Monday, May 17, 2010

Nutty Management

I am a big fan of positive motivation. Oh sure you can yell and intimidate to get what you want – for awhile. But eventually that kind of management will catch up with you as employee turnover, quality problems, and lack of trust issues will increase. These poisons in turn decrease overall productivity and, for all but the most hardened Scrooge, will lead to high blood pressure and stress for yourself and your staff - who needs it?

So generally as business pressure increases, I have always considered it my job to try and find ways to turn DOWN the heat a little yet still get the work done. In all jobs, you can generally find ways in your down time to make the job atmosphere more pleasant if you will look and be creative. Now don’t get me wrong, there are situations and certain job environments which you cannot significantly manipulate artificially. Professions like emergency doctors, Air traffic controllers, cops, fire fighters etc. are in this category. As a rule, those jobs are inherently stressful but driven by external demand, not internal motivation by bossy bosses and middle managers.

Fortunately in my past work experience, I have never had a job that people’s actual lives depended upon. So if I made a mistake or I missed a deadline, nobody died - my teacher would just send me nasty notes with ‘unhappy’ faces on them. I used to handle a lot of containerized traffic for office machines, so I had a lot of warehouse people for parts and finished goods handling. I knew their jobs were relentless and hard so I depended on them greatly to keep product moving from production lines to trucks, trains, ships – you name it. So aside from visiting with them regularly and trying to make sure they knew they were appreciated as the circulatory system of the company, I would look for tangible ways to reward their effort as well.

I have preached the values of small chocolates as an effective ‘thank you’ motivator before. But with a big warehouse doing big jobs, I needed BIG chocolate - not those wimpy packages of snack size bars. So I raided a local convenience store and relieved them of their ENTIRE stock of 1 pound sized giant Mr. Goodbars. Now everyone loves that candy with loads of peanuts surrounded by fantastic Hershey’s chocolate. This was a TRUE reward to receive something that few if any of my workers would ever buy for themselves.

At break time, I took a little time and thanked everyone for their hard work and proudly handed out those nutty chocolate bars. For a very reasonable investment, I could see by their positive reactions that they were surprised, happy and felt appreciated by my personal acknowledgement of their devotion to the company. I went back to my office without a care in the world and with a little extra spring in my step . . . for a minute or two. Unbelievably, that local convenience store apparently NEVER rotated candy stock. My phone was ringing off the hook with supervisors fending off unhappy warehousemen armed with WORM INFESTED chocolate bars. So much for GOODbar intentions – that candy was clearly anything but good. Turns out this is the case with many harvested nuts and nut-based candies that are not stored properly? I re-gained the workers trust of course as I replaced the chocolates quickly. But with my bosses, it took some time to live down my reputation of trying to poison the factory’s warehouse operations with my ‘nutty’ management technique.

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