Good Vibrations Aren’t Just for Beach Boys

The lyrics to the Beach Boys hit “Good Vibrations” aren’t very philosophical, but together with the music they can still get your foot tapping. If you are a manager at work, what have you done lately to get other people’s toes moving?

I’m doing some consulting for an employer facing budgetary issues, job cutbacks and an increasing workload. Sound familiar? If you’ve been anywhere around Michigan, with its nation-leading unemployment rates, you probably know what I’m talking about. But the rest of the country has felt the recession, too, so it shouldn’t be too hard for you to picture the work environment this employer is dealing with.

There are plenty of reasons for a staff to become demoralized, and no reason to expect the management won’t feel that way, too. But as managers, you are leaders, which means you have a responsibility to see beyond the doom and gloom and bring some positive energy into the workplace.

Henry Ford is famously quoted as saying, “Whether you think that you can or that you can’t, you are usually right.” So, what can you do to make sure you are portraying the “think you can” attitude to your employees? Here are some tips:

  1. Enthusiasm is contagious — If you can’t be a cheerleader for your company, your department or even a project you’re overseeing, how can you expect your employees to be one?
  2. You have to think big picture — Your project may have been cut, your department may have lost staff, the company as a whole may be struggling, but you have to figure out how to still make the best of a bad situation. How is what you are still able to carry out going to help your employer survive and thrive in the long run? Next, figure out how to share that long-term vision with the people who report to you.
  3. Your staff needs positive reinforcement — One of the best quotes from the movie Saving Private Ryan is when a captain says he never complains to his troops because, “Complaints go up, not down.” If you have complaints about the company or decisions being made by leadership, the only way to go with them is up the corporate food chain. Complaining to people who report to you just demoralizes them. After all, you outrank them and if you don’t believe in what you’re doing, how can they?
  4. Information is power — There are times, particularly in the heat of battle, when soldiers are expected to simply follow orders because that’s what their commanders need them to do. That kind of loyalty is rare in a corporate setting, so don’t bet on people doing things just because you said so. If you do, you certainly won’t find them performing up to their full potential. Companies often talk about investing in employees and worry about losing that investment. They’d do well to think about how to get employees to invest in the company. In the end, both sides end up better off and a great way to start earning that commitment is to let people know what’s happening, why it’s happening and how they fit in to it all.
  5. Learn your elevator speeches — whether you’re chatting with an employee, a company executive or a member of the public, what will you say when asked “How’s it going?” or “What’s keeping you busy these days?” Your answer cannot be that you’re struggling with too much work and too few resources. You’re obviously getting something done, or your company or division would soon cease to exist. So what good things are you accomplishing? If you’re doing more with less, it’s OK to say that, but put it in a positive light.
  6. Never start or end with a negative comment — You can be realistic and address challenges you’re facing, but never start or end a conversation or meeting with negative thoughts. Any meeting that begins with, “As you know, we’re facing many budget challenges,” is immediately useless because your employees are instantly wondering how they’re going to pay their bills once laid off. If you spend time talking up a great project but then end with something negative, you just wasted your breath. The person you’re speaking with is mostly going to remember the last thing you said, not the stuff you spent time talking about before that.
  7. Be ready for when things get better — Even the Great Depression eventually ended, so be ready for the turn-around. It might not happen all at once, but if you suddenly have the ear of a corporate executive who wants to know what you would do if you had more money, staff, etc. you cannot hesitate. What you need to do your job better should be on the tip of  your tongue, just waiting for someone to ask that question.

In the end, it’s all about attitude. What you are saying, how you are saying it and the body language you’re using when delivering the information all speak volumes. And even in the worst of times, it’s OK to be human and share a laugh or two with coworkers.

Remember, vibrations are waves of sound, motion or energy that oscillate and continue traveling out from their starting point. It would be great if you were a starting point for good vibrations, so get your toes tappin’ and let’s see what happens.

(Image courtesy of Wikipedia.)

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