If managers fail to support progress and the people trying to make it, inner work life suffers and so does performance; and degraded performance further undermines inner work life. But they also have a more immediate impact: When people realize that they have clear and meaningful goals, sufficient resources, helpful colleagues, and so on, they get an instant boost to their emotions, their motivation to do a great job, and their perceptions of the work and the organization. In fact, only 35 managers ranked progress as the number one motivator—a mere 5%. In our diary study, recognition certainly did boost inner work life. Yet Graham was able to sustain team members’ inner work lives by repeatedly and visibly removing obstacles, materially supporting progress, and emotionally supporting the team. In their research, they asked 238 people (from 26 project teams in seven major organizations) to keep an anonymous diary, so that they could track their experiences on a daily basis. Customizing the column display for each folder enables users to switch between them quickly as they change activities. This yielded nearly 12,000 diary entries. I felt that my opinions and information were important to the project and that we have made some progress. (See the sidebar “A Surprise for Managers.”). Therefore, there is a strong possibility that all the time and effort put into the project was a waste of our time. Instead, the culture of an organization is about the way in which people work together to propel the business forward. The likely cause is your perception of the completed tasks as peripheral or irrelevant. Professor Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer wrote in detail about how progress can boost performance in their 2011 book, "The Progress Principle." Whether the goals are lofty or modest, as long as they are meaningful to the worker and it is clear how his or her efforts contribute to them, progress toward them can galvanize inner work life. The authors provide a checklist that managers can use on a daily basis to monitor their progress-enhancing behaviors. 1. I have turned from the kindly Supply Chain Manager into the black-masked executioner. “Just wanted to say “WOW!” Our group has had many speakers over the years, but none the likes of Mike Kerr.”, Richard Dansereau, President, NAPA Autopro BDG, “Michael Kerr is one of the best speakers I have seen. JB on December 1, 2011 at 6:37 PM Listen to a podcast on your way to work. However, these Small Wins recognition can get unnoticed due to the high-paced routine involved on a daily basis, thus, making us perceive Big Win goals further than ever. Jobs reportedly asked him, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?” In making his pitch, Jobs leveraged a potent psychological force: the deep-seated human desire to do meaningful work. However, we do know, from reading thousands of diary entries, that more-positive perceptions, a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, happiness, and even elation often followed progress. A person’s inner work life on a given day fuels his or her performance for the day and can even affect performance the next day. Most jobs in modern organizations are potentially meaningful for the people doing them. If you’re an employee, remind your supervisor of the importance of small wins not only to your own sense of accomplishment, but for the success of the entire team. By contrast, setbacks occurred on only 13% of those days. That’s ripped almost straight from Weick’s article. They can signal this—unintentionally—by shifting their priorities or changing their minds about how something should be done. For example, an employer may find that a candidate is happy to accept a lower salary in exchange for flexibility such as working at home several days a week. They saw their teams as more mutually supportive and reported more positive interactions between the teams and their supervisors. It simply must matter to the person doing it. Managers can help employees see how their work is contributing. However, I also like to build a little alone time into my workday, too. Work with less profound importance to society can matter if it contributes value to something or someone important to the worker. In a survey asking about the keys to motivating workers, we found that some managers ranked recognition for good work as most important, while others put more stock in tangible incentives. They received more than 12,000 separate diary entries, which they used to analyze people's "inner work lives" – their perceptions, emotions, and motivation levels – and to explore … We can then leverage that competence toward future, larger successes. I felt relieved and happy because this was a minor milestone for me.”. When you start a new program at work, finish a meeting, or come back jazzed from a conference, immediately implementing some small and easily-done ideas can create a snowball effect that helps build momentum and encourages even the most cynical (“we’ll believe it when we see it”) employees to see that bigger change is possible. Especially when you have been with them from the start and are nearly to the end. Staying motivated isn’t easy, but it helps to remember your accomplishments—especially the big ones—long after you’ve completed them. Inhibitors and toxins also marked many worst-mood days, and catalysts and nourishers were rare. Example: “I was working on an event planning team for a non-profit organization. (See the sidebar “How Work Gets Stripped of Its Meaning.”) All the participants in our research were doing work that should have been meaningful; no one was washing pots or checking coats. By supporting progress in meaningful work, managers improve employees’ inner work lives and the organization’s performance. However, managers can make sure that employees know just how their work is contributing. When we think about progress, we often imagine how good it feels to achieve a long-term goal or experience a major breakthrough. And here’s the beauty of it: They will love their jobs. Some examples include: Instead of trying to lose 100 lbs., just make an effort to get to the gym 3 times per week. Learn how to save column profiles here. If you are a manager, the progress principle holds clear implications for where to focus your efforts. Small wins can have a disproportionate amount of power and influence beyond the achievement they represent. When one of your team members has achieved a small victory, you need a way to notify the company in order to continue building a team atmosphere and motivation. As long as they show basic respect and consideration, they can focus on supporting the work itself. Few realize how damaging this is to inner work life. Events on worst-mood days are nearly the mirror image of those on best-mood days (see the exhibit “What Happens on a Bad Day?”). By contrast, when one of Graham’s team members reported problems, Graham helped analyze them—remaining open to alternative interpretations—and often ended up helping to get things back on track. When over 12,000 worker entries were pored over, they found that employee motivation and engagement was based on whether they had achieved something worthwhile that day . This is an example of how incremental success can lead to small wins throughout a campaign. That may not be an event to you, but I live a very drab life, so I’m all hyped.”, Likewise, we saw that deteriorating perceptions, frustration, sadness, and even disgust often followed setbacks. I highly recommend him!”. Motivations were also affected: On progress days, people were more intrinsically motivated—by interest in and enjoyment of the work itself. They may neglect to inform employees about unexpected changes in a customer’s priorities. Managers may dismiss the importance of employees’ work or ideas. Want to truly engage your workers? This is both a practical approach and a great way to give subordinates a sense of forward movement even in the face of the missteps and failures inherent in any complex project. And fourth, micromanagers tend to hoard information to use as a secret weapon. On the flip side, small losses or setbacks can have an extremely negative effect. Even some of the more attentive managers in the companies we studied did not consistently provide catalysts and nourishers. And if he could not make that judgment, he asked. How does that make you feel? This happens to us way too often. Break down large goals into smaller goals – You don’t want to focus on the bigger picture as tempting as that can be. In an analysis of knowledge workers’ diaries, the authors found that nothing contributed more to a positive inner work life (the mix of emotions, motivations, and perceptions that is critical to performance) than making progress in meaningful work. Harvard Business Publishing is an affiliate of Harvard Business School. On progress days, people perceived significantly more positive challenge in their work. When a supplier failed to complete a “hot” order on time and Michael’s team had to resort to air shipping to meet the customer’s deadline, he realized that the profit margin on the sale would be blown. Yet, in one survey of senior leaders, 95% of the respondents listed “supporting progress” as the least most important motivator at work, contrary to what all the research suggests! In the extreme, attention to small wins can help people lift themselves out of depression; this is one of the tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy. Achieving your first income milestone ($1,000, $5,000, $10,000, etc.) Small wins can include completing a significant assignment or part of an assignment, solving a vexing work-related problem, or getting positive recognition from a supervisor or colleague. The Double Helix, James Watson’s 1968 memoir about discovering the structure of DNA, describes the roller coaster of emotions he and Francis Crick experienced through the progress and setbacks of the work that eventually earned them the Nobel Prize. Even small wins can boost inner work life tremendously. They help measure progress. It turns out that ordinary scientists, marketers, programmers, and other unsung knowledge workers, whose jobs require creative productivity every day, have more in common with famous innovators than most managers realize. To understand such interior dynamics better, we asked members of project teams to respond individually to an end-of-day e-mail survey during the course of the project—just over four months, on average. Here, setbacks predominated, occurring on 67% of those days; progress occurred on only 25% of them. Reply. The aim of the checklist is managing for meaningful progress, one day at a time. But managers seem not to have taken Herzberg’s lesson to heart. The small wins DO work really. With this, they can be more eager to provide these needs as they are aware of the negative effects of slacking off whenever in the workplace. In fact, you can get many quick wins through features that come right out of the box. Create a small wins contest between teams. They ranked “recognition for good work (either public or private)” as the most important factor in motivating workers and making them happy. But it wasn’t nearly as prominent as progress. Besides, without work achievements, there is little to recognize. The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work, “One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?”, “Inner Work Life: Understanding the Subtext of Business Performance,”. Another 2,800 remain on this order, and there is a good probability that they too will gain wings. Dejected and de-motivated, right? Consequently, it is especially important for managers to minimize daily hassles. This progress principle suggests that managers have more influence than they may realize over employees’ well-being, motivation, and creative output. The Power Of Small Wins: 5 Questions With Teresa Amabile Earlier this week I reviewed a fascinating new book called The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work, by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, two of the foremost authorities on creativity in business. In a dramatic rebuttal to the commonplace claim that high pressure and fear spur achievement, we found that, at least in the realm of knowledge work, people are more creative and productive when their inner work lives are positive—when they feel happy, are intrinsically motivated by the work itself, and have positive perceptions of their colleagues and the organization. All companies must define their culture … Steps forward occurred on 76% of people’s best-mood days. In jobs with much more challenge and room for creativity, like the ones our research participants had, simply “making progress”—getting tasks done—doesn’t guarantee a good inner work life, either. On setback days, participants perceived both their teams and their supervisors as less supportive. Near the end of each workday, use this checklist to review the day and plan your managerial actions for the next day. Create a Way to Notify Everyone in the Company About Wins. What can managers do to ensure that people are motivated, committed, and happy? On a number of dimensions, perceptions suffered when people encountered setbacks. Applaud every day that you extend your no-coffee drink streak. Through exhaustive analysis of diaries kept by knowledge workers, we discovered the progress principle: Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. Progress—even a small step forward—occurs on many of the days people report being in a good mood. As an example, here are a few “small wins” that you should focus on to get ahead in starting your own business: Receiving your first inquiry from a potential customer. For example: saving X amount of money per month (Small Wins) can lead you to buy a house (Big Win) . You don’t see any result until after a year later. And even more importantly, allowing employees the freedom to implement their own ideas at work is one of the most motivating things you can do. Finally, prioritize for action. Small losses or setbacks can have an extremely negative effect on inner work life. Unfortunately, there is a flip side. These big wins are great—but they are relatively rare. How happy workers feel; how motivated they are by an intrinsic interest in the work; how positively they view their organization, their management, their team, their work, and themselves—all these combine either to push them to higher levels of achievement or to drag them down. Diary entries from 238 knowledge workers who were members of creative project teams revealed four primary ways in which managers unwittingly drain work of its meaning. On days when they made progress, our participants reported more positive emotions. Consider the case of Richard, a senior lab technician at a chemical company, who found meaning in helping his new-product development team solve complex technical problems. presentation – no small accomplishment!”, Martine Rothblatt, CEO, United Therapeutics, “Our participants rated you as the speaker with the highest quality and relevance.”, Lana J. Larocque, Alberta Human Resources, MICHAEL KERR Some Examples of Small Wins. Perceptions differed in many ways, too. However, in team meetings over the course of a three-week period, Richard perceived that his team leader was ignoring his suggestions and those of his teammates. When the duo finally had their bona fide breakthrough, and their colleagues found no fault with it, Watson wrote, “My morale skyrocketed, for I suspected that we now had the answer to the riddle.” Watson and Crick were so driven by this success that they practically lived in the lab, trying to complete the work. Don’t Forget to Celebrate Small Wins at Work. No matter how hard you work, there are always more pots to wash and coats to check; only punching the time clock at the end of the day or getting the paycheck at the end of the week yields a sense of accomplishment. Copyright © 2020 Harvard Business School Publishing. Because of their impact on progress, catalysts and inhibitors ultimately affect inner work life. HUMOUR AT WORK Fortunately, to feel meaningful, work doesn’t have to involve putting the first personal computers in the hands of ordinary people, or alleviating poverty, or helping to cure cancer. To become an effective manager, you must learn to set this positive feedback loop in motion. Throughout these episodes, Watson and Crick’s progress—or lack thereof—ruled their reactions. In irritation, he lashed out at his subordinates, demeaning the solid work they had done and disregarding their own frustration with the supplier. Graham was quick to communicate upper management’s views of the project, customers’ opinions and needs, and possible sources of assistance or resistance within and outside the organization. Like setbacks, inhibitors and toxins are rare on days of great inner work life. Resources were uncomfortably tight, and uncertainty loomed over the project’s future—and every team member’s career. We asked about the managerial tools that can affect employees’ motivation and emotions. When managers recognize people for the work they do, it signals that they are important to the organization. We’ve shown how gratifying it is for workers when they are able to chip away at a goal, but recall what we said earlier: The key to motivating performance is supporting progress in meaningful work. Click here for a larger image of the graphic. The action plan for the next day is the most important part of your daily review: What is the one thing you can do to best facilitate progress? Finally, Graham established himself as a resource for team members, rather than a micromanager; he was sure to check in while never seeming to check up on them. Small wins can have a disproportionate amount of power and influence beyond the achievement they represent. On setback days, they were not only less intrinsically motivated but also less extrinsically motivated by recognition. We saw the latter in an internet technology company after user-interface developer Burt had spent weeks designing seamless transitions for non-English-speaking users. Small wins give us the strength to reach further and try to accomplish more. Events on bad days—setbacks and other hindrances—are nearly the mirror image of those on good days. In his diary, he admitted as much: As of Friday, we have spent $28,000 in air freight to send 1,500 $30 spray jet mops to our number two customer. Yet they often evoked outsize positive reactions. Aside from the debt snowball, I can see a number of places where a small-wins strategy could give you the psychological boost needed to get a big goal accomplished. I work in organizational change ... Have small wins and meeting short term goals while on the path to a longer term goal is very motivating. (For more on this research, see our article “Inner Work Life: Understanding the Subtext of Business Performance,” HBR May 2007.) Important clues hide in the stories of world-renowned creators. This is the progress principle made visible: If a person is motivated and happy at the end of the workday, it’s a good bet that he or she made some progress. A growing body of research suggests that the concept of “small wins” in the workplace is one of the key ingredients for successful employee motivation and one of the most effective ways to begin the process of changing your workplace culture. To assess contemporary awareness of the importance of daily work progress, we recently administered a survey to 669 managers of varying levels from dozens of companies around the world. After the excitement of their first attempt to build a DNA model, Watson and Crick noticed some serious flaws. Third, Graham targeted his support according to recent events in the team and the project. PHONE: 1-(403) 609-2640 Company culture is about more than everyone getting along or creating a fun environment to work in. The team that completes a project wins the trophy and gets to keep it until there is another small wins celebration. Plus: book excerpt. Interestingly, very few of our surveyed managers ranked progress first. Each has an opposite: Inhibitors, actions that fail to support or actively hinder work, and toxins, discouraging or undermining events. For example, the Pittsburgh Steelers in the National Football League have won 88 games and lost 27 under their coach Chuck Noll (as of February 4, 1980). First, focus on progress and setbacks and think about specific events (catalysts, nourishers, inhibitors, and toxins) that contributed to them. We spell out how a focus on progress translates into concrete managerial actions and provide a checklist to help make such behaviors habitual. In doing so, he modeled how to respond to crises in the work: not by panicking or pointing fingers but by identifying problems and their causes, and developing a coordinated action plan. When at last he believed that he was again making a substantive contribution to the success of the project, his mood improved dramatically: I felt much better at today’s team meeting. Even though the clarification came during a well-earned vacation day, he immediately got on the phone to relay the good news to the team. Unlike Graham, who gave the NewPoly team a clear strategic goal but respected members’ ideas about how to meet it, micromanagers dictate every move. The vast majority of respondents ranked support for making progress dead last as a motivator and third as an influence on emotion. The Miracle of Small Wins Small wins pay off big. This may save the employer on office space as they don't offer the employee a permanent desk. The mission of the team’s NewPoly project was clear and meaningful enough: develop a safe, biodegradable polymer to replace petrochemicals in cosmetics and, eventually, in a wide range of consumer products. Again, it’s the old saw: actions speak louder than words. Even ordinary, incremental progress can increase people’s engagement in the work and their happiness during the workday. What is the best way to motivate employees to do creative work? We can all achieve small wins in many areas of our lives that can set the tone for big wins over time. They found less positive challenge in the work, felt that they had less freedom in carrying it out, and reported that they had insufficient resources. All similarity to civility is gone, our backs are against the wall, flight is not possible, therefore fight is probable. The key is to learn which actions support progress—such as setting clear goals, providing sufficient time and resources, and offering recognition—and which have the opposite effect. So if you’re a leader, don’t discount the importance of talking up, recognizing and celebrating the small changes and minor victories in your workplace. Inner work life drives performance; in turn, good performance, which depends on consistent progress, enhances inner work life. However, turning an awareness of the importance of inner work life into routine action takes discipline. Early on, we realized that a central driver of creative, productive performance was the quality of a person’s inner work life—the mix of emotions, motivations, and perceptions over the course of a workday. Superficially, checking in and checking up seem quite similar, but micromanagers make four kinds of mistakes. For good and for ill, nourishers and toxins affect inner work life directly and immediately. Social scientists and business experts agree that modest victories can provide major inspiration. Through employee work rules like employee email policy and outside work – strict policy examples, employees can understand the demands of the business. Twenty-six project teams from seven companies participated, comprising 238 individuals. In 1983, Steve Jobs was trying to entice John Sculley to leave a wildly successful career at PepsiCo to become Apple’s new CEO. Consider this diary entry from a programmer in a high-tech company, which was accompanied by very positive self-ratings of her emotions, motivations, and perceptions that day: “I figured out why something was not working correctly. In fact, work motivation has been a subject of long-standing debate. Read a few pages of a book after lunch or dinner. A second implication of the progress principle is that managers needn’t fret about trying to read the psyches of their workers, or manipulate complicated incentive schemes, to ensure that employees are motivated and happy. For the progress principle to operate, the work must be meaningful to the person doing it. What events could evoke positive or negative emotions, motivations, and perceptions? There are predictable triggers that inflate or deflate inner work life, and, even accounting for variation among individuals, they are pretty much the same for everyone. Small wins are the number one reason I’m a prolific writer today. Shockingly often, however, we saw potentially important, challenging work losing its power to inspire. Always break down big goals into concrete outcomes of moderate importance. Nourishers are acts of interpersonal support, such as respect and recognition, encouragement, emotional comfort, and opportunities for affiliation. Each day, he could anticipate what type of intervention—a catalyst or the removal of an inhibitor; a nourisher or some antidote to a toxin—would have the most impact on team members’ inner work lives and progress. Awareness, of course, is the first step. It is discouraging to not be able to hit it after all the time spent and hard work.”. Applying a small wins strategy to your finances. In fact, our study and research by others show that negative events can have a more powerful impact than positive ones. This is why celebrate small victories are important. Saved searches. But to clarify why those actions are so potent, we first describe our research and what the knowledge workers’ diaries revealed about their inner work lives. When we analyzed all 12,000 daily surveys filled out by our participants, we discovered that progress and setbacks influence all three aspects of inner work life. For example, one of the small companies I worked for in the past had a really fun way of notifying the team of small wins. Help them see their own progress. But our diary study reminded us how often they are ignored or forgotten. Examples of Small Wins Small wins have been designed and implemented in a variety of settings. Up seem quite similar, but micromanagers make four kinds of frequent “ best day ” a... Wins which in turn, good performance, which depends on consistent progress, and sadness small every... Them quickly as they do n't offer the employee a permanent desk a subject of long-standing debate, as... 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