One of the biggest, seemingly amorphous, challenges that business owners and executives face is how to create "high company morale." The problem is, very few know exactly what that is ('we'll know it when we see it' really doesn't work) and even fewer know how to create and maintain it.
Penni Wells, the Leadership Quantified Expert in Customer Service, not only weighs in on this issue but gives you a very clear, behavioral path to high morale...from an unexpected source.
Given my line of work I'm particularly interested in the subject of company morale. That's because a company’s morale is a barometer of its dedication to its primary Internal Customers: its employees – ALL employees – from the most senior, senior executive to the most recent new-hire.
So, I want to start with a two-part working definition of morale - a definition that applies to and involves everyone. Morale is the:
- Emotional manifestation of the overall culture of a company set by those at the top which, at any given moment...
- Can be and is a part of everyone’s responsibilities.
Here's an example of how I know - and how you can change what the morale looks and feels like in your organization right now:
Many years ago I was making the rounds during a company holiday party. As I approached one table to greet a friend I noticed that at her table were, among others, a new department manager and another staff member...my personal nemesis.
The table was large enough that I could greet my friend and even introduce myself to the new manager without addressing anyone else, which would have been fine with me! My nemesis and I had known one another for over a decade. Although we saw one another rarely and only worked together on the odd committee, 95 percent of the time we just rubbed each other the wrong way. We would invariably end up in an argument over something trivial making everyone in our presence roll their eyes. The only vindication I had was that there were many in the organization on whom he had the same effect.
So what was he doing at this table? And how was I going to avoid being gracious to him?
As I chatted with my friend, making small talk with the new manager, I caught a glimpse of my Moriarty...sitting across the table alone and scowling. Just sitting there, scowling.
And suddenly I realized I had the opportunity, at that moment, to do the right thing.
Finishing up my conversations, I walked to the other side of the table, tapped him on the shoulder and spent a few moments chatting with him. Seeing his face when I spoke to him, I knew I had done the right thing. His scowl turned to a genuine smile as we recalled other holiday parties.
And not only did he smile, but the feeling around the table ramped up as well.
The fact is, I could have left the table without speaking to him and it wouldn’t have seemed rude to anyone else. Even he wouldn’t have found it unusual. But by seeing the opportunity and following through, it made for a bright moment for both of us - and, by extension, for the others, too. It was good for his morale, for mine and for the organization’s.
We still never agreed on much and he remained my organizational nemesis. But it brought home the impact we all have on one another.
And that's how you begin - now - to change the morale in your organization to what you want it to be.
Morale is the embodiment of tolerance and civility.
It's demonstrated and maintained by expecting, recognizing and rewarding professional thoughtfulness despite differences, competition and the natural impact of downturns and upswings.
This doesn’t mean treating everyone the same, particularly in an organization reliant on hierarchy. It does mean respecting every position in the organization – even if the person in it doesn’t match your style.
And as challenging as it first may seem, the benefit is an organization that functions more smoothly and maintains a steadiness that is difficult to acquire any other way.