A participant from a workshop I led several years ago posed a question to me last week. While she shared more details, this is the crux of her question: “Currently low morale is my major issue. With all of the changes there were reductions to staff and responsibility changes . . . I appreciate any tips you can give me on building morale and improving customer service skills.”
This isn’t the first time I have been asked this question (and it won’t be the last), so I gained her permission to answer her question, for the benefit of many others, in this article.
I’m not going to talk specifically about the Customer service skills portion of her question (that’s another article entirely); however, it is important in understanding the value of morale to any organization’s Customer service ability. Most would agree that if the energy and morale in an organization or team is lacking, Customers may notice and be impacted by that poor morale. While this is true, it’s hardly a phenomenon only related to customer service providers.
Morale and attitude, whether positive or negative, affects everyone’s job performance regardless of their job or department.
At this point you may be thinking . . . “Enough setup! I know morale is important! Now, can you tell me what I can do as a leader to change it for the better?”
I’m glad you asked. Here are six strategies that will help you do just that:
Define it first.
When you say you want “better morale” what do you really mean? Typically people can’t define or describe better morale in terms of behaviors very well. When I ask this question I often get versions of “you know what I mean” or “I’ll know it when I see it.” These vague descriptions won’t do if you are serious about creating a working environment that is supportive, positive and helps people succeed. If you are serious about improving morale, start by getting crystal clear on exactly what you mean.
Get help from others.
You may want help from others on defining and describing what you mean, as well as getting people’s input on their current sense of what the level of morale is and how it’s impacting work results. Beyond this, as you elicit the help and counsel of others; you are already engaging them in helping you positively change the morale and environment. Morale is created by the group and is best changed by the group, rather than by you alone.
Make it an expectation.
It is hard to expect something if you can’t describe it (see the first strategy above!). Once the desired morale is defined in behavioral terms, then you can begin expecting it, inspecting for it and coaching to those skills and behaviors.
Appreciate and reward it.
Let people know that you notice their behavior. Let them see that you care when their attitude and behavior is aligned with what you expect. Encourage them to keep up the good work! Not only will your appreciation reinforce the behaviors, but that same appreciation becomes a part of an upward spiral of morale, reinforcing behaviors through your behaviors!
Make it a long term goal.
If morale and attitude are important in your organization, it can’t be a short term campaign to improve things. Morale won’t be fixed by inoculation or an annual event. Does your attitude change from day to day (hour to hour)? Is your outlook clouded by events, positive or negative? You know you won’t “fix” your personal attitude and morale with a single event or a short term focus, why would your organization be any different? If this is important to you and your organization (and it is), make this a part of your long term focus. You’re looking to lift, strengthen and maintain a powerful motivating and productive working environment.
While the five strategies above are critical, none are more important than the sixth strategy:
Live it yourself.
If the morale or attitude you want in your working environment isn’t present, you need to look in the mirror. Are you leading by example? Are you portraying the attitude and living the morale you wish to see on your team and in your working environment? While I have listed this strategy last, it should be both the first and last thing on this list. Gandhi said “we must be the change we wish to see in the world.” Are you a living example of the morale you want to see? Are you living it every day?
I’ll admit this article isn’t complete and certainly hasn’t covered all of the strategies you might employ. It also hasn’t given you tangible specific actions to take. Those specific tactics are important, but they all must come in the context of your organization. And, unless those tactics are connected to these strategies they may look and feel like gimmicks to your team – and at best, have short term impact.
Start with the strategies listed above. When you are doing those things, the specific tactics will come much easier – and work much more effectively.