employee engagement in motion: how newton’s laws make you a better manager
By kevin ames
Engagement | January 27, 2012
Recently, I listened to a radio ad that highlighted Sir Isaac Newton’s Three Laws of Motion to make a point about momentum. What struck me as I listened was how closely related the dynamic laws of physics were to employee engagement, and how that drives employee recognition and appreciation.
The First Law of Motion states that “a body at rest tends to remain at rest unless acted on by an external force. And, a body in motion tends to remain in motion, again, unless acted upon by an external force.” In the area of employee management, we have all had people who fit nicely into the first category: “a body at rest”. When at rest, they take little or no action beyond the bare minimum, and seldom, if ever, add value.
Depending on the depth of dissatisfaction and the length of time spent in this state, the “body at rest” becomes larger and heavier, which activates Newton’s Second Law: “The heavier the body at rest, the more force required to set it in motion.” A team member who has been at rest for a long period will require a great deal of effort to re-engage and be set in motion productively.
So, what can you do if you’re a manager with employees “at rest”? Become the external force that makes all the difference. Use employee appreciation to apply these laws of physics and become a “relevant” manager, one that matters to your employees. Begin with a simple note of recognition for the things they do accomplish well. Find some area of recent achievement for which you can write and hand deliver a sincere thank-you note.
Next, set the employee up for success. Make an assignment that can be achieved within a few days. Upon completion, take time to recognize the individual in front of their team or department. As you continue to focus appropriate attention on this individual, you will be surprised at how much movement you can achieve in a short time.
Once the body—the team member—is in motion, once they are engaged, it requires a continued light touch to sustain that motion and maintain positive momentum. Take the time from your day to look at the efforts your employees are giving and take frequent, specific and timely action to recognize and reward their results. By adding the powerful accelerator of recognition to effective goal-setting, communication, trust and accountability and you will activate Newton’s Third Law of Motion, “cause and effect,” and be on your way to supporting the momentum of a highly effective team.