In life, we overwhelmingly add. We like to do ‘more’ rather than ‘less’.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
The other option is to subtract (often overlooked).
There are rewards in less.
Getting to less doesn't mean we're doing less; rather, it's quite the opposite. We do much more thinking when we consider outcomes that involve subtraction because it forces us to think more than we did before when we defaulted to addition-solutions only.
One way to subtract is to stop doing certain things.
Here are 10 things you might want to stop doing to boost your own employee engagement levels:
- Renting your job
- Not feeling responsible for your own engagement
- Not protecting your assets - deliberately
- Always being busy - stop it
- Not living in the moment
- Doing work you hate
- Not being selfish enough
- Not developing your "Soulcial Capital"
- Keeping quiet
- Not being worth your salt
1) Renting your job
Ownership is a choice. Your choice!
Where ownership doesn’t exist, where people feel like renters or transients, more bad things than good things tend to happen.
In the history of the world, no one has ever washed a rented car, or have you?
But when we assume ownership, it is difficult to ask more of us than we ask of ourselves.
Ownership focuses us on long-term thinking over short-term & on strategy over tactics.
Ownership starts with a feeling of control, independence & authority.
Once we feel trusted, valued & empowered we are more likely to show initiative & to take ownership of our work.
That kind of employee engagement translates directly into improved performance & higher retention rates.
So, do you rent or own your job?
This sounds like a basic question. One each one of us might want to have an answer for. It’s kind of fundamental to our relationship with work.
2. Not feeling responsible for your own engagement
Your organization might have a low level of employee engagement.
Your own level of engagement at work might be low.
You might not be at fault, but you ARE responsible!
Engagement comes from giving employees responsibility & holding them accountable.
These are two keys to building a positive productive culture.
Every person in your organization impacts employee engagement - in the quality of relationships they build, their approach to teamwork, their sense of ownership & general attitudes they bring to the workplace.
That kind of includes you too.
Are you familiar with the idea of locus of control?
"Locus of control is an individual’s belief system regarding the causes of his or her experiences & the factors to which that person attributes success or failure. This concept is usually divided into two categories: internal & external. If a person has an internal locus of control, that person attributes success to his or her own efforts & abilities.”
People who felt in control at work have lower levels of stress, work-family conflict & job turnover.
These kinds of gains have less to do with how much control we actually have & more with how much control WE THINK WE HAVE.
The mental construction of our daily activities, more than the activity itself, defines our reality.
Change your mind & take responsibility by choosing your actions.
- You can choose to be committed to the overall mission of your company. You fully understand your role towards that mission.
- You know your purpose. It is meaningful & worthwhile to you.
- You choose to provide constructive feedback on what works & what doesn’t.
- You choose to participate in employee driven improvement processes.
- You choose to share your expertise to enhance collaboration.
- You also proactively make use of training courses provided to improve your competencies.
- You choose to strengthen your workplace relationships.
- You choose to start each day with the conscious intent of doing what you can to get the most out of your day.
Employee engagement is everybody’s business – including yours!
3) Not protecting your assets - deliberately
Time management is important. But so is energy management.
The number of hours available to us in a day may be fixed, but the quantity & quality of energy available to us is not.
Since energy is our most precious resource, the more responsibility we take for the energy we bring into the world, the more empowered & productive we would become; however, the more we blame others or external circumstances, the more negative & compromised our energy would be.
Would you agree that energy (& not time) is the fundamental currency of high performance?
Then, act accordingly.
I’ve learned over the years one of the best ways to approach this is knowing the things you don’t invest your energy on.
This could be avoiding friendships with people who are constantly negative or toxic. Or maybe avoiding clients or workplaces that will suck your energy dry. Or bad habits that make you feel lethargic or stressed.
But you’ll never have enough energy if you don’t invest in your health.
One way of recognizing the importance of energy is to have some quiet, uninterrupted time for yourself; to reflect on & to reorganize your life.
Make time to come to grips with your purpose & think of this - time spent exclusively on yourself - as an investment for abundant energy.
Which activities fill YOU with energy & which drain YOU of energy?
What can YOU control to feel more of the former & less of the latter today?
4) Always being busy – stop it
Here’s a thought: Every time you say you’re busy, you’re actually saying that you can’t prioritize your life.
If you’re busy, you don’t live at all. You just exist.
It implies that you are out of control of your life.
It always strikes me as bizarre that busyness is worn like a badge of honour. Maybe it is, but only to the person wearing it. The rest of us don’t care; we would rather have your attention.
All you have to do is slow down, stop being busy, don’t forget about important things & live a conscious life.
You should be paid for your productivity – not your busyness!
Don’t over-commit yourself.
Never get so busy that you forget to actively design your life.
It’s called human being. Not human doing.
Could it be that your busyness, this being in demand gives your life some meaning?
Might your busyness merely be serving as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness?
5) Not living in the moment
It’s extremely hard to be happy when you spend most of your time hustling or worrying about the past or living in fear of the future.
We are too occupied worrying about the past & dreaming about the future that we let the present slip away, allowing time to rush past unobserved & unseized.
We are – or pretend to be - busy a l l o f t h e t i m e.
‘Doing obsession’ has knit itself into our cultural fabric.
It shouldn’t have taken a global pandemic to snap us out of our hustle tunnel vision, but here we are.
We are in it.
Slowing down might feel uncomfortable right now.
That’s exactly why it’s necessary.
We feel guilty if we’re not working.
That’s exactly why we must live in the moment.
We can’t grind our way out.
That’s exactly why we must pause & tend to our feelings instead of our output.
Living in the moment isn’t simply an absence of productivity; it’s a feeling with its own inherent value. It can lead us to new ideas, even something as simple as remembering to call an old friend.
Or the realization that our time here on earth is short & demands to be lived one conscious moment at a time.
The Slooooow Life Picks Up Speed.
It’s all about taking things slow, enjoying the process, caring about the details, and putting “being present” above the result of finishing the task at hand. One thing is sure: “fast, always” is a recipe for burnout.
Could now be your time to take your life back?
What do you control here?
6) Doing work you hate
Because of the involuntary quiet caused by the COVID-19 cutie, many of us have sensed an opportunity to think a little more deeply about life.
In our go-go-go world, we rarely get the chance to stop & consider the big drivers of our happiness & our sense of purpose.
Now is your chance!
Does your tolerance for drudgery prevent you from quitting on work that’s unrewarding?
Nearly all people who have accomplished something of value did work that was meaningful & enjoyable to them.
No, perhaps not all the time or without effort, but grinding for years at fundamentally unsatisfying work is rarely the recipe for greatness.
A window for innovations has opened wide – and those innovations include you.
To really do work you love, sometimes you need to stop doing work you hate.
What does success look like to you?
7) Not being selfish enough
Being selfish is a good thing.
OUR needs must be taken care of before we can help anyone else around us.
We’re of no service to anyone if we’re tired, stressed, anxious, frustrated, angry, etc. We can’t perform at our best with these emotions in the way.
I might even hurt others when I’m tired, stressed, anxious, or frustrated.
I make good decisions when I’m well-rested & operating with a calm mind.
If we’re the top priority in our life, the only thing that matters is living an optimal life, because we know that is what is best for us.
Prioritizing ourselves & getting results shows others that they can do it too.
May I suggest helping others by helping yourself & being a role model?
Treat yourself as if you are the most important person on the entire planet.
Because you are.
You are undoubtedly the most important human being in your life & you should act accordingly.
Because your potential is directly correlated to how well you know yourself.
Are you your own top priority?
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance” - Oscar Wilde
8) Not developing your ‘Soulcial Capital’
Perhaps understanding the power of collective individuality is one of the keys to driving high-performance teams.
In the workplace, we leave managers we don’t like & leave people we don’t care for.
Rarely do we leave friends & colleagues we genuinely enjoy being around.
Developing those relationships can almost act like a retention strategy for employers.
We are not machines. High-performing individuals do not perform algorithmically day in & day out without emotional connections. We are motivated by connections & relationships.
Oxytocin (“all we need is love & trust”) is our fuel.
We leave parts of ourselves wherever we go, almost like small trademarks in the office & out in the field with customers.
Often a work product has a person's name metaphorically written all over it. We all know those people.
Some people brighten a day & lighten the darkest burdens, others are star performers. They are the ones worth fighting for in the workplace.
They are the employees who increase the collective value of any team.
They are the ones that boost ‘soulcial capital’ at work.
Are you one of them?
9) Keeping quiet
Speak up to make your organization better.
Do you & your colleagues feel equally empowered to voice relevant observations?
A reluctance to speak up & the information withholding that it gives rise to, has the potential to undermine organizational decision-making & error correction. It also damages employee trust & morale.
I encourage my clients to practice “Speaking Up” on their own social communication platform to create a psychologically safe environment where people dare speak up when something is amiss at the front lines.
This requires a favorable context where top management is seen to be wanting to listen, the culture is seen as generally supportive & there is relatively little uncertainty or fear of negative consequences.
Before deciding whether to speak up about a particular issue we all develop a cognitive map of the organization’s communication norms, a map of what one can & cannot say & of what may happen as a result of different forms of communication.
How management communicates & reacts to voices from the frontlines paints this map over time.
Do they reprimand or celebrate people who speak up at your workplace?
How often do we publicly & graciously recognize employees for being a voice of dissent? For asking tough questions? For calling out mistakes? For being flat-out honest in our organizations?
Not too often yet.
Do you speak up anyway?
10) Not being worth your salt
You may have heard someone say that someone or something is “𝙬𝙤𝙧𝙩𝙝 𝙞𝙩𝙨 𝙨𝙖𝙡𝙩."
This common idiom means that someone is worth her cost or has value.
You’re competent & deserve what you’re earning.
You are respected because you do your job well.
The phrase has its roots in ancient Rome. The word salary is derived from the Latin “salarium,” which originally referred to a soldier’s allowance to buy the highly valued salt.
Salt was so expensive during those times that it was often called “white gold.“
Now, what stories are you telling yourself about YOUR salary?
May I offer an alternative view?
You are the CEO of your Me Pte. Ltd.
Over the long term, YOU determine the size of YOUR own sal-ary. It is YOUR investment in YOUR knowledge & skills & the application of YOUR knowledge that determine how much YOU receive.
You have not always worked for your current client (= boss, employer) & you will NOT always work for that client. But you have always worked for your ME Pte. Ltd. since your birth & are being paid in direct proportion to the value of your services.
You make the job. It doesn’t make you.
Whatever the work is, do it well – not for the boss but for yourself.
What does great work look like to you?
“The biggest mistake you can ever make in life is to ever think that you work for anyone else but yourself.” - Earl Nightingale
Bonus – Stop working only for money
Here’s a thought to end this piece: Do you still work for money?
What’s the other option, you might ask.
Let me rephrase my thought: Do you work to finance your CURRENT lifestyle or your FUTURE lifestyle where you only ‘work’ on your own terms?
I realized very early in my career that I am never going to get rich by renting out my time from my 20s to my 60s.
I decided that I want money to work for me.
And money invested works for me 24/7 without any medical & annual leave.
Voila, my net worth is no longer dependent on the hours I work every day.
Wealth is having assets that earn while you sleep.
But - & that is a BIG BUT - this only works once you know what’s enough for you, fix your goalposts – and then don’t move those goalposts (a topic for another piece).