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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tap the Power of the Progress Principle

Amabile and Kramer's Progress Theory
Using Small Wins to Enhance Motivation and Engagement

Recognize progress, and boost motivation.

There are many ways that you can motivate, engage and inspire your team.
For instance, you can provide a positive, exciting workplace, with plenty of opportunities to build strong relationships. You can use incentives, such as bonuses or other rewards, to keep your team focused. And you can provide great support, and publicly recognize people's hard work.

However, recent research has shown that the way that people complete their work can also have a significant effect on motivation, and that's what we're looking at in this post.
In it, we'll see how consistent progress in the form of "small wins" can boost people's motivation and performance, and we'll explore strategies that you can use to help your own team achieve small wins as part of their work.

About the Theory
Professor Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer wrote in detail about how progress can boost performance in their 2011 book, "The Progress Principle."

In their research, they asked 238 people (from 26 project teams in seven major organizations) to keep an anonymous diary, so that they could track their experiences on a daily basis. They received more than 12,000 separate diary entries, which they used to analyze people's "inner work lives" – their perceptions, emotions, and motivation levels – and to explore how this affected their performance.

They found that when people consistently take steps forward – even small steps – on meaningful projects, they are more creative, productive, and engaged, and they have better relationships. This, in turn, has a positive influence on their work performance.
In short, achieving and recognizing regular "small wins" helps people have rich, engaged, and productive work lives. As any experienced manager knows, happy, engaged, and productive team members can achieve far more than unhappy team members.

Applying the Theory
So, how can you apply this theory with your team?
Amabile and Kramer identified six things that you can do to give people the best chance of experiencing and recognizing meaningful progress.
These are:

1. Set Clear Goals and Objectives
When people have unclear or changing goals, they don't know what to focus on. This means that they're likely to be less engaged with the work they're doing, and they're unlikely to see the small tasks that they do as "wins."

So, make sure that you set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals for everyone on your team; and change them only when you have to. Your people need to understand what's expected of them, so that they know when they've achieved these goals.

They also need to understand the connection between the work that they're doing and the value that it provides to others, whether these are the organization's customers, the organization itself, or even society as a whole. After all, we all want to feel that our work has meaning, and that it benefits others.

2. Allow Autonomy
Although your people need specific goals, they need some freedom to decide how they accomplish these goals – the more control that people have over their own work, the more empowered and creative they'll be, and the more they'll recognize their own achievements (even on small tasks).

So, make sure that you avoid micromanagement – this destroys morale and engagement, and leaves no room for autonomy.

3. Provide Resources
Without sufficient resources in place, it will be difficult for your people to succeed consistently in their work. They may conclude that their work isn't important, and they may waste time on non-core tasks that don't help them reach their objectives.

So, make sure that your people have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs properly. This includes technology, knowledge (including training and development), support, and supplies.

4. Allow Ample Time
Your people need enough time to complete their work: consistently setting short deadlines will harm creativity, drive down work quality, and cause burnout.

That being said, there is an optimum amount of pressure that can actually enhance performance. Therefore, you need to provide the right amount of pressure – try to set deadlines that create enough pressure to motivate good performance, yet still allow people the freedom to be creative and innovative.

5. Provide Support and Expertise
Make sure that your team has access to the help and expertise of other people, so that they can move forward with their work.

As their manager, this includes you, but it also includes other managers, colleagues, outside experts, or even customers and suppliers.

Also, foster a collaborative environment, where people can be creative and bounce ideas around.

6. Learn from "Failure"
No matter how well you plan and prepare, there will be times when people fail at tasks or projects. This will sometimes be because their work was careless; however, other times, people may have done their genuine best, but failed for reasons outside their control.

Clearly, sloppy work needs to be dealt with appropriately.

However, some organizations deal harshly with honest failure. This not only lowers morale and makes people afraid to try new things, but it also encourages them to see failures as wasted time, rather than as experiences that they can learn from.

Support your people when they've done their honest best, but have still failed. Without assigning blame, discuss how all of you will move forward and grow. Teach them how to overcome fear of failure, and allow them to take appropriate risks.

Recognize and Celebrate Success
These six mechanisms will help your people make consistent, meaningful progress. However, it's particularly important that you routinely recognize and celebrate success.
Encourage people to keep track of their achievements and successes on a daily basis, for example, by keeping a diary of their achievements.

Then celebrate these in team meetings, and reward your people for their small wins. This doesn't have to be a monetary reward – a heartfelt "thank you" and simple recognition is often reward enough.

Amabile and Kramer's Progress Theory is an important and useful approach to motivation.

Key Points
The Progress Theory was developed by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer.
They determined that achieving consistent, small wins was the biggest indicator of a rich inner work life. This rich inner work life, in turn, enables people to be more productive, more engaged, and more creative in the work that they do.

Amabile and Kramer came up with six mechanisms that leaders can use to help their team achieve small wins:

1.               Set clear goals and objectives.
2.               Allow autonomy.
3.               Provide resources.
4.               Allow ample time.
5.               Provide support and expertise.
6.               Help people learn from "failure."

As well as using these mechanisms, you should also encourage your people to recognize and celebrate their own successes, however small.

All the Success!

PM in the AM

Dealing with a Coworker's Silent Treatment

From the Leader's Digest Mail Bag

Dear Leader’s Digest,

One of my coworkers has refused to communicate with me in any way for several months, but I don't know what I did to offend him. I spoke to management regarding the situation, but they told me I should not confront him. Now it is very difficult to go to work each day because several of my coworkers who are his friends also ignore me and exclude me from activities, lunch invitations, and more. What should I do?


Dear Ignored,

Iced out. The silent treatment. The cold shoulder. Brrrrrrrrrrrr.

This is a common strategy we use in dealing with each other. Not only have most of us experienced the silent treatment, but most of us have also used this strategy to protect ourselves or manipulate others into trying to get what we want.

Many of us have experienced first-hand the awful consequences of yelling, screaming, and even physical violence. As a result, we have vowed not to allow verbal violence to be part of our repertoire. When we encounter a sensitive conversation, we eschew agression and engage in silence, believing that we are choosing a more virtuous path. Unfortunately, when we do this, we are fooling ourselves.

Silence is a hurtful strategy. At best, by avoiding a subject and making it an "undiscussable," we assure problems will not be resolved and will likely fester or get worse. Giving someone the silent treatment can also convey a painful message: you are not worth the effort it takes to talk with you. You are worthless. This message—whether intentional or not—can be devastating and play upon a person's deepest fears.

The situation you describe at your workplace seems beyond petty and is certainly dysfunctional. The fact that the silent treatment you are receiving extends beyond a single employee suggests a conspiracy and is more than working through a single relationship. In especially tough situations, our tendency can be to see ourselves as victims of the situation and of others. We also tend to assume that we have no options. Overcome this victim story by asking yourself, "What else can I do right now to move toward what I really want?" The answer to this question is "the rest of the story" that you are not considering. By considering other perspectives you can escape any victim stories you may be telling yourself.

What can you do? You have at least three options:

1. If you don't like your current situation, change it.
2. If you can't change your situation, remove yourself from it.
3. If the cost of removing yourself from the situation is too high, decide how you can cope with it in a healthy, helpful way.

If you decide to work on changing the situation, we recommend you hold a heart-to-heart conversation with your supervisor. You initially involved them, but their solution is not working so you should return to them. Factually describe the gap between what is happening and what you would expect to happen in an efficient, effective team. Share the consequences of your coworkers' behavior on productivity and quality of work, on others on the employees, and on yourself. Ask for your managers' help in changing the situation. It might require a team meeting where you have a conversation with your coworkers. In this meeting, talk openly about what is happening. Identify the behaviors you see and ask your coworkers why they are behaving in this manner.

Have you said or done something that caused problems or offense? Be open. Listen. Honestly diagnose the cause. Share the consequences as you see them. Seek resolution and agreement as to how you will all interact going forward.

If you cannot get a satisfactory resolution, can you transfer to another department? Can you leave this place and go to a more healthy work environment? If so, seek out a transfer.
If this option is not doable or does not provide a better situation, how can you cope with an unhealthy situation in a healthy way? Can you see this as a long-term influence effort where you will continue to seek mutual purpose and be unconditionally respectful to others, with the intent to help, not hurt? Can you see their silence as their problem and continue to do your job in a satisfying manner? Can you continue to grow in your job and career and find fulfillment even if your coworkers don't invite you to lunch? Can you be happy and healthy in the short-term, even as you develop long-term solutions to the current situation?

Intentionally avoiding tough conversations and "freezing" others out is dysfunctional; it hurts relationships and team results. Do not accept such a situation as a "given." You do not control others, but you do control your response to others. Choose to be an a leader, an influencer. Influence for the better—both others and yourself.

All the success!

PM in the AM

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Building Engagement and Profits in Tough Economic Times

In good times, employee engagement is the difference between being good and being great. In bad times, it’s the difference between surviving or not. In good times and bad, low engagement reduces performance and profit. In good times, consumer demand can disguise the lapses in productivity that disengagement causes. But in bad times, there isn’t any way to hide the performance problems of disengagement.
There are several levers leaders can pull to help employees stay positive and engaged:

    • Clarifying expectations.
    • Providing information, materials and resources needed to do work right.
    • Granting opportunities to do what your employee does best every day.
    • Giving frequent recognition and praise for doing good work..
    • Caring about your employee as individuals.
    • Planning, enabling and encouraging development.
    • Asking for opinions from your employees.
    • Communicating the company’s vision/mission.
Recognition provides employees with a personal, positive indication that they are valued and are necessary contributors. This can be incredibly powerful when the economic news is unrelentingly negative. Managers shouldn’t reserve recognition only for big wins; they should applaud small victories too. Also, when it comes to recognition individualization matters.

WOW point! Research reveals that proper employee recognition has a significant impact on operating margin. Operating margin shows how much a company makes from each dollar of sales before interest and taxes. In general, businesses with higher operating margins tend to have lower costs and better gross margins. This gives them more pricing flexibility and an added measure of safety during tough economic times. According to the data, companies in the highest quartile of recognition of excellence report had operating margin of 6.6 percent, while those in the lowest quartile report 1 percent.

It helps morale to focus discussions on employees’ strengths. Tom Rath, author of Strengths Based Leadership, recommends spending 80 percent of time talking about your employees’ strengths and 20 percent on things they should improve.

What your company’s vision or purpose? To some, that might seem like a pre-recession question, one that no longer resonates when businesses are focusing on survival. Well it isn’t. In fact, it’s essential in this climate. Mission or purpose is the strategic structure that pulls organizations through the worst of times. While nearly everyone in corporate America is cutting costs and trying to stimulate revenues organizations that have a clear vision won’t be looking for silver bullets or grasping at straws or just cutting costs with no clear focus. Instead, they will have more clarity in their cuts and more certainty on how to stimulate revenues.

·    To run an organization effectively, leaders must set visions and priorities, plan, build relationships, influence others, and make things happen. But if you ask followers what they need from leaders, the clear answer is INTEGRITY, STABILITY, CARING and HOPE.

·    INTEGRITY: trust is primarily built through relationships, and it’s important because it’s the foundational currency that a leader has with his team or his followers. Trust is built by being honest with people about the realities of the business and the realities of their performance.

·    STABILITY: In these rough economic times, leaders can’t entirely quell the fears that people feel. But they can promote a feeling of stability from day to day, and that creates a sense of security and engagement. The leader’s biggest short-term problem can be the distraction and even paralysis that comes from anxiety that employees may feel about their own jobs and the jobs of their friends and family members. Predictability is a good antidote for feelings of insecurity. Try to exude as much of a ‘business as usual’ feel and meet people’s need for stability and security so that while they may be hearing bad economic news and while everything else is changing there are some predictable elements in work and life.

·    CARING: The lifeblood of employee engagement is caring—the feeling that your boss or someone at work cares about you personally, that someone encourages your development, and that the people around you care about the work they do. While caring is always an essential aspect of engagement, when employees, feel (Whether their perceptions are real or not) insecure about their jobs, knowing that someone cares is enormously important—and individualization is implicit in caring. You can’t show people you care if don’t know them, so you have to spend with people one on one.

WOW point! Even in the best times, many leaders may be hesitant to show that they care about their employees. They may think that expressions or demonstrations of caring will undermine professionalism, make difficult decisions harder, or have a negative impact on employees’ performance.

In fact, THAT’S WRONG! Gallup research shows that the more leaders about their individual employees, the higher those workers performance will be. Yet when companies are cutting jobs, hours or raises, retreating from personal connections is a natural self-protective instinct. How can you ask a worker about her kids today when you suspect you’ll be cutting her hours tomorrow? But cutting people off can make them more insecure—and make bad news harder to hear too.

Showing you care can keep engagement alive!

·    HOPE: Hope creates an aspirational factor among all the things you are trying to do in your company, and gives people a reason to commit. Hope suggests that the future will better (if not the past) than the present, and that what we’re doing as a company now will contribute toward creating the future. You can’t build hope without trust. You can’t build hope without security and caring. But trust, security and caring aren’t enough. You do need hope to draw people toward a better future and give them aspirations. And it’s a critical aspect of leadership right now. The challenge today is managing fear, then building hope about goals that we can all believe in.

WOW point! Hope requires initiative but according to the Gallup research, leaders are far more likely to react than to initiate—even though leaders will more often than not say they are proactive and not reactive.

All the success!

PM in the AM

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Do happier people work harder?

Look around. New research finds there are a lot of unhappy and unmotivated people in the workplace.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which has been polling more than 1,000 adults every day since 2008, shows that Americans now feel worse about their jobs — and work environments — than ever before. People of all ages, and across income levels, are unhappy with their supervisors, apathetic about their organizations, and detached from what they do.
And there’s no reason to think things will soon improve.
Why are employees so downtrodden? It might have to do with poor employee engagement. The authors of The Progress Principle, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, write that “employee engagement may seem like a frill… but it can make a big difference in a company’s survival.”
According to an article in The New York Times, Amabile and Kramer collected 12,000 diary entries from 238 professionals in seven different companies. They found one-third of the participants was unhappy, unmotivated, or both.
“Our research shows that inner work life has a profound impact on workers’ creativity, productivity, commitment, and collegiality.”
This means that employees are far more creative on days when they feel happier and perform better when they’re engaged in their work.

All the success!

PM in the AM

10 inspiring Steve Jobs quotes to pin to your wall

Steve Jobs not only changed the way we interact with technology, but also inspired a loyalty that went beyond mere branding—he created a lifestyle for Apple customers. And, as NPR pointed out, helped shape popular culture.

Along the way, Jobs also provided inspiration on a variety of other topics. Many of these quotes come from The Wall Street Journal, which compiled them in August when Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple.

Conformity is boring.
"It's more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy."

[from Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple, 1987, via The Wall Street Journal]

Sweat the small stuff.
"This is what customers pay us for—to sweat all these details so it's easy and pleasant for them to use our computers. We're supposed to be really good at this. That doesn't mean we don't listen to customers, but it's hard for them to tell you what they want when they've never seen anything remotely like it."

[via Fortune, January 2000]
Sometimes, focus groups aren't the answer.
"For something this complicated, it's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

[via Businessweek, May 1998]

What it means to be a creative person.
"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they've had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

[via Wired, February 1996]

Can you say this about your workplace?

"We're just enthusiastic about what we do."

[via Playboy, February 1985]

The importance of strong managers and coaches.
"What's reinvigorating this company is two things: One, there's a lot of really talented people in this company who listened to the world tell them they were losers for a couple of years, and some of them were on the verge of starting to believe it themselves. But they're not losers. What they didn't have was a good set of coaches, a good plan. A good senior management team. But they have that now."

[via Businessweek, May 1998]

Take note, small business owners.
"Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it."

[via Fortune, November 1998]

Traditional media remains vital.
"I don't want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers. I think we need editorial oversight now more than ever. Anything we can do to help newspapers find new ways of expression that will help them get paid, I am all for."

[D8 conference, via All Things Digital, June 2010]

Don't. Settle.
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."

Words to live by.
"Stay hungry, stay foolish."

[Stanford commencement speech, June 2005]

All the Success!
Pm in the AM

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Four Stages of Learning Essential for Leadership Excellence

"You are not born a leader, you become one."
A proverb of the Bamileke people in West Africa

If you want to be a great golfer, natural ability takes you only half way there. At that stage you need to learn to do nine or ten things that seem both unnatural and awkward at first. You are unlearning your natural game and having to put the pieces together again in a new, creative configuration. When these new skills become unconsciously habitual, then you are on the final ascent to the summit of excellence.

Learning to play golf is a parable for learning to become an excellent leader. There are four broad stages:

Level I. Unconscious Incompetence:
Without being aware of the facts, you are falling well short of fulfilling the role and functions of a leader. You are not unsuitable, just inadequate.

Level II. Conscious Incompetence:
You become aware that in some areas you are not well qualified or able to perform as a leader.

Level III. Conscious Competence:
Like the golfer trying new grips and swings, you start to make a conscious effort to improve your skills, measuring yourself against the key functions of leadership. You listen to feedback, and—undeterred by frequent failures—you consciously proceed to develop your ability to meet the task, team and individual needs of your group.

Level IV. Unconscious Competence:
Eventually, without your being aware of it, excellence in the practice of leadership at team, operational or strategic level begins to shine through. It becomes second nature to you. You don’t have to think about it—you are a leader. People will then say about you, ‘He (or she) is a born leader.’ Little did they know!

In our experience, the state of unconscious competence seldom lasts very long, otherwise it degenerates into complacency. You need to keep learning!

Remember the word competence, strictly speaking, only implies adequate performance in your role. What you are seeking is not to be adequate, good or even very good—you want be excellent in your field. And excellence is really always just beyond your grasp.

With luck, you will continually encounter leaders and managers who embody excellence in some particular aspect, function or quality. Learn from them.

?      Am I a born leader yet?

Where do you start? To become an effective leader you make it your first priority to develop in three areas:

1.   Awareness—Becoming sensitive to what is happening in groups or organizations, and why it is happening—the group dynamics of the situation

2.   Understanding—knowing what leadership functions or act is required at any given time.

3.   Skill—Having the skill to undertake the function effectively in order to achieve the desired result.

Leadership attracts us because it is such an inexhaustible subject. As you go deeper into it you will see that skill and technique are not enough by themselves.

As author Joseph Conrad said:

“Efficiency of a practical flawless kind of may be achieved naturally in the struggle for bread. But there is something beyond—a higher point, a subtle and unmistakable touch of love and pride beyond mere skill; almost an inspiration which gives to all work that finish which is almost art—which is art.”

All the Success!

PM in the AM

P.S. Want to check the leadership effectiveness of yourself, someone on your team, or your organizational as a whole?

Request our free individual and/or organizational leadership effective assessment by emailing us at

A Big MAC (donald’s) Life Lesson from Founder Ray Croc

Thousands cover the landscape from New York to California, from London to Tokyo. It doesn't matter how young or old you are, chances are good that you've walked into one, most likely more than once. And regardless of what you think about its image and impact, no one can argue that McDonalds isn't a mega success in the world of business.

The point of this McDonalds's story isn't about what they serve over the counter each day, nor does it have anything to do with the debate over where these restaurants should and should not be located. No, this story is different.

It's one of dreams and inspiration. And the leading role is played by its legendary fountainhead, Ray Kroc.

With the World Series getting underway soon and the Olympics right around the corner, we are constantly reminded that greatness often begins at an early age. We hear of children becoming athletes only years after they learn how to walk, about young stars working decades to reach the pinnacle of their sport.

This theme, success being achieved by those who started at an early age, is found in much more than sport.

Busting the Myth

Entrepreneurs like Bill Gates of Microsoft and Phil Knight of Nike, both beginning their drive toward success at an early age, lead us to believe that all success follows this path.

And if success in life requires an early start, millions around the world have already missed their chance. But then a man named Ray Kroc comes along and gives us hope. He gives us proof that an early start isn't as important as a deep desire to make the most of our lives.

When most people believe their life is winding down and heading for retirement, Kroc was just beginning to create one of the most successful businesses in history.

To begin working toward his dream at twenty years of age would be quite amazing given the size and success of his company at the time of his passing. Thirty or forty years old would be almost ridiculous.

So how old was Ray Kroc when he took the first step toward growing McDonald's into a worldwide phenomenon?


Even now I can't believe it. But it's true, and it gives hope to every single person out there who feels that their time has passed. As long as you're alive and breathing, your time will never pass.

But the history of Ray Kroc and his decision to achieve a dream late in life is about much more than age. It's about a lesson we all must learn if we are to be truly happy and successful.

What's the Real Lesson?

What I want to do with this post more than anything else is to get one point across: you must take all that you are at this moment and make the most of it.

Excuses about age, time, money, economy, and every other item we throw into the mix to help us feel better about putting our dreams on hold will end up killing our hopes for a happy and fulfilling life.

Ray Kroc teaches us that age is never an issue when it comes to getting what you really want in life. Use his story to inspire action if you are at an age when you felt that your time had passed. But this is only one example. If you look hard enough you will find a story like Kroc's that shatters every excuse we hide behind. People from every walk of life, facing extraordinary odds, have achieved great things and created truly amazing lives. Proof that you can do it as well.

Before I get to the heart of today's point we want to mention one of the most important aspects of goals. What if you don't know what you want? Few situations in life are as confusing and frustrating as wanting a happier, more successful life but not knowing how to make it happen.

More people than you think have trouble in this area, and it's because the majority of us have never been given the tools to uncover our true goals. There are specific steps you can take that will bring to light the goals that will give you everything you want and more.

An Exercise to Inspire Success

It's time to take what we have learned and put it to use. If you're human, you probably have a few excuses that you tell yourself about why you can't do something about your goals today. Perhaps the time isn't right or the time has already passed. Maybe the money isn't there or the people around you just won't support your plan. Whatever it is, we want you to make a short list of the most powerful excuses you tell yourself.

When you have them, we want you to do something a little different than usual. Instead of writing down all of the reasons why your excuses aren't true, we want you to act as if you're giving advice to a friend who has told you about his or her goal but ends it with the excuses you use for putting off following through. Think about it. What would you tell your best friend if he or she came to you and said...'I really want to (goal), but I can't because (excuse).'What would you say to change their mind? What would you say to motivate them past their excuses and onto success?

When you know what you would say to them, say it to yourself and follow through.

How Much Do You Want It?

The reason for this role reversal is simply that we are great at giving advice but rarely as good at taking it ourselves. By changing the roles you can get your best advice out of your head and hard to work for you and your future.

When it comes down to it, you've got to ask yourself how much you want to change your life, how much you really want to achieve your goals. If they are worth it, which we know they are, put an end to the excuses and follow Ray's lead.

Accept the facts of your situation and move ahead with an unwavering confidence. You may not end up selling billions of hamburgers to millions of people around the world, but you will do something much more important - you will live your best life.

Ray Kroc could have used his age as an excuse to pass by the opportunity that brought him unimaginable success. He could have shrugged his shoulders and lowered his head in defeat.

Instead, he grabbed life by the horns and plowed full speed ahead toward the dream he was unwilling to pass by.

All the success!

Peter Mclees