Loaded Question: Does Employee Morale Matter?

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Of course Morale Matters!

Ask 100 people in business this question and how many would you think would answer with a resounding YES?

90? 95?  Maybe even 100?

So here’s the real question, if you agree that YES, Morale matters.

What % of business leaders truly keep their finger on the “Morale Pulse?”  

I guarantee this % would be lower than the answer to the first question.  Wouldn’t shock me if the gap was greater than 30 points.  You don’t need to be a statistician to call this gap “significant.”

Morale is a byproduct of organizational culture.  Some cultures inject oxygen and energy, others deplete it.  Oxygen is not just life sustaining, it’s business sustaining.

Morale is also highly INDIVIDUAL.  One person may be highly energized, while another person is down in the dumps.  Morale at its core is a function of attitude, a person’s general “optimism level.”  Like simple tests can be applied to asses culture, same for someone’s individual level of Optimism.  My favorite is my Wake-Up test, which I learned from my 6 year old.

So back to the leaders, who have a key role in all things culture……

If Morale matters, what are you doing to at least UNDERSTAND the level of morale among the people running your business?

Observing?  Taking a “climate” survey?

Wandering the halls?  Tom Peters explains MBWA:  Management by Wandering Around

I love simple tools like MBWA.

Here’s another one, I’ve recently started:

THE MORALE METER.

It’s simple.  It forces people to take a stand and give their own opinion.  And that process alone is sometimes motivating for the troops.  Here’s how it works:

  • Ask them to score the organizational morale, give it a number from 0 to 10, 0 being “organizational death” to 10 being “couldn’t imagine any place better.”  Make them assign a number.  Thank them.
  • Then probe and ask them to add some color as to why.  Shut up and listen.  Then ask them to “tell me more.”
  • Repeat the shut up and listen step.
  • Go back to your office and write the name, number and date down, and a couple of take-aways.  Invest the minute to put something on paper.  Or a cocktail napkin if you’re having drinks.

This is now a baseline for the individual.  Don’t try and solve the world’s problems in this conversation, just listen and get a number.  Do this with multiple people in different functional areas and you will start to paint an organizational picture.  You can keep track of this over time, which is even more enlightening.

But measuring for measuring sake is pointless, measure to understand impact of some future CHANGE.

The Morale Meter only works if you keep a couple of “WATCHOUTS” in mind….

WATCHOUT #1:  Put your BS meter on high alert.

Not everyone will be candid, some people don’t “tell it like it is” and may give a score that is a lot higher than they really feel.  If your BS meter goes up, challenge it.  Ask them how many people they have referred to come work at your organization?  Someone that rates the place >7 should feel pretty good about their job and want their friends to come along right?  If not, why?  It only takes a couple of these challenges and people will know you’re serious about getting honest feedback.

WATCHOUT #2:  Understand THEIR BS meter is on high too.  

Never under-estimate people’s BS meter.  Having people answer a question like this, by definition raises the stakes.  They will expect you NOT to just listen, but not waste their time.  They will expect SOME action.  If you are NOT prepared to do SOMETHING with the info, don’t start the process.

Leadership at its core is about Caring.  Caring is about listening & learning.  But that’s not enough.  

Leadership is a contact sport.

When you listen and score and don’t like what your seeing, but fail to ACT, you’re not a leader.  You may be a shrink.  You may be a numbers geek.

Leaders Listen.  They Measure.  But most importantly, Leaders ACT.

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