Monday, April 30, 2012

McKinsey on the Manager's Contribution to Meaningful Work

Here's a link to an article in the McKinsey Quarterly (free once you register) titled "How Leaders Kill Meaning at Work" by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer. It's worth reading, because it addresses the signals that leaders send, often unintentionally, in day-to-day management. The article builds on work the authors report in their book "The Progress Principle," in which they report, among other findings, that
Of all the events that can deeply engage people in their jobs, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.
Even incremental steps forward--small wins--boost what we call 'inner work life' . . .
So what does this have to do with leadership? The authors found that bosses at all levels often undermine the feeling of success by
dismissing the importance of subordinates’ work or ideas, destroying a sense of ownership by switching people off project teams before work is finalized, shifting goals so frequently that people despair that their work will ever see the light of day, and neglecting to keep subordinates up to date on changing priorities . . .
They identify and describe several traps, such as sending signals that mediocrity is valued or that there is not strategic focus. And they offer some very useful suggestions that management can keep in mind, including remembering the perspective of the line worker. Though the examples are all from for-profit businesses, they easily translate to not-for-profit and government as well.

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