I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breaths. Breathe in. Breathe out. I noticed how my chest went up when I inhaled, and how it went down when I exhaled. I was calm and felt I was ready to explore the darkness and took a look around while my eyes were still closed. Believe me, there was absolutely nothing there. Nothing! I was somewhat disappointed, yet I was determined to continue seeking. I was patient, curious and stayed focused. Without any apparent reason, I decided to have a look at my hands in that imaginary world. To my surprise, the color of both of my arms was purple glitter and around them there was a radiant purple light. “Wicked!” I thought to myself. “In contrast with my favorite color… What does that mean?” All of a sudden, a cute snake cartoon appeared out of nowhere, offering me to take a bite of an apple: “Jussst a sssmall bite. Tassste it! Come on! Tassste it!”. I was hesitant. Yet the snake insisted… What should I do?
The above paragraph depicts my personal experience during a Co-Active Coaching training, where the leaders from the front of the room facilitated an exercise for us to formulate our life-purpose statement. As you will read later, it was an exhilarating experience for me, since it provided me with clarity, awareness of what is important to me and the reasons behind my purpose. It guides me in many aspects of my life, such as the decisions I make, how I interact with other people and the relationships I build or decide to leave behind, for instance. Since the outcome of the exercise is so powerful, I’m glad I can serve better the people in the organizations I work with by offering them this exercise so that they can create they own life purpose statement.
However, I bet you are familiar with the following scenario: you discover while working with a new team that they struggle with finding motivation. They have excuses, avoid taking responsibility and procrastination settles in. They are far from being satisfied with their basic psychological needs, such as having the freedom to decide for themselves how to do their day-to-day activities (being micro-managed by their managers instead), feeling no/ little pressure at work, feeling free and safe to express their opinions and ideas rather than being criticized, feeling that people truly care about them and fundamentally appreciate their contribution, etc., to name a few. Unfortunately, this pattern is not unique to a specific team, department, organization, industry, or country. Rather, this is a global pattern.
The good news is that we have many ways to tackle demotivation at work.
- Allocate time to discovery: Nowadays, many organizations still mainly focus on delivery of projects without providing the time to their employees to learn new ways of working. In many cases, the result is similar to the image with the penguins: people must learn new skills ad-hoc, having no support, just to crush and being accused of giving excuses rather than results.
Yet, smarter organizations deliver small chunks of a solution frequently, with the purpose to learn by running small experiments and adapt their findings so they can generate meaningful outcomes to their customers. Moreover, these organizations provide their employees with some visible dedicated time to reflect on the new learning, spread knowledge throughout the organization, practice new ways of working and ultimately, create innovative solutions. They do it by working on less initiatives, choosing which ones are the most meaningful for their customers and creating some room for people to learn and think. Thus, in my opinion, allocating time to discovery is an essential prerequisite for the other tools to tackle demotivation at work I will share with you.
- Coaching life purpose: the coach helps the clients clarify what the internal experience of being on purpose feels like. It may begin with reading them several Guided Inner Journeys and having the clients take notes between each ones. Once they share what came up for them, as I did in the opening of this article, the coach help the clients to put together words which express their sense of the impact they have when they are on purpose and create a life purpose statement. Assist clients in identifying their distinctive values and assessing their satisfaction with living those principles that they hold to be of worth in their life.
- Mining Values: offer to your clients the experience of being in touch with and honoring their values! For example, you may ask your clients to identify a special, peak moment in their life when it was especially fulfilling. Start probing, and listen underneath for values. Listen for energy level and expand on each value that show up in the story. Later on, your clients may appreciate if you ask them to look for places they may be taking a value to the extreme or to point out that most upsets derive from values that are being suppressed.
- Vision / Big Dreams Board: Ask your clients to take a flipchart paper and add their life purpose statement anywhere they wish. Next, your clients can add their big dreams, values, images and some inspirational quotes they can either find online or draw and write by themselves. Placing the flipchart paper next to their desk and viewing it on daily basis gives your clients the boost they may need to achieve their goals and can prove extremely powerful. Do now forget to check in and have conversation around where do they stand in relation to their big dream. It is perfectly fine if there is anything they need to modify in their vision board since it is no longer relevant or outdated.
- Moving Motivators: An exercise developed by Jurgen Appelo which is based on 10 intrinsic desires, such as mastery, acceptance, status, relatedness, etc. My favorite way to play it is with teams, where each team member needs to sort the 10 intrinsic desire cards (i.e., motivators) from left (least important) to right (most important). Next, the team members are invite to take into consideration a change; for example, their team lead leaves to another organization. They need to discuss how the change impacts their motivators and move the cards up for a positive change or down for a negative one. Finally, each team member needs to share which motivators are the most important to them and which are the least. By doing so, it reveals new insights to the team members about what drives each one of them and helps to create stronger bonds and foster closer relationships.
- Engagement Survey: one of the most famous engagement survey comes from Gallup. It contains 12 simple questions and people are invited to take the survey anonymously, either online or onsite. The true value is, however, when the manager discusses the results with the respondents and ask them for suggestions to improve working conditions. Allowing the employees to generate ideas, as well as listening carefully to what they say instead of providing solutions ad-hoc, the managers show how they truly value their employees opinions. Lastly, the managers need to check in with their employees on regular basis and demonstrate that improvement actions are indeed being taken. Otherwise, people may become even more disengaged, since the manager’s lack of action may be interpreted as if “My manager does not care about me”.
Let me conclude by going back to the story I started the article with: the life-purpose exercise. You may recall that I closed my eyes and a snake begged me to taste from an apple. “I must be in heaven!”, I thought to myself. I knew the story from the bible and the consequences of eating from a forbidden fruit, yet I was convinced that in this exercise, the snake had a different meaning and there was a twist to the original story. I decided to risk, followed the snake’s advice and took a bite from the apple. It was juicy. It had great flavors. It was delicious. I wanted more! I needed more… And I couldn’t stop eating. Later I realized the apple symbolized learning opportunities. And my life purpose became the meaning of my name in Hebrew: a cart full of goodness, which I am glad to offer to others in their journey of learning. What is your life-purpose statement?