July 19, 2011

News & Opinion: The Progress Principle

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 4:27 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Summer is the perfect time for a book like this. Many of us are less busy than other times of year, taking vacations, looking forward to weekend events, etc. There are a lot of distractions in summer! Which might cause us to stop and think about work in a not-so-positive way. Why is all the fun not involved in work? Maybe we wish our jobs were more creative, maybe we don't feel very involved in the projects we're assigned, and maybe we're not as happy with what we're doing as we'd like. Does this sound like you? What if your employees feel this way?
If you're a manager, understand that might be the case. Then, take a look at Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer's new book The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work to understand how to fix the situation. But don't expect tips on creating more fun in the workplace, extracurricular activities, or other accoutrements. The book helps managers develop the inner work life of their employees, which according to the authors: "the secret to amazing performance is empowering talented people to succeed at meaningful work." So, it's what's on the inside that counts. And that can be difficult to manage, as the authors state:
Conventional wisdom holds that, at work as in life, there are happy people and unhappy people; that's just the way they are, and there isn't much that will change them short of life-altering events. In fact, research has shown that pleasant or unpleasant temperament does remain relatively stable over time, and certain aspects of motivation are stable, too. But the big news from our research is that most people's inner work lives shift a great deal over time as a function of their personalities. Unwelcome events will trigger down days even for people who are basically upbeat. Nearly everyone in our study had days when inner work life soared and days when it plummeted. Such changes can happen quickly.
Fortunately, the book is packed with hard research - 30 years worth, detailing seven companies who through success and failure identified what makes people feel good about their contributions, and how to foster that from the time they start. It's a clear guide that can help managers with a potentially challenging and frustrating task. But, when advice like this is followed through on, both employees and management will discover a stronger inner life work, and the joys of outer life work - sharing your time with a great group of talented and happy people.