Harnessing the energy of the new year


By David Frizzell

18 Dec 2013

Don't waste the opportunity to cash in on the buzz that fills the office on the first day back at work.

Harness the enthusiasm, create the momentum.

Think about your first day back at work after the Christmas break. There’s usually a lot of energy around. People share stories of their holiday adventures, favourite Christmas presents and the time they had with their family. They are excited to be back together among their friends and colleagues.

Left alone, that enthusiasm may fizzle out quickly. If your team gets back into their work and concludes that nothing much has changed…things are exactly as they left them last year…ho hum may set in very quickly.

So how do we harness that initial enthusiasm to build sustainable momentum for the new year?

The trick is to add two more ingredients to that naturally occurring post-holiday energy. Team direction and job satisfaction.

By working through a few well-designed conversations you can create a genuine, sustainable momentum that will set the tone for a productive and successful year.

Enthusiasm + Direction + Satisfaction = Sustainable Momentum

First, get the team re-aligned.

A really simple way to do this is by using Patrick Lencioni’s 6 questions. The beauty of Lencioni’s 6 questions is that they avoid corporate jargon. They cut to the chase and encourage teams to talk about the things that really matter.

  1. Why do we exist?
  2. How do we behave?
  3. What do we do?
  4. How will we succeed?
  5. What’s important right now?
  6. Who must do what?

The trick to answering these questions is to avoid getting caught up in finding the ‘perfect words’. Semantics slow down the process and make it laborious and tedious. It’s the concepts, the ideas that matter.

If everyone is on the same page with these 6 questions, you are on the right track. You’ve got purpose, you know your priorities, everyone knows their role and you have a clear set of team behavioural expectations.

You’ve got a team direction.

The next element to our ‘momentum’ formula is satisfaction.

For this we’ll call on the work of Fredrick Herzberg. Herzberg* researched the characteristics of a job that made people feel satisfied.

He found that there are six elements that need to exist for people to feel satisfied in their work:

The role of a leader in helping their team develop these elements is obvious. Each member of the team will find different tasks satisfying, they like to be recognised in different ways and they will want different opportunities for growth and advancement.

Giving your team the opportunity, at the very beginning of the year, to talk about their level of satisfaction in each of these areas and make requests of their team and their leader about how things could be improved for them can be a hugely motivational experience.

It offers the hope that this year will be even better than the last. They’ve had the opportunity to explicitly talk about the things that will make their job even more valuable to them.

Of course, it’s essential to set up this conversation in a way that encourages honesty. Use your knowledge about the dynamics of the team to do this — but it should be made easy by the positive energy naturally generated by the beginning of the year.

Identifying shortfalls and opportunities for improvement is not enough. Work out how the team will give each other the things they need to raise their level of job satisfaction. And make them happen.

Don’t forget to include yourself in this conversation. You too have needs and your team can play a role in helping you satisfy them.

So at the beginning of 2014 don’t waste the opportunity to cash in on the buzz that fills the office on the first day back at work. A few well-planned conversations can turn that buzz into long-term momentum.

Enthusiasm + Direction + Satisfaction = Sustainable Momentum

A note on Herzberg’s work:
His most important finding was that the things that make people satisfied are not the opposite of things that make them dissatisfied. Factors that lead to job satisfaction are ‘separate and distinct from those that lead to job dissatisfaction.’

Adding factors for satisfaction will not eliminate job dissatisfaction — just as eliminating dissatisfaction will not create satisfaction.

For the purpose of this start of year momentum-creating exercise, we’ll assume that the hygiene of your team is sound.


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