“Management’s overall aim should be to create a system in which everybody may take joy in his work.”
I love this quote from Dr. Edwards Deming. It’s one that I often share with leaders who I work with. I’ll ask you the same question I ask them: “Where does ensuring your team members can experience joy in their work fall in your list of priorities?” If it doesn’t make your list, you’re not alone. Increasing joy in work rarely appears on a leader’s to-do list or in an organization’s strategic plan, whereas addressing low engagement scores and improving performance outcomes often do. And yet, imagine the type of workplace, relationships and results your team could create if they experienced joy at work on a regular basis.
Joy in work – or lack thereof – doesn’t just affect individual engagement and satisfaction; it’s central to your team’s ability to thrive and come to work ready and motivated to make a difference. So, what is joy at work? Joy is about being connected to meaning and purpose, leading to feelings of success and fulfillment. Joy is central to your team’s desire to challenge themselves to surpass their goals–and to their ability to develop collaborative relationships that drive the best results for your organization.
Perhaps the best case for improving joy is laid out by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in their Framework for Improving Joy in Work. The researchers found that joy incorporates the most essential aspects of positive daily work life and leads to a high-performance organization.
As a leader, it’s important to understand some of the factors that lead to joy. As you read through the list below, ask yourself how many are present in your team.
Does it feel good to be a part of your team? When your team members arrive at work, is there a sense of positive energy and momentum? Or does it feel heavy and negative, or even stagnant? Energy is contagious; we exchange energy with every interaction we have. One of my favorite children’s books, “How Full Is Your Bucket?,” lays out this concept very well: You can choose to fill your team members’ “buckets” with positive energy, or you can choose to take energy from their buckets so that they’re running on empty. Positive energy fuels your team; they won’t be able to cross the finish line without it.
Be conscious of how you show up and whether you’re fueling or depleting your team through your interactions with them, because every interaction is an energy exchange.
It’s the seemingly little things that will impact the energy and sense of joy in your team. Do you:
- Come to work with a positive attitude that is contagious (and by contagious, I mean genuine)?
- Check in and interact with team members in a supportive way? A sincere “How are you today?” can be a good start.
- Treat each member of your team with equal respect?
- Recognize team members for their contributions and show that you value them and their unique strengths?
- Focus on what’s right in others, more than what’s wrong?
- Celebrate your team’s successes with them?
Responsibility and Meaningful Work
Demonstrating trust in your team members by engaging them in challenging, meaningful work will result in greater joy. This is especially true when that work positively impacts the organization and those you serve. Actively looking for opportunities to engage your team members in new and meaningful projects requires that you work with a heads-up approach, scan your environment for opportunities and connect with your team members often to better understand what drives and motivates them. As a leader, an important part of your role is engaging your team members in experiences that connect them to what matters most to them at work. Next time you have your one-on-one meetings, ask what types of projects they aspire to work on that will be most meaningful to them.
Using Unique Strengths
Accounting does not make me happy. It’s not a strength and never will be; anything to do with accounting makes me want to pull my hair out. When I have to do it, I put my head down and do the best I can, but I definitely do not experience any form of joy. Now, think about your team members for a minute. Are they in roles that play to their strengths and interests? Are they given opportunities for their strengths and unique gifts to shine? Or are they involved in projects that do not match their abilities and interests? If so, it can feel like a weight on their shoulders, a heavy burden that makes them feel disengaged, insecure, frustrated and overwhelmed, resulting in less-than-optimal results for your team and organization.
Strong Social Relationships
People experience joy when they’re connected to others as part of a collaborative team that’s built on trust and mutual respect, where team members support and challenge one another to be their best selves. If this is lacking in your team, this is the place to start. Building trust and collaboration will take time, but without it, you won’t see gains in performance–let alone joy. A healthy climate is the foundation of an effective team, healthy relationships and high performance.
These are just a few factors for you to consider; the best source of information on how to derive more joy from work, though, is your own team members. The IHI Framework for Improving Joy in Work suggests asking the following questions of your team members:
- What matters most to you at work?
- What makes a good day for you?
- What makes you proud to work here?
- What does it look like when are we at our best?
Leaders are so often focused on performance, engagement and getting their team through endless tasks that it’s easy to neglect what really matters to our team members. This may seem like adding more to the to-do list, but leaders find that sparking joy in the work environment leads to fewer issues and shorter lists in the long run, not to mention better results with far less struggle.
Read more on forbes.com