How to Get your Employees Over Their Boredom

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To managers and older colleagues, new, Millennial employees seem to be permanently stuck in a state of disinterest. Afflicted with short attention spans they appear to be unable to summon the drive and motivation of prior generations. If this observation is in any way accurate, what should managers do to engage their hearts and minds?

One solution I explored in prior articles is the ways managers can gamify the work experience, challenging staff to use their best skills. In this article, let’s look at the flip side – what does the employee need to do even if their environment remains unchanged?

As a modern manager, you may start by acknowledging a fact: for most young employees, their nine to five job is the most boring, restrictive part of their lives. While it occupies the most hours of the week, it’s seen by many as a tax they are forced to pay in order to meet their financial obligations. Instead, the time to come alive is on weekends and other days off, when they can be creative and foster key relationships.

In other words, they leave their best selves at the door each weekday morning and reclaim it when they leave the office in the afternoon.

Unfortunately, this state of affairs is not unusual. I have worked with senior executives who quietly admit they hate their jobs. It’s merely a sacrifice they make to cling on to other things they value in their lives. When this attitude can be found everywhere in a company from top to bottom, a real problem exists few are equipped to solve. Here are some ways to deal with it.

  1. Commit to Drive Out Fear

Dr. W.E. Deming, the quality guru who espoused this mantra, is probably turning in his grave. Today, most workplaces use fear as a weapon to keep people in line. The worst use overt actions. Periodically, they fire someone without warning, ensuring it happens in plain view of others, preferably using armed escorts.

Most firms just ignore the topic of fear altogether, more intent on creating wage-slaves they can easily control. As a result, people at all levels walk around afraid of the unknown, sometimes creating their own “evidence” especially when none can be actually observed. Over time, they dullen their senses just to cope, converting acute anxiety into chronic dis-ease. Before too long, the halls are filled with the walking dead.

The irony is that the best employees have no fear. They are either independently wealthy, actively keep other options open or have achieved a state of inner enlightenment which makes them immune. They are not afraid to take risks, but willingly and regularly challenge the status-quo, acting as if they have nothing to lose.

The very best companies develop an enlightened courage: the power to act in the face of fears. Either by demonstration, instruction or coaching, they provide the means for employees at all levels to be strong.

 

  1. Teach Attention Management

One way to develop this strength is to make a game of it. Employees can be taught how to play with highly productive flow-like states. Even when there’s little fun to be experienced, these moments can enable employees to produce their best work.

However, most don’t know how to gamify their work on their own. They simply respond to the daily arrival of email messages from other people. Without an agenda for themselves or their function, they reserve their brains for simple problem-solving. Not even a promotion interests them.

It’s a mode of work which offers little satisfaction, and an endless supply of boredom.

However, these new skills can be taught. An employee can be shown how to enter an ultra-productive, gamified state and also how to schedule time to achieve it regularly. He can plan his day so that high productivity sprints become a regular feature rather than a matter of chance. In this scenario, everyone wins.

  1. Bolster Mood Management

However, winning means more than being proactive. It also requires the kind of transformation in which employees manage their inner state. Over time, their unwanted feelings are not a show-stopper, just something important to notice. By expanding their ability to respond, they can make more enlightened choices.

In other words, rather than surrender to boredom they learn how to see it in the moment and actively bypass it in healthy ways.

Ultimately, companies which take engagement seriously won’t waste time trying to make employees happy, or prevent dissatisfaction. Instead, they teach employees to manage themselves and their boredom; to use it as an internal indicator of inappropriate engagement. Instead of letting them wallow, they provide the means for employees to develop themselves so they can be enlightened and therefore have a choice.

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. To receive a free document with links to his articles from 2010-2016, send email to columns@fwconsulting.com.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20170326/francis-wade-managing-employee-boredom

 

 

 

Holding on to Long-Distance Relationships

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As a person who has lived and worked overseas, it’s hard for me not to compare: there is a big difference between the way local and foreign professionals maintain business relationships. My conclusion? To keep up with modern demands we Jamaicans must change our practices. Here’s how.

A colleague from overseas once led a few courses in Kingston. She received a few complaints—it appeared as if she were in a rush, trying to push people to act immediately. She agreed with the criticism—”The way I see it,” she said, “my time is limited.” We discovered that this view was at odds with that of her participants who expected her to be in their lives forever. In their minds, the interaction was the first of many. Not the last.

This clash of worldviews gets repeated every day. When we pay attention to each one we can illuminate the ways in which we under-perform the rest of the world, and why.

One reason begins with the fact that we live on a small island with no visible neighbours. Furthermore, the citizens of the closest countries are culturally distant, speaking languages we don’t understand. We only notice them when their boats float up on our shores in a navigational error.

The overall effect is that we are relatively isolated, under little pressure to communicate with others who are different. In our relationships both domestic and foreign, we relax, taking things easy. It’s an attitude beloved by our tourists, but it in business it holds us back.

One way we limit ourselves lies in our tendency to treat Jamaicans who are “off the island” as if they are on Mars—so far away they cannot possibly be reached for anything but life-or-death emergencies. This contrasts with the wider world, where forming and maintaining business relationships isn’t a casual affair. Instead, it’s a deliberate, conscious strategy executed in three parts.

Step 1—Make yourself available

The obvious first step in the internet age is to ensure you are visible online with an updated profile on Linkedin. A few years ago, this was optional. Today, it’s a requirement, yet I find that out of ten local business-people I interact with, two have active accounts and only one bothers to keep it timely, relevant, and interesting

Those who claim to be modern professionals but don’t have an account are fooling themselves. Instead of looking to an international standard they are probably busy following their friends. That’s hardly a proper comparison: collectively, it leaves us far outside the mainstream, islanders who couldn’t care less how the world sees us.

Step 2—Reach out

Many professionals who are serious do much more than create a profile; they use it as a showcase for their best work.

No idea where to start? Write an article with the following title: “The Top 3 Secrets People Who Want to Do My Job Well Need to Know Before Starting.” Once the draft is done, customise the heading to suit your profession.

Then, share it with your friends after doing the necessary grammar and spell checks. When they give it a green light, post the article on Linkedin. I’m not making this up… it’s very close to the process I followed for about five years before becoming a paid columnist for the Gleaner.

You may not aspire to that level, but it doesn’t matter. Creating content is a professional obligation if you have any commitment to your career’s future. It’s the modern way to gain the notice of the best people in your field, anywhere in the world. After all, it’s how you got to know them… via their content. As thought-leaders, they actually may enjoy hearing your perspective and so might many others.

Step 3—Invest time to stay in touch

I regret not following this advice earlier—foolishly, I lost track of colleagues from my early business years. Today, you simply shouldn’t allow this to happen. The resources you need to maintain career-long relationships are all at your fingertips and you must spend time learning how to use them.

Once you do so, use our geographical advantage. Jamaica’s stature in the world is strong. When someone tries to link with you from the other side of the globe, appreciate the asymmetry: you may never have heard of their country, but yours has a positive reputation.

Use it to your benefit. Be bold in reaching out to persons whose work you admire, no matter how “big” they seem to be.

Someone who is planning to migrate may immediately see the value of these three steps, but don’t wait until then. To thrive in the larger world of business now, build a global reputation plus a network that will last your entire career. They could be essential elements to your future success.

Francis Wade is the author of Perfect Time-Based Productivity, a keynote speaker and a management consultant. To receive a free document with links to his articles from 2010-2015, send email to columns@fwconsulting.com.

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/business/20170312/francis-wade-holding-long-distance-business-relationships