How do you get your people to do what you want as a business manager? The answer invariably is that you can’t. You can’t get your people to do anything. If you want it done, you will have to create an environment where doing it is more important to your people than not doing it.
One way of thinking about work is that it is passive. Work is only an idea before a person does it. But the moment a person does it, the impact of the work becomes a reflection of that idea – the idea behind the work – and the person doing it.
There is no such thing as undesirable work. There are only people who see the work they do as unpleasant; people who use every excuse in the world to justify why they do a job they hate to do; people who look upon their work as a punishment for who they are and where they stand, rather than an opportunity to see themselves as they are. As a result, many people hate their jobs, leading to sloppy, inconsistent work and inconsiderate and inhuman interactions affecting morale.
The people who work for you must have the opportunity to choose, not after they have done the work, but before. You do that by making sure they understand the idea behind their work. The idea behind the work must be more important than the work itself.
The idea comes from the company’s Strategic Objective and what it stands for, articulated through its policies, procedures, and values. For example, “the customer is not always right, but whether they are or not, it is our job to make them feel that way” or “everyone who works here must work toward being the best they possibly can at the tasks they are accountable for.”
Not everyone who works for you is doing their dream job. Most are working for your company because they have to pay the bills. Your company may have the best Strategic Objective and values, but it is still a challenge to keep people motivated to do their best and cooperate. Team sports may provide some insights.
Most people do not simply want to work for exciting people. Instead, they want to work for people who have created a clearly defined structure, a structure through which they can test themselves and be tested. Structure and knowing expectations are more important than money. Such a structure can be likened to a game.
Think in terms of any team sport. Look at a well-organized team with all the players knowing the rules and being able to execute the plays to perfection. The results are predictable, meaning they most often win, and there is a deep satisfaction and commitment among the teammates. So why do highly paid athletes want to be traded to winners, sometimes accepting a lower salary? Now, look at a poorly coached, disorganized team. You see demoralized players, mistakes on the field, poor effort, no cooperation among teammates, and an inability to achieve any objective.
This same comparison can be seen in the way businesses succeed and fail.
There is nothing more exciting than a well-conceived game. The very best businesses represent a game in which the rules symbolize the idea and values of the business and the actions of its managers and leaders. If it is positive, your business will reflect that optimism, and if it is negative, your business will reflect that.
In this context, the degree to which your people do what you want is how they buy into the game. The degree to which they believe in the game depends on how well you communicate the game to them – at the outset of your relationship, not after it’s begun.
Your people strategy is the way you communicate this idea. It starts with the company’s vision and mission expressed through your Strategic Objective. It continues through your organizational strategy (your organizational chart, the position contracts for all positions), and operations manuals that define the policies and procedures for your people’s work.
The game your business plays can’t simply be captured on the written page. It must be seen if it is to work. It is experienced. How you act as a leader or manager in the games establishes how the other players will regard you.
As with any game, your game must have rules to be honored if you are to become good at it. What follows are some suggested basic rules you need as an example. As for the rest of them, you will have to discover them yourself.
- Never figure out what you want your people to do and then try to create a game.
- Never create a game for your people you are unwilling to play yourself.
- Make sure there are specific ways of winning the game without ending it.
- Never expect the game to be self-sustaining. People need to be reminded of it constantly.
- The game has to make sense. The game needs to be fun from time to time.
- If you can’t think of a good game, steal one.
A good game has to be simple but effective and should be based on the following logic: Most people today are not getting what they want, not from their jobs, not from their families, not from their religion, not from the government, not from themselves. Part of what is missing is a purpose and worthwhile standards against which their lives can be measured. Part of what is missing is a game worth playing.
A business can create a game worth playing. It can become that place where words such as integrity, intention, commitment, vision, and excellence are action steps to produce a worthwhile result.
What kind of result? Giving your customers, employees, and other stakeholders a sense that your business is a special place, created by special people doing what they do in the best possible way.