Steps toward Improving Morale

It is now apparent that to improve morale on a large scale, you have to improve your own morale 1st, then the morale of the individuals around you, then the teams of individuals.

At work, I had an amazing Senior Vice President.  He’d built his business from 3-5 people to several hundred with 9 of his people becoming leaders in different territories.  He had 2 meetings a week and his business was growing now without any of his direct involvement.  They were hiring 30-50 per month.  The morale of the group was extremely high.  They could do anything!  What was it he did to build morale like that?  He involved the people under him as examples and trained them up to be leaders as well.  In the midweek meeting, he would have examples of good work presented by the person that had done it.  “I had client A, who was struggling with such and such, and we worked out a plan and now A is happy as a clam!  And this is how we did it.”  People were taking notes like crazy and when the person was done, he/she got applause and pats on the back and questions after the meeting.  On Saturday mornings, (yes!  people came in on Saturday mornings!) he’d have a training meeting.  He’d have 1 room set up for an orientation for people who were brand new to the concepts that we taught, 1 room set up for people who were in the business and were learning the basics, and the big room where he and others taught more advanced concepts.  1st of all, he’d recognize everyone that had done business so far that month, and at the end of the month, nearly everyone in the room was standing.  Then he’d recognize those that had completed certifications, gotten licensed, or gotten promoted.  Then he’d turn control over to one of his senior managers, and they would explain a concept.  Sometimes that allowed this senior manager to introduce the person he was mentoring so they would have a chance to give some background information.  Most of this senior manager’s sentences used the word “we” instead of “I.”  Everyone left the meetings charged up and thinking “I can do this!”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way for most places of business.  There was this School Superintendent and this Principal at a little school.  The superintendent thought of some innovative ways to improve the school, and had the secretary print them up for the next school board meeting.  She remarked, “The last time we tried this, it didn’t work because it wasn’t well thought out and there were too many moving parts.  This one has more moving parts.  There are too many “ifs” in the plan.  I don’t think it will work.  The superintendent gave her a haughty look and wondered what expertise qualified her to make comments on the viability of his marvelous plan.  She took offense and replied, “I’ve been here for 30 years, and will be for another 15, long after you’ve gone!”  He fired her because he didn’t take that kind of attitude from an underling.  He didn’t HIRE another secretary because both he and the principal had degrees in business and they could handle things as mundane as the secretary’s work.  They treated the long term teachers as if the only reason they taught at that particular school was because no one else would have them.  They hired new people because they had to, but didn’t expect them to want to stay.  They reviewed everyone’s lesson plans and changed them if they felt it necessary even in areas where they had no expertise.  At parties, they would make fun of the music and art teachers and would wonder aloud why anyone would want to know the difference between DaVinci and Picasso and who would care.  They couldn’t see any reason for wasting the district resources on music since they could play a recording of the Star Spangled Banner at the ball games and that was all the band was for.  They also posited that all these kids needed was basic math and English, none of that fancy Algebra or Literature, and if they wanted to learn Spanish, just go to work in the fast food industry or join the picking teams at harvest.  The teachers got demoralized, the students got demoralized, the town became apathetic.  It took years to recover.

To improve the morale of a group or a team, you have to trust the members of the group to do what you ask.  You have to believe they can do whatever is needed, and they have to KNOW you believe in them.  You have to use the word “we” a lot.  We can do this, we will go there, we will accomplish this.  We are awesome!  What’s interesting is that you don’t have to be the leader of the group to improve the morale.  Build up your own, build up those around you, get a feeling of “team” and those are all things anyone in the group can do.  If we can improve the morale on a small scale, maybe we can do it on a city sized scale or a state size or even country sized scale.  Look at the way our troops march… They don’t stylize their steps, they swagger.  No one can swagger like an American.  But you have to admit, the morale in this country is really low.  What can we do?  Improve morale on a local basis, and let it spread from there.

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