How to Turn Defeat into Victory and Create Happier Employees

First posted to Power Retail.

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Success awareness tools play a vital role in employee satisfaction in the online workplace. Gary Ng explains how happiness is gained by simply checking off a list!

Can anything compare to the ego-shattering sting of defeat in the workplace? Losing a big deal, seeing that long and painstaking project fall apart at the last minute, or botching a meeting so badly that Donald Trump can almost be heard snickering from across the Pacific Ocean. Most people can only handle so many big disappointments in their jobs before their enthusiasm dulls and they begin looking around for greener pastures.

While staff retention is a universal concern of CEOs and managers, it strikes an especially keen chord with those of us who operate in the online space. Our ideal staff members are tech-savvy, innovative, and quick to lead change – but they can be just as quick to leave if they feel like their talents are being wasted. So the question becomes: How do you keep your people happy, loyal and enthusiastic, even when an enormous victory has been snatched from them?

By teaching them to focus on their small victories. Let’s face it, most of the time the so-called “big wins” that everyone fixates on are not only rare, they’re often as much a result of dumb luck as smart planning and execution. How does it make sense to let your employees base their self-esteem and job satisfaction on how often they can pull out one of these short-lived moments of glory? Instead, far-sighted leaders must show their followers how to find happiness through the smaller, less glamorous achievements they make on an ongoing basis.

What does it mean to “win”?

In the results-driven world of business, success is usually measured in dollar signs and little else. For example, if an employee reaches 60% of their annual revenue target of $1,000,000, the focus goes almost automatically to the missing 40%. Even in workplaces where additional training and resources might be allocated to help the staff member make it to 100% the following year, few would consider the fact that he’d brought in $600,000 to be a success.

Especially the employee himself – he’ll be left feeling like a failure. All the hours of effort, creativity, and dedicated follow-through to earn that $600,000 don’t mean much when his final total reads “Not Good Enough”. You can almost see his stress go up and his job satisfaction go down as the year ticks by. It’s easy to imagine his performance slipping as the pressure gradually builds from invigoratingly light to paralysingly intense, and his focus changing from doing my job well to getting this job done.

How we experience victory and defeat

The fact is, most of us achieve great victories at work. But there’s a problem: we don’t get to enjoy most of them because they happen slowly, so we fail to realise how far we’ve actually come. Apart from the occasional fluke, wins simply don’t happen in a single stroke of brilliance. They come about because we take small, consistent actions that eventually add up to big results. In other words, success is the result of progress.

So why do we not realise we’re making progress, when in fact we probably are? Because we usually complete one pressing task then move straight on to the next, without setting aside the time to reflect on what we’ve achieved. Unfortunately, anyone who fails to realise they’re making progress is going to feel dejected, and their sapped motivation will drag down the others working alongside them. If your staff are trapped in the “process” mindset instead of the “progress” one, your company is sitting on a timebomb!

The key ingredient for a productive and happy employee, therefore, is awareness of progress. Nine times out of ten, your staff are not going to schedule the time to set and review structured goals for themselves – they’re too busy doing their jobs. So you need to do your job as a leader, which is making sure your people feel like they’re successfully moving toward meaningful outcomes. Otherwise, they won’t be your people for long.

Luckily, there are plenty of simple “success awareness tools” you can implement in your company. One of my personal favourites is the “chunking” technique. I like this technique so much I dedicated myself to establishing it as a part of E-Web Marketing’s culture, and this has yielded excellent results in terms of employee focus, motivation and performance.

Chunking: How to create your own success

Chunking is a psychological concept referring to our human inability to focus on more than five to nine pieces of information within any short period of time – say, the length of an average work day. If we perceive that we have more than nine things demanding our attention, we become overwhelmed and feelings of panic and paralysis start creeping in.

In practice, chunking is simply knowing how to condense everything you need to do into five to nine simple, digestible tasks. This is a great tactic make super-sized, super-complex projects seem less daunting. Not only that, you get to experience success every time you complete a chunk of the project, instead of having to wait and pray that it all comes together in the end.

One of the simplest ways to chunk out your daily priorities is with a To Do List. This method is old and often derided as overly simplistic, but nobody who’s ever kept one can deny the satisfaction that comes with crossing off an item on your To Do List. Most people working at E-Web Marketing have taken up this habit, and when I ask them to look back through their daily diaries, they’re always amazed by how much they really accomplished in the space of only a few weeks.

Make victory a part of your culture

While there’s no denying the exhilaration of those rare, audaciously big wins, as a leader you can’t allow a company mentality where these are the key motivators for your staff. When you condone a workplace culture where progressive improvements and daily diligence is taken for granted, you’re encouraging your staff to stagnate; this will eventually lead them to seek fulfilment elsewhere.

While steady progress and small achievements are not the stuff of headline news, good leaders never make the mistake of letting them go unnoticed and unappreciated. By promoting the value of compounding small achievements into big ones, you are training your employees to experience more happiness, satisfaction and pride in their work. In turn, this will make your employees more effective, and reduce your staff turnover rate.

Put another way: Create success for your people, and they will create success for you.

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