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Tangible Ways to Improve Your Work Environment

Over the last eleven weeks, I wrote about topics centered on leadership, human capital,  innovation, empowerment and humility. The path to improving your work environment includes strengthening those pillars of workplace happiness. Clearly, you alone cannot fix it all. However, addressing at least one of these will improve the work environment. It is likely that these concepts are not new to you. But here is some food for thought regarding application.

Trust is a Two-way Street

As a manager, your team expects you to make the hard decisions and to be honest regarding the current environment. Guiding your team to excel in less than ideal environments requires you to address the black elephant and the black swan. The black elephant is an event that is extremely likely and widely predicted by experts, but is ignored or simply unspoken. The black swan is an outlier that will have a high impact. Both of them can prohibit the very things we tout in our mission statements or long-term objectives. But there are tangible means of addressing them that will build trust.

On the other side of that street, trusting in valuable members of the team by empowering them will pay dividends. Empowerment involves the sharing of power between a leader and one or more followers. It is also a main driver of innovation. It gives the team the confidence and it increases participation in the decision-making process. Brainstorming is one technique you can use to encourage innovation as well as build confidence and trust between you and the team.

You Need Them as Much as They Need You

Humans beings are quirky, emotional, sometimes annoying and can require a lot of time to deal with. However, we are also passionate, innovative, driven, entertaining and pretty darn essential to most organizations. One definition of human capital is the intangible collective resources possessed by individuals and groups within a given population. So, until artificial intelligence runs organizations, I submit investing in people is by far the most intelligent thing you can do.

The inevitable truth is that even the most effective leader will struggle with finding the most suitable human capital strategy. Put simply, no matter how good of a leader, you will eventually have to herd cats (and sometimes they have claws). Through researching the characteristics of each kind of follower you can find methods to motivate each of them.

On the other hand, leveraging the power of peers is also fruitful. Peer-to-peer learning has many benefits; it will improve team building, while saving time and resources. It will also allow managers to identify where knowledge gaps exist and task the right people with closing those gaps. Moreover, sometimes the use of peer learning will inadvertently improve the attitude of your resident grumpy cat. 

Don’t Lose Sight of Your Goals

Like every well-oiled machine, there comes a time to re-evaluate the functionality of your organization, section or team. Did someone frustrate you by dropping the ball? Ever notice that accomplishing one thing requires too many steps? Have you asked, “Why is it done this way?” and received the answer “That’s just how we do it?”

It doesn’t matter if you’re the new boss or someone that has worked in the same organization for years. Asking “why” with the same undying resolve as an inquisitive four-years-old will shed light on the rationale (or lack thereof) of processes and procedures.

Moreover, asking the question may facilitate communication, collaboration and brainstorming sessions. You may also find that the rationale behind standard operating procedures or protocols is outdated. In other instances, asking “why” may address unspoken frustrations and subsequently improve work place dynamics.

In Order to Grow, You Must Let Go

If you’ve ever taught anyone to tie their shoes or ride a bike, then you accepted the fact that you had to move out of the way for the training to work. The same concept holds true in the workforce.

Some managers are hampering the next generation of leaders because they are not teaching them by allowing them to solve problems. Some leaders are overwhelmed by the sense of urgency, the fear of failure, the ill-fated need for perfection and the illusion that their solution is the best option.

So the next time you utter, “I don’t have time to wait,” or “If I do it myself, I know it will be right,” you should challenge your thought process. Is time really the issue? If you actually let employees complete the task, they will probably succeed. If you don’t, then you will never know their potential.

Humility and a Sense of Humor will Improve Your Life

As I said, human beings can be messy. Sometimes we succumb to our human tendency to respond emotionally when our team demonstrates frustration, doubt and discontent with our guidance.

However, your team must work together to solve problems. Building teams goes beyond scheduling professional development classes or off-site working groups, because ultimately those events remain centered around work.

Building teams involve embracing humility (by apologizing or admitting a mistake) and developing a sense of humor (by occasionally laughing out loud at Murphy). Go a step further and organize events where co-workers are not allowed to discuss work. Play a fun game that facilitates networking and finding common interests aside from work.

You are one of the greatest assets of your organization, make a mark by improving the work environment!

LaMesha Craft is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.

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