The power of small events

How much influence do you truly believe you have on the motivation and performance levels of the people you lead? There are times when it feels like my actions are just a drop in the bucket of their work life and I am unsure if I am making a difference.  Do you ever feel that way? And how does this relate to our topic of communication?

I recently took a class from Teresa Glomb, Ph.D. She is the McFarland Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota and her recent research demonstrates how powerful communication and small leadership actions are in improving performance and employee engagement. (Miner, A. G., Glomb, T. M. 2010.  State mood, task performance, and behavior at work: A within-persons approach.) In contrast to most of the research on motivation and employee engagement, she has identified how important small daily shifts in mood and emotions are to overall performance. Her work suggests that the sporadic opportunities we have to communicate with our people may be as important or even more important than larger organizational initiatives and programs.

What does this look like and how can we use this information? During a project I led a few years ago I asked employees what was most motivating for them at work. This is what I heard; “It wasn’t one big thing but just a number of little actions”, “during our busy day she would just drop in”, “He would ask how we were doing?”, “it would pick me up”, “I felt good”, “It was clear we were important” and “I felt recharged.”  Their comments suggest that as leaders, we just need to look for moments to talk with our people and to communicate at a personal level.

Small drops in the bucket do add up!

Todd Thorsgaard


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