Do you ever wonder if all the work you’re putting in is making a difference? I know I do. We envy the “stars” in our professions. But they got to where they are with a succession of small wins that add up to major progress and their huge success.
In her book, The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work, co-author and Harvard professor Teresa Amabile describes how even small, incremental wins can have a major positive influence on what she terms an employee’s “inner work life.”
Finding Meaningful Work
Perceptions, emotions and motivations influence inner work life, but the single most important factor “is simply making progress on work they find meaningful.” Even the most trivial wins can affect performance. On the flip side, a trivial negative experience can have two to three times the impact as a positive experience.
Amabile says that when individuals focus on work that is most meaningful to them it will also benefit the organization. Keeping track of our small wins will motivate us to continue making progress.
Managers Can Be Catalysts
In this video, she describes how a manager can be the catalyst for improving the inner work lives of employees and their positive performance by:
- Giving employees clear goals in their work so they understand why it is important
- Allowing them autonomy to reach their goals
- Giving them the sufficient resources to get the work done
- Helping them to access the materials they need
- Clearing away the obstacles
- Treating employees as human beings, respected and recognized for their value in the organization
While these tips may be self-evident, it is amazing that so many organizations don’t do them. My personal view is that one of the biggest obstacles to success is an employee not knowing what’s expected of him. What is my job? Another one is giving someone the responsibility, but not the authority, to do her job. “OK, bring that product to market. By the way, I have to approve every penny you spend.” Sound familiar?
Here is more of what Amabile had to say.