Some morale boosters any boss can implement


November 07, 1994|By TOM PETERS

On the way to the airport the other day, I drove through a town heading down the tubes. The sagging, peeling signboard in front of the high school said it all; even the press-on letters announcing a school board meeting were shabby and cockeyed, put on with no apparent care.

I'm glad I've never met the principal, I thought to myself; I bet he'd have complained of demotivated students (brought up wrong), disengaged parents (don't give a hoot anymore), demoralized teachers (not like they used to be), and penny-pinching elected officials who won't support education. While some of those things may be true, I would have ripped into him about that damned signboard.

If I were appointed principal, the first thing I'd do is head for the local True Value and buy (from my own wallet -- principals aren't that badly paid) a hammer, nails, paint and some new letters, then recruit a teacher and a couple of students and start painting.

Of course I know that to fix the signboard is not to fix the town or to turn the kids into Einsteins. But it would be a start. I also know that, though the "salvation through self-esteem" gang can go too far, this town needs a hardy dose of pride -- and a smart-looking signboard would be a small indicator of newfound care and concern.

All this got me thinking about so-called powerless managers embedded in hopelessly sluggish organizations, managers of eight-person accounting groups or fast-food outlets or high schools. I'm sick to death of their "it's beyond me" attitude. Here are a few things any boss can do. Now.

* Buy a can of paint and start painting.

* Turn all restrooms into spotless showplaces.

* Paint out any new graffiti everyday at 6 a.m. (solicit volunteers to help).

* Make sure every delivery vehicle is spotless before the driver leaves the premises.

* Have people nominate the "dumbest thing we do around here"; vote on a weekly winner -- then eliminate the practice.

* Scatter a half-dozen easels with flip charts throughout your workplace. Urge people to post suggestions, good deeds, etc. Let others comment, via Post-Its, on the ideas. Devote one flip chart to "projects we can do for less than $250"; review every other week.

* Procure 5-by-7 note pads with "You Made My Day!" at the top of each page -- encourage folks to use them to applaud colleagues who help out, even in (especially in) other departments.

* Put up a "Bright Lights" bulletin board devoted to good deeds and good news.

* Start a one-page weekly newspaper (change editors weekly) summarizing events. Include relevant financial (or other

statistical) summaries; distribute every Friday at 4 p.m.

* Buy a camcorder (about $600 -- accept donations if necessary); interview customers and people from other departments; edit a 30-minute, monthly show featuring the interviews.

* Initiate voluntary "early bird" coffee-and-doughnut sessions at 7 a.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays -- one, an open-ended problem-solving session; the other, training topics recommended by members (and taught by the members and/or outsiders).

* Have an "Outsider's Morning" session at 8 a.m. every third Thursday; invite customers and suppliers (internal and/or external) to stop by and say their piece.

* Conduct a monthly "How does it feel?" walk-through of the work space aimed at sprucing things up; recognize colleagues for little projects that add pep.

* Chip in as a group and buy several old bikes; encourage people to hold meetings in the local park instead of the office. Also suggest they take a 25-minute decompression ride when they get uptight (put a sign in the corner where the bikes are kept: "Ride Your Attitude Away").

* Have folks fill out "Dream Sheets" with personal goals for the next 90, 180, 365 days; informally review the goals with them every six weeks (focus on training commitments, voluntary growth assignments, etc.).

* Buy a bell, display it prominently and encourage anyone to ring it whenever something neat happens with a customer (a sale; a small, heroic-service deed). Every now and then "retire" the bell (give it to someone who performed a "wow" act), and buy a new one.

In the most constipated corporations, some folks regularly beat the odds and create great stores, plants, accounts receivable departments, purchasing operations. They have found wide-open spaces where others find only cages. The answer lies in doing something today -- painting that signboard, ringing that bell. Nothing on my list requires top-management sign-off or waiting until tomorrow.

Tom Peters is a syndicated columnist. Write to him at Tribune Media Services Inc., Suite 1500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611; (800) 245-6536.

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