Helping employees look forward to Mondays begins with providing employees a “sense of purpose,” according to a recent article by the Gallup organization.
Why Mondays Matter
According to Gallup, employee wellbeing sinks to its low point on Mondays and low levels of employee wellbeing associate with higher absenteeism, higher healthcare costs, higher turnover and lower organizational effectiveness.
How Do Leaders Instill A “Sense of Purpose”
“When your people feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves and feel like they’re reaching their own aspirations through their work, they’ll show up on Monday morning ready to make things happen,” according to Gallup.
Gallup offers a few suggestions for leaders to increase a sense of purpose in their teams, including sharing the company mission and values; helping employees see the bigger picture; getting their input on processes; and aligning their personal goals with their work assignments.
Integrating 2,000 newly acquired employees into the company I co-founded and ran (15 year CEO) after a major acquisition certainly left me asking how do I instill a sense of purpose in these newly acquired employees, while melding two different cultures together around a common purpose?
I decided on a plan that challenged my courage. One day, after walking the call center of the acquired company, I asked Janet, a well-groomed, middle-aged customer service rep, if the cubical next to her was empty and explained my plan to work next to her. She paused and then asked, “You’re going to work where?”
Days later, I described why the work of the call center, as the brain stem to the needs of our acquired customers, was so important. After I explained that I, as the CEO, wanted to make my office there so I could directly participate in the operational integration, Janet confided that she “had never even met the prior CEO.”
After weeks of inserting myself in the daily operations (by walking the floor and working in the call center), I made relationships and connected with many people. They saw me take calls from my wife about a plumbing problem at home. They saw me eat sandwiches as I talked on the phone. More importantly, they saw me as someone who was committed to our Mission of providing an exceptional customer experience. They realized, through my actions, that I valued the work they performed. They eventually saw me as an ally, who was working hard to make them successful.
Weeks later, Janet offhandedly mentioned an on-line training platform her department selected that hadn’t yet been implemented (as a result of the acquisition). I seized this moment, knowing that the larger organization was working hard to improve our new employee training. After validating its merits, I had our IT and HR departments implement the platform and roll it out across the combined company. The package saved frontline workers, like Janet hours of time, while saving the organization thousands of dollars. This event became the crescendo moment of my time working in the cubicles of that call center.
Janet and her colleagues experienced, first hand, that, as frontline employees (not executives) they made a lasting impact on the entire company. She and her colleagues clearly understood how vital each of their individual jobs was to the achievement of the organization’s Mission.
My experiences from this journey, working among the cubicles in the call center of the acquired company, validate many of Gallup’s recommended techniques to instill a sense of purpose in employees. Clearly, my behaviors evidenced the importance of the work done by the call center and how it connected to our larger purpose of providing an exceptional customer experience. As Gallup suggests, Janet’s and her department’s role in implementing a new training platform (process) absolutely connected those individuals to our business model.
Importantly, my decision to work side by side, in a cubicle among the sea of call center cubicles, demonstrated that I placed our Mission of providing an exceptional customer experience as a high priority. After all, I could have moved into the corner office that was occupied by the prior CEO. It was a much more comfortable and desirable place to work, with walnut paneling, beautiful artwork and a bevvy of assistants to screen my calls, fetch my lunch and cater to my every need.
By this time in my career, however, I learned that the most successful technique a leader can employ in helping employees look forward to Mondays was to evidence my commitment to the Mission. Thereby fostering a culture of shared purpose, where every individual (especially the executives) place the collective needs of the organization at an equal priority level to his or her own self-centered needs.
As Gallup so succinctly states, “people want to work for a common cause they can be proud of.” And nothing drives people out of an organization more quickly than executive behavior that communicates the employees show up every Monday morning merely to enrich and empower the executives. These behaviors include isolating oneself in the lavish corner office, placing the executive’s name on the building, grossly excessive compensation inequities and many other daily decisions that challenge leaders with choices between what’s best for themselves or what’s best for the organization.
Fusion Leadership Unleashing The Movement of Monday Morning Enthusiasts (Greenleaf Book Group, September 2017) explores these and many other daily decisions that challenge leaders as they seek to build organizational cultures that “fuse” teams together around a common purpose. Chip Bergh, CEO of Levi Strauss & Co, Colleen Abdoulah, CEO of WOW; General Robert VanAntwerp, Chief Engineer of the Army Corps of Engineers; and many other nationally recognized leaders share real-world stories that entertain and deeply explore those leadership behaviors that bring teams together around a shared purpose and how those behaviors differ from those that drive people away from an organization.
Together these leaders dedicated much of their careers to answer the same question posed by Gallup- how does a leader help employees look forward to Mondays?