4 Pillars of Higher Morale

A manager who inspires positive morale does so best by knowing what each and every team member values. The manager then regularly does something with and for each employee that embodies that employee’s values.

Morale! The individual and collective attitudinal fuel that drives all actions and inactions and the results that follow. It includes the emotions, attitude, satisfaction, and overall outlook of employees. Low morale equates to lower productivity. And reduced productivity drives down profitably or sustainability. But, of course, the opposite follows the same dynamics: Higher morale fuels greater productivity, and if that is managed well, profitability or sustainability increases.

Let’s look at the variety of organizational components (interviewing/hiring, individual, team, and manager) that are factors influencing which direction you and your organization choose. 

Interviewing/Hiring

Morale starts here with interviewing/hiring. No matter who does the actual interviewing—whether HR, the interviewee’s potential manager, panel interviews made up of various influential team members, or sequential interviews (those same influential team members meeting with the candidate one-on-one in an arranged sequence)—interviews are the time and place to be thinking about everyone’s morale.

Unfortunately, many organizations still limit interviews to assessing if a candidate has the skills to do the technicalities of any job. Skills are, of course, essential. But morale is the human, non-technical factor. Interviewers need to know the current human-factor makeup of the existing team into which the interviewee will need to blend. What values (personal and organizational) are held together by the current team? How many of the four behavior styles are working now and how do they purposefully blend? What degrees of ego and best self are being exhibited? Is the culture inclusive or exclusive? What degree of respect or disrespect is present? Do you want the candidate to blend in because the existing culture is already operating at high morale or do you want a strong, positive-minded new employee who will raise the morale of the team in place? All are worth investigating as part of the hiring process.

Regarding references, while large organizations generally only give out basic information about a past employee, there are many tens of thousands of smaller businesses that are not as strict. You can ask these less formal organizations questions about all of the above factors in their former team member.

Individual

Let’s assume you are doing a magnificent job of interviewing and hiring. You hire individuals who live with more positivity and optimism than negativity and pessimism. “Blame” is not a word they are familiar with. “Can do” is their creed.

It is still up to every individual to take responsibility for his or her own attitudes and behaviors; to be morale-effecters. While support from the team and managers helps, high-morale individuals have high Emotional Intelligence (EQ). They excel in ever-deepening how they live in the four basic quadrants of EQ (self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship management). Individuals who are “self-aware” are worth their weight in gold. They know everything starts here, particularly their own happiness (morale). They monitor their stream of thoughts, feelings, corresponding body sensations, images, intuitions, beliefs, attitudes, and more. Why do they do this mindfully? To “self-manage.” And they know to not do this at the expense of others (i.e., lowering their teammates’ morale). Highly self-responsible individuals then turn their attention from themselves to others in their field of influence. They use the EQ quadrant of “social awareness.” They know they don’t work in a vacuum. There are influential intra-dynamics. Highly emotionally intelligent members ask themselves, “How am I impacting others?” by taking in the clues from the professionals around them. They then consciously use that information to “manage relationships,” the last of the EQ quadrants. One for all and all for one. These are your “shining stars.”

Team

While teams are, of course, composed of individuals, they do take on a life of their own. The collection of individual personalities, behaviors, preferences, values, intentions, ethnicities, life experiences, and more all shape the collective team personality. Great teams take responsibility for the collective. High-functioning teams care for each other in ways that are supportive to everyone’s advantage.

But most team members are not group dynamics experts. Training comes into play. Teambuilding skills are needed. Empowering each other to act as a unified entity supporting the organization’s mission, vision, and values does not just come about “naturally.” Training enriches their capacity to enact, persevere, and succeed. Teams that take on responsibility for being influencers (instead of dumping everything onto the manager’s back) simply have more success, and success adds positively to morale. But they need to know how to communicate with each other for the higher good (higher morale).

High-functioning teams also share the stepping-up for continuous courageous actions. Courage takes development. Whether the manager is a courage-mentor or the organization brings in a coach to champion the professionals toward positive acts of bravery, when a team stops complaining about or blaming others (managers above them, departments they have to interact with, even customers they don’t work well with, and more), and takes ownership of their needs, transformation happens. As transformational trainer T. Harv Eker says, blamers and complainers are crap magnets. They take others’ morale down with them.

Manager

As usual, the “manager” has a critical role in influencing the interview process, supporting individuals they manage/supervise/mentor/coach/lead, and in cultivating team cohesiveness and positive morale. A manager can make or break morale. Studies say 84 percent of people don’t want to go in to work on Monday mornings. Managers can be a negative influencer for reduced motivation (morale) to start another workweek. But thankfully, they also can be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

This still comes back to interviewing; in this case, of the current managers. How many professionals do what they do well and their organization assumes that will make them great manager-leaders? Communicating with, relating to, and motivating humans is an entire set of skills unto itself. Many newly promoted managers are thrown to the wolves; they learn on the job. What a setup for failure.

New managers need to be trained on people skills and the many processes needed to take care of all the aspects of managing. But while training introduces needed “information” (such as motivating, evaluating, delegating, developmental coaching, corrective coaching, etc.), training’s best friend is coaching—deepening that knowledge and forwarding the action. Training and coaching also go hand-in-hand for people skills. One cannot learn things such as Emotional Intelligence and being in the nuances of communication and relationships from reading books. So training introduces the theoretical, whereas coaching can experientially transform a manager’s ability to interact with more effective and uplifting results.

Managers also must have great versatility when it comes to overseeing numbers of complex professionals—individualized, situational leadership. An effective tool for navigating the variety of team members is a four-quadrant behavior styles model (there are many). There is great value in combining the attitude and practices of the Platinum Rule (meet people where they are) and learning the many clues that indicate how each team member goes about processing information, responding to various kinds of situations, and such. When people feel more related-to, they are generally happier.

A manager who inspires positive morale does so best by knowing what each and every team member values. The manager then regularly does something with and for each employee that embodies that employee’s values. Values lived = Happiness. Values denied = Unhappiness.

Lastly, uplifting managers regularly “catch their people doing something right.” Too many managers focus on “problems” from a negative perspective and spend an unbalanced amount of time just attending to those problems—putting out fires, if you will. Team members do best when they are praised, acknowledged, and appreciated (deservedly) in enough quantity to make them feel valued and respected. And that, of course, yields higher morale.

Manager-leader specialist Jim Hornickel is the cofounder and master trainer at Bold New Directions. Along with a B.A. in Management, Hornickel’s professional experience includes 25 years as a manager-leader in several industries; life, leadership, and relationship coaching; and authoring books “Negotiating Success” and “Managing from the Inside Out (16 Insights for Building Positive Relationships with Staff).” For more information, visit: www.managementtraininginstitute.com/home/ and www.boldnewdirections.com.

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