comply with leaders, rules, and requirements. We are raised to respect authority and do what is expected. One of the first words that children learn is “no.” We teach our children early that there are lines that we cannot cross. Thus, we eventually develop a respect for teachers. Though we may not like our teacher or leader, we follow them because of our respect for their position and our innate desire to be a rule-follower. In the workplace, we have that same innate desire to comply. We may not like our leaders, but we follow simply because it has been embedded into our DNA.

For most individuals, innate compliance is fixed. No matter what capability or capacity to lead might exist in a leader (that is, no matter how good or bad the leader), an individual will perform to meet the expectations of that leader. Innate compliance might vary individual-to-individual, but it is not likely to change much with an individual as leaders change. In short, any leader will get some level of “followship” simply due to the respect or innate compliance embedded in each individual.

REWARDS (or personal incentives or personal risk)

Most individuals can be influenced by personal incentives (e.g., money, titles, power, adoration, trophies, etc.). Others are significantly influenced by the desire to avoid personal risk (e.g., public humiliation, poor performance appraisals, etc.). Thus, there is a level of “followship” tied purely to this desire for rewards or to avoid that personal risk. Leaders typically have some ability to influence rewards for followers. In the workplace, leaders can influence pay, promotions, status, etc. Leaders can also influence future opportunities for team members.

For most individuals, the level of influence for rewards (or risk avoidance) can vary. Depending upon the reward, some may exert exceptional effort. So, leaders can count on some level of support simply because they can influence the personal life of followers.

RELATIONSHIP (or devotion)

Finally, another component of “followship” is a personal relationship or devotion to the leader. This is the component that makes an individual “run through a brick wall” to support. This is the element that makes an individual say, “I care so much for that person that I will do anything in my power to make this effort successful.” Or, “I will do anything to not let my leader down.”


To me, this component of leadership is the missing link. This is the piece that makes an ordinary leader into a great leader. Without a significant level of devotion to a leader, you might achieve success, but you will either have forced compliance or ordinary performance. Devotion is the element that transforms the routine into the fantastic.

How do you achieve this devotion or the relationship with team members needed to drive to exceptional performance? Entire books have been written on this subject. But, here are three quotes that provide a glimpse into this mystery:


“If you want to make a difference and leave your world a better place, let others know how important they are as you put their needs above yours.” – Jaren L. Davis


“You don’t inspire your teammates by showing them how amazing you are. You inspire them by showing them how amazing they are.” – Robyn Benincasa


“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt


Clearly, making a personal connection is critical to achieving devoted followers. Showing others you care, putting the needs of others ahead of your own, and helping others do more than they ever believed possible are elements of devotion. I know leaders today that, simply by their position and ability to provide rewards, attain a significant level of success. However, they are frustrated that they cannot achieve the exceptional results desired. The reason is clear to me that the missing link – the piece of leadership missing – is that lack of personal connection. They fail to put the needs of others first or to nurture any personal relationship. Their followers comply simply because of their innate compliance or the promise of rewards, not because of their significant desire to see that leader succeed. Oh, how I wish that I could help leaders in our companies, our communities, and our nation see this!

“Great leaders get great results, not because they command it, but because they earn it!”  – Eldon Henson

Have a great day! I can feel it… this could be our best day yet… there is still a chance!




Teaching character


I ran across a great blog article that I thought I would share in its entirety today ( I know many of you have children and some even coach your kid’s sports teams. Others have nieces and nephews; grandchildren; or others involved in sports activities. I think the perspective on teaching character that Karrick Dyer says so well can benefit all of us.


I never thought it would end THIS way (by Karrick Dyer)

For anyone who has ever coached youth sports of any kind, from pee-wee to middle school, and even high school sports in some cases………I have a deep question that has been floating in my mind in recent days. Just give me minute to circle around to it.

My youngest daughter wrapped up her high school soccer career tonight.  The days leading up to it flooded me with memories of all her games past, both far and near.  Thoughts of different leagues, cities, coaches, teammates, hotel rooms, victory, defeat.  Reflections of how she changed over the years as a player, a competitor, and a person.  Wondering how and why things have played out exactly as they have.  Thinking about influences both good and bad that could have or would have made things better or worse if they’d been different.

And I started thinking about the kids that I have coached as my kids have grown up, from youth soccer to travel soccer, Upward basketball to middle school basketball.  And I just can’t help wondering……

If all coaches could see into the future, to that very day when a kid puts away the cleats or the hi-tops for the last time and walks away from a game………would they choose to coach individual kids differently than they presently do?

Every kid walks away from their chosen sport someday…….then what?

Effective youth coaching is psychiatry and it is parenting.  Each player is unique, and they have specific needs that team sports can bring them.

Many coaches fail to fill those needs because they falsely assume they are training the next state champs.  They fail to see each child beyond that day when the sports equipment goes in the yard sale or the closet.

Shouldn’t the journey of sports teach these things and more to prepare kids for life beyond sports?

  1. Standard of excellence
  2. Work ethic
  3. To believe in themselves
  4. To trust others
  5. The value of encouragement
  6. To know they aren’t the center of the universe
  7. To know that success does not come overnight (or in one practice)
  8. To lose with dignity
  9. To accept temporary failures without blaming others, and to realize these failures aren’t permanent
  10. To be pushed to their physical limit, time and time again
  11. To love and to be loved
  12. To sacrifice for others
  13. To respect authority and rules
  14. Teamwork/unselfishness
  15. To never give up

These things still matter when the cheering stops.

The cheering stopped for Maddie tonight.  Her team lost in the regional semi-finals.  In a game where she and her teammates truly “left it on the field”, the score was tied at the end of 80 minutes of regulation.  Two 5-minute overtimes later, the score was still tied.  Penalty kicks would now decide the match.

Maddie stood over the ball, ready to attempt her shot with her team facing a nearly hopeless 3-1 deficit.  If she missed this shot, the game was over.  The season was over.

Sitting on my knees beside my wife, I simply muttered, “Maddie needs to be the one to take this shot.”  Not because it could be the game winner………because it would be the shot that would seal the loss if she missed. I don’t know what kind of reaction or look Kristy game me, but I went on to say, “Maddie needs to be the one to take this shot, because I know she can handle missing the shot to end the game.  She can handle it.  That’s my daughter!” And my voice cracked at the enormity of what I was saying in a trailing voice……..”that is OUR daughter”.

She missed.  Game over.  Season over.  High school career over for her and her senior teammates.  Maddie played her heart out.  And I was so proud of her.  But when those words came out of my mouth, “that’s our daughter” it hit me so clearly.  I was not proud of her effort or her performance.

I was proud of who she has become.

She met her mother and me after the game with head held high.  That’s our daughter. Do your best.  Have fun.  Train and play to win.  In the end, it’s just a game.  The end came tonight.  I’m thankful for all those who have prepared her in the right ways to go beyond this “end”.

If you’re coaching your 1st game or your 1000th, take an occasional peek toward the end.  Winning is a by-product of doing all things the right way.  Some lessons can’t be cast aside for the sake of early wins or just because you ARE winning games.   And while your players are dreaming of making that dramatic game-winning shot, you better spend some time preparing their toughness and character… for missing it!


Does this speak to you about how you approach your children’s sporting activities or how you might coach others?

Have a wonderfully fabulous day! And, take some time to do something fun (or even crazy fun) today!

10 steps for improving anything


I have been involved in continuous improvement activities in the workplace for many years. I have also experienced the continuous improvement journeys for dozens of other companies through conversations, tours, and presentations.  As a result of my exposure to these activities, I think it is possible to capture the TEN key elements of continuous improvement common to all successful efforts.  These elements apply, not only business processes and applications, but, continuous improvement in our own lives, as well.  These apply to improving our golf game, improving our relationships, or improving our performance in anything.

These are the elements that drive all successful continuous improvement journeys:

  1. Recognition of the need to improve – The first step for any improvement journey is to recognize the need to improve. Without this realization, your mind will simply not fully engage in the journey for improvement. You may participate, but you will not be all in. Recognizing and believing that improvement is important provides the energy to take that first step. For teams, it is important that all members buy-in to the need to improve to ensure full engagement and participation.
  2. Demonstrating the benefits from improvement – It is one thing to realize the need to improve, but the journey to improvement is energized or fueled when we see the benefits of improvement. For example, you may believe that losing weight would improve your life. But, you buy-in when you realize the benefits you gain when you do so (e.g., better health, ability to do things you can’t do now, positive self-esteem, etc.). Unless we can see the benefit, our efforts are only temporary and, perhaps, half-hearted.
  3. Outlining the necessary steps or training needed to achieve improvement – Once you recognize the need for improvement and can see the benefits, it is time to develop an improvement plan. What will you do first? What after that? What training is needed? What tools are required? For example, to improve your golf game, you may need to outline a program of lessons and practice. For a weight loss program, you may need some nutritional counseling. For a team transformation effort, you may need to provide Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing training to members. The essential element of this step is to develop a plan and obtain the needed tools that will allow your journey to be successful.
  4. Developing metrics that will us to monitor our progress – Every continuous improvement journey must have a method or way to gauge success. Otherwise, participants will fail to see the progress that is occurring. Progress almost always motivates individuals to greater effort and success. What measures will define success? How will you know when your continuous improvement journey is making strides? Identify these metrics and create a tool (e.g., spreadsheet, graph, table, etc.) that will allow you to monitor progress over time. Progress in golf is easily monitored through improved scores. Weight loss is easy to monitor. However, some continuous improvement journeys may require more subjective measures. Nonetheless, a method to monitor progress by some means is essential to continued success.
  5. Establishing aspirational, but attainable goals – Most individuals are competitive, at least to some extent. We enjoy victories! So, it is important to establish goals for improvement that we strive to defeat. Establishing goals against which we monitor progress is important for any successful continuous improvement effort. And, our goals should be attainable, but aspirational. By this I mean that the goal should be meaningful, not easily attained, but doable, if we put in the needed effort. Striving to achieve our 5K personal time target, our golf score goal, our weight loss goal, our educational aspirations, etc. helps to motivate us during the journey.
  6. Regular checkpoints to monitor progress – Monitoring our progress motivates us to keep striving and keep working to achieve our goals. Many experts say that, if possible, you monitor progress daily. That works for some continuous improvement efforts (e.g., weight loss), but may not be possible in other cases. In every case, though, regular checks to show how we are doing is an important element for ongoing success.
  7. Celebration for small and large successes – We need to recognize and celebrate those successes we do attain. Recognition is an important motivator and should not be ignored. Success breeds more success. So, recognizing that success will drive more.
  8. Establishing processes or systems to get you back on track – Occasionally, the continuous improvement train will get off track. We will have disappointments or delays or we may regress. Unless there are processes or systems to recognize this and shift the effort back on track, the journey may fail. Every continuous improvement effort will have barriers or temporary hiccups. We simply need to recognize this and work to reestablish the process and resume the plan we have outlined.
  9. Developing processes or activities to sustain or normalize gains – Once we see the gains or improvement desired, we must establish methods to sustain them. We must “normalize” the improvements or they will be lost. For example, once you have achieved your weight loss goals, unless you modify your lifestyle to include better eating habits or more exercise, it is likely that you will regain the weight. For business processes, unless you establish new systems to accommodate the improvements experienced, it is likely you will revert to the old, less efficient system. To keep the gains, you must make them the normal, expected way of operating.
  10. Establish your next aspirational target – Continuous improvement means you continually improve… the status quo is unacceptable, even if it is much better today than it was last month. Individuals or companies that are always upgrading their aspiration targets are the most successful. Resting on our laurels is not compatible with a continuous improvement culture or lifestyle. Once you achieve your target, establish a new one.

Whether you lead the continuous improvement effort for a $6B company or you are working to help your children maintain clean bedrooms, there are steps that can help ensure our success. The ten steps above are proven essential elements to many successful continuous improvement efforts — large and small.  You might improve your success by ensuring you include these steps in your effort.

Have a fabulous day and keep plugging — we have no chance for success if we don’t put in the needed effort to attain it.

One way or another, everyone makes a difference


Can you think of someone that you have met in your life that made an indelible difference?  Perhaps, it was someone that made a huge positive difference in your life.  Or, possibly, it was someone that made a negative one.  Probably, each of us could name a teacher in our young years that made a difference.  For me, it was my Kindergarten teacher, Jewell Murphy.  Mrs. Murphy was the perfect Kindergarten teacher… she was kind and loving, but firm; she challenged us, but recognized differences in learning ability between children; she was an amazing communicator, yet constantly asked her children to express themselves; she challenged us to think big, yet was patient with the little things.  Now that I think of her, I realize anew just how special she really was.  I think she may have set the tone for my entire educational experience.  She made a huge difference in my life.  Do you have someone like Mrs. Murphy in your life?

In a way, we all make a difference to everyone we meet.  To some, we make a significant and life-long difference.  To others, we leave a scar.  And, to others, we simply either make a day better or worse.  Let’s look at three quotes below to see just how impactful we might be in the everyday occurrences of our own lives:

“Each of us can look back upon someone who made a great difference in our lives, someone whose wisdom or simple acts of caring made an impression upon us.  In all likelihood it was someone who sought no recognition for their deed other than the joy of knowing that, by their hand, another’s life had been made better.” – Stephen M. Wolf

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you.  What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide is what kind of difference you want to make.” – Jane Goodall

“I am only one, but still I am one.  I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” – Edward Everett Hale

Reading these quotes is humbling and convicting!  If you really knew that every encounter you have with someone else makes a positive or negative difference, would you act and live differently?  How I hope that somehow, Mrs. Murphy realized the difference she made in my life and the lives of so many others over her many years teaching Kindergarten.  If I could, I would thank her again today for what she did and meant to me.  It also makes me even more thankful to all of you that have impacted my life.  I appreciate you more than you could ever know.

Have a “top ten” day today!  Take the time to thank someone that is making a positive difference in your life.  It might make all the difference to them.



The right person doing the right job


I believe there are some individuals in any organization that are simply so capable that they could do almost any job you asked. When you find one of these, you need to nurture, challenge, and constantly cherish that person.  Such a person has unlimited potential.  These individuals should represent the very core around which you can build your successful team.

However, most individuals have some limits in their abilities and/or potential. They may be highly capable in one role, but struggle in others.  For instance, that rare individual mentioned above likely possesses both strong technical and relational abilities.  They may be strong leaders, yet capable of making valuable personal contributions.  Most other individuals, though, must specialize, as least until they possess enough experience to diversify.

Michael Jordan is considered by most to be the best basketball player in history. Jordan led his teams to six NBA championships, led the league in scoring multiple times, was a perennial all-star, and is a member of the NBA Hall of Fame.  He may also have been one of the best defensive players of all time.  As good as he was at basketball, he was less than mediocre in baseball.  Mid-way through his career, he retired from basketball and began playing minor league baseball.  Even at the minor league level, his statistics and contributions were minimal (batting average below .250, excessive strike-outs, poor overall contributions offensively and defensively).  In short, though he was a superstar in basketball, he was below average in baseball.

The example of Michael Jordan is a good lesson for leaders in business. Yes, there are some superstars in multiple disciplines.  However, most individuals perform better where they have honed the skills, experience, and passion to perform with excellence.  Certainly, we need to help individuals expand their capabilities, but, depending upon the importance of the project or role, we may need to use functional experts.  Development of others is essential, but we may not be able to afford having less than proven superstars for critical roles.  We must work hard to find that perfect balance.  We may need the “basketball Jordan” – not the “baseball Jordan” for these critical roles.

Have a superstar day! I hope this is one that you remember fondly for years to come.


What if every employee was just like you?


I have frequently had discussions with colleagues about how to assess the performance or attributes of other employees. For example, what factors tip the scale when an employee is on the borderline of the highest rating at year end?  When assessing an employee’s performance, you naturally look at both the positive and negative and their overall contributions to the team or company.  However, it is often a challenge to determine exactly which way to go when that employee is squarely on the borderline between the two.  Or, if you are struggling to determine whether to hire a particular candidate, you might find yourself weighing the pros and cons to make that final hiring decision.

One of the ways I look at this situation to assist my decisions is to ask these questions about that individual, “What kind of company would we have if every employee was just like him/her? Would we have a great company?  Or, would it be mediocre?  Would our customers love working with us or hate it?”  It is amazing to me that when I ask these questions, my answer almost always becomes clear.  You form the culture of a company or team person-by-person, action-by-action.  And, having the wrong person can either make an unbelievably positive difference or it can destroy the team.   By making promotion, rating, and hiring decisions based on this set of questions, you can often see clearly the direction you should go.

In the same way, I find that asking those same questions about yourself during an introspective moment can have a profound impact on your own performance and direction. You might ask, “Would this company or team be better or worse if every employee performed just like me?  Or, behaved just like me?  Or, served others just like me?  Or, cared for others just like me?  Or, went the extra mile just like me?  Would this be a better place or more encouraging environment if every employee was just like me?”  If you can be honest about these questions, you can reveal ways that you can become a better employee, better person, or better friend.

Likewise, this same set of questions can help you self-assess in other areas of your life. If every spouse was just like me, would our society be better, happier, and more fulfilling?  If every father/mother was just like me, how would the kids of this world be different?  If every neighbor in our community was just like me, would this be a better place to live?  If every driver was just like me, would our roads be safer and happier?  If every friend was just like me, what would be different about our world?  It is never too late to make a difference.  It is never too late to make those around you better.  It is never too late to turn a bad day for someone else into a good day simply by serving their needs.  In short, it is never too late….

I hope today is your very best day yet! There is still that chance, you know.  Never give up on it.

The value of an “ordinary moment”


A couple quotes today:

“Sometimes, you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” – Dr. Seuss

“Someday, when you hang up the phone, they will be gone.” – Anonymous 

These are so true! I often try to remind myself when I’m in one of those moments.  I tell myself, “Please carve this into the deepest parts of my memory, so, on that day when the memory starts to fade, this one will still be there.”  I recall thinking that at each of our kids’ weddings.  I also tried to etch those memories when seeing each of my seven grandchildren for the first time.  But, I don’t think I do this with everyday events that I later try to recall.  For instance, good times with friends are fun at the time, but the details fade in a few months.  My wife and I were recently having dinner with some of my very best friends at an outside table next to a beautiful waterway.  I took a moment that evening to try to add that moment to my personal memory card.  Seemingly ordinary moments later become those great memories we discuss later on or we talk of them as “the good old days.”

What “ordinary moments” are slipping by in your life that you look back on as great times? Are you failing to realize the value of these seemingly ordinary moments?  The day you start looking at the special events of our everyday lives as moments you will hope to remember later is the day you start truly valuing life and everything it brings.  Don’t look back with regret someday.

Have an awesome “ordinary day!” Something will happen today that you will want to remember someday.  Be sure to capture it.


‘Seeing’ the positive


Yesterday, my friend and colleague, Jeff Wiegers, had an experience that needs to be shared with all of you. I’ll get out of the way and let him tell the story in his own words:

I wanted to share an experience I had today that was one of the most amazing conversations I have ever had! 

As many of you know, I have had a number of issues with Corneal erosions over the past 12 months, and today I was meeting with my Specialist at Washington University in Siteman Center for Advanced Medicine.  I got there at 7:45am, and they always have to check vision, and eye pressure before they take you in to see the Eye Specialist.  Today, there was a nice young tike in a Cubs jersey sitting in the waiting room when I got there, so I asked him how he felt about the Cubs being down 2-1.  He was of course, the most articulate 10 year old I have ever met, and immediately went on to tell me all of Kris Bryant’s statistics in the playoffs.  He said that he and his Dad believe he is pulling off the outside pitches and trying too hard to pull the ball, when he needs to stay behind the ball and try hitting the lefties to whatever field the ball is pitched!

I was immediately impressed, and thought about taking the rest of the day off to talk some ball!  When they called my name, I told the young man good luck, and went in to get the initial check.  That was fine, and I just happened to mention to the nurse that the young guy about to come in was tremendous, and she knew exactly who I was talking about!

As I returned to the waiting area to then see the Doctor, I asked his Mom what are they here for.  It turns out that he, unfortunately, is a regular at the Eye Institute.  This young man was diagnosed at a very young age with a rare form of cancer in the cornea that affects young children, and only affects 200-300 kids a year.  In photographs as a baby, the pictures never had red eye, they always showed up as silver, so when they mentioned that to a Dr., they immediately saw what was feared, but removed the eye before anything had spread,  and he  was Cancer free from the age of 6 months until a few days ago when they noted it again in his other eye.  Today, he was going to do all of the prep work for the removal of the eye on Thursday.  I almost fainted! 

Robby insisted on telling the story from there and his mom did not stop him.  According to Robby, he wants to lose his sight so that he can show people that he is tough!  He wants others with eyesight issues to see that you can use your other senses and find creative ways to not only SURVIVE, but THRIVE! (his exact words at age 10)!  He said he will play baseball with his friends someday, but  his goal is to throw a first pitch at a Cubs game from the mound, and it will be a strike!  He knows the Cubs will win the World Series someday soon, and he will not miss a single pitch, even if he can only listen.

I could not stop him to get a word in edgewise, and for me that is an obvious challenge, but I could also not look directly at him because I was crying and in total amazement at how utterly courageous this young man has become at such a young age!  I asked his mom for a contact number to be able to send an email or a card someday for encouragement, but I wanted to know if he could call me and give the same pep talk again whenever I am down!

His story is a great example of how the right attitude, courage and will can get us all through any of life’s challenges.  I am forever thankful for having met Rob, and I thought I would share his story as it was very powerful to me!

I hope you all have a great day, and Go CUBS!

What an inspiration! What challenge are you facing today?  And, perhaps more importantly, how are you handling it?  Are you facing your challenges in a manner that would inspire others around you?  Are you seeing the positives in your life, even though you don’t understand why you experience challenges?  Seeing the courage that little Robby has and his desire to inspire others is enough to make even the most die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan root for the Cubs.  Has your life touched anyone lately the way that Robby obviously touches those around him?  Take the time today to “see” the positives that might result from those challenges you face.

Thanks, Jeff, for sharing. I’m not sure how you could even type this great message for us.  Everyone, have a great day!  And, if prayer is a part of your life, you might pause to say a prayer for Robby today.

What you see is what you get


I recently was able to view an Ansel Adams exhibit. Adams is considered one of the greatest photographers in American history.  He focused on artistic photographs of the American west.  He is known for his fantastic use of light and panoramic composition.  His work is fantastic!  It has been said that Adams real mastery was in the darkroom.  His ability to create the special lighting effects of his photos was impacted as much by his darkroom work as it was his creativity with the camera.  Adams once said,

The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.”

Adams was equally masterful with the camera and in the darkroom.

In many ways, the same analogy can be used with our lives in that our values compare to the composer’s score and our behaviors to its performance. Our values are those beliefs that are etched into our being that define who we really are.  For instance, an individual with a value of service will naturally see things from the view of others.  He/She will be aware of the needs of those around them.  A person with an innate value of family will seek to put family above everything else.  A person with a value of money will do anything to gain more.  Those things we value, define what kind of person we become.  Our values are our own musical score.

However, no matter how wonderful the score, the performance is what we remember. How many of you recall attending the first band or orchestra concert for one of your children or a nephew or niece?  Even the most wonderful musical score sounds squeaky, out-of-rhythm, and awkward.  The performance makes the difference.  The same holds true for our lives.  We can have great values, but if our execution or performance of these values is amiss, the life others see is inauthentic.  For example, you can say all day long that you value your family more than anything else.  However, if you never attend a child’s school or sporting event, rarely have dinner with your family, and put work always before family, your life doesn’t reflect that value.

So, the challenge today is to ask yourself, “Does my visible life reflect what I say is most important to me?” In other words, can others say about you, “What you see is what you get.”

Today might be your very best yet… there is still a chance. Enjoy those special and common moments that come your way today.


Things that rob work of fun


Maybe work is not supposed to be fun. After all, perhaps that is why it is called “work.”  However, I take the view that work can be fulfilling and, at times, even fun.  It doesn’t always seem like fun, though.  You might even awaken excited for what will occur that day, walk into work in a cheery, optimistic mood and, before 8am, something happens to destroy that feeling.  What are those things that rob work of the fun and fulfillment that it should bring.  How can we eliminate or, at least manage, those things?  Let take a look at a few of those things that rob work of fun:

  1. The feeling that you are adding no value – When you feel that the things you do have no real value to the company, to the ultimate customer, or anyone else, you tend to feel that your work is useless. You begin wondering what purpose you fulfill. And, you begin looking at your work as a job, not a career… as a paycheck, not as one that benefits others. The converse, of course, is work that you know matters to coworkers and customers. Knowing that someone is depending upon you makes a huge difference in your attitude and, frankly, the fulfillment you get from your work. By looking for how your work ties to others and the ultimate customer, you may find value in your work that you did not know existed. Or, by shifting what you do from less value adding to something more so, you will certainly regain some of the fun that you deserve to feel.
  2. Being excluded – Everyone feels better about their work when they feel they have input into what is done and how it is done. When you are excluded, you lose confidence and interest. As a leader, it is important to ensure that every employee has some part in the process and input into their job. Allowing this input also ensures that there is buy-in and personal attachment to the work, its quality, and its impact on the business.
  3. Bosses that micromanage – In my personal history, I was always the least motivated and least fulfilled when my boss micromanaged my work. When you are fully capable of doing a job and a manager insists on managing every detail of the job, the employee simply feels inadequate and disengaged. Allowing employees adequate freedom to perform their job instills a sense a pride in the work that makes the work more fun.
  4. Lack of relationships or connections – When an individual feels all alone in a job, they tend to derive less enjoyment out of that job. Having comrades that share challenges and victories makes the work much more satisfying. And, relationships tend to help you stay grounded, realistic, and true to your values.
  5. Petty rules and requirements – Nothing sucks the enjoyment out of a job more than the presence of petty, ridiculous rules and requirements. Elimination of these non-valued added rules can visibly improve the morale and improve productivity within days.
  6. Lack of autonomy – Employees gain fulfillment from being able to utilize their skills and abilities to make contributions. When they lose the ability to operate with some independence, they quickly lose interest altogether. Freeing employees to have appropriate autonomy is an overnight success regarding employee satisfaction and engagement.
  7. Unreasonable expectations – When employees feel that their job is impossible or that they are given unreasonable demands of performance, they quickly lose interest. I once worked with an individual in R&D that was given around 60 different development projects to accomplish in one year. This was simply impossible and everyone knew it. The management theory was to give an impossible number of projects and hope that even half or more were accomplished. Thus, 30 projects completed would be better than simply targeting 20 or 25, a reasonable target. However, the employee was disheartened by this impossible demand and soon left the company for a job more reasonable and predictable. Setting achievable, but challenging, targets are usually seen as a motivator, but an unattainable target extinguishes enthusiasm quickly.
  8. Unfair treatment or being disrespected – Everyone expects to be treated fairly or with respect in the workplace. When this does not happen, the joy of the job quickly dissipates. Bosses that have “favorites” or employees that always get the most difficult tasks rob individuals of their enthusiasm for their work.
  9. Lack of connection of your work to the big picture – When your work has no connection to the company strategy, it is easy to feel that your work has no value. Knowing that you are part of something bigger than your own job or own work helps motivate you to achieve more and enjoy it more. Finding a way to connect your job to the customer is usually a strong motivator and improves the quality and service of the work performed.
  10. Friendly fire – When employees are mistreated, disrespected, or their work is denounced by others, they quickly lose the will to continue. Knowing that you have the respect of those around you can spur you to success greater than otherwise believed. Leaders must quickly identify and extinguish internal conflict and “friendly fire” to avoid demotivating the team.

We don’t have to be locked into a situation in which we have no joy in the work we do. And, as leaders, we need to ensure that these situations do not exist for our team members.  When employees are engaged and enjoy what they do, I guarantee they will produce more results, faster, and with greater quality.

Have a “top ten” day! Find something good in the work you do today.