working on saturday morning at 2:00 a.m.? why motivated employees will be there again and again

By in Leadership and Teams
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I recently had the experience of  leading 200 colleagues through a robust three-year company initiative. You know those types of projects and the opportunities they create: growth, market share and new avenues for returns. But managing an organization-wide goal can make you feel like the ringleader of Barnum & Bailey’s circus”¦with all the attendant death-defying leaps, feats of strength, and standing ovations. Alongside the opportunities and high visibility, you and your team are dealing with pressing deadlines, budget constraints, and a teetering work life balance.

I quickly learned that team members are the “secret sauce” that make the difference between success and failure. Just one example: two days before our most critical deadline (after several weeks of 20 hour workdays) at 2:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, we realized we had a problem and would not be ready. We huddled the team members together in a large meeting space. I suggested everyone go home and return the next day after some sleep. After what seemed to be a ten-minute pause, a team member stood up and said “I’m not going home. We’ve come too far. Give me an hour.” This gentleman grabbed a group, went to work, and within an hour we had a work-around to the problem; something no one had envisioned possible just an hour earlier.

What inspired this? What caused nearly 200 team members to keep going? Why were they there at 2:00 a.m. on a Saturday in the first place? They were there and did this because they were emotionally engaged in the success of our project. 

Motivated employees usually understand what needs to be done, and how to do it, but when they have invested their heart, they are able to accomplish the seemingly impossible.

Here are some things I have seen to help improve employee engagement among team members:

  • As a leader, you must be passionate about the project. Passion is contagious, creates energy builds excitement but most importantly, it creates a cause. Without a cause, you will never obtain extraordinary results.
  • Celebrate successes often. Smaller, everyday wins lead to overall project success.  Look for them, ask for them and publically talk about them. These successes become the stories that often become colleagues’ career highlights.
  • Trust your team members. They are closest to the issues and solutions. When they have ideas, implement them quickly and if course corrections are needed, those can be made quickly too. Even if you do not agree, trusting and trying their ideas creates an environment of collaboration and personal growth.
  • Make it fun ”“ Breaks, game days, music, competitions, personal stories, birthday celebrations and treats are what turn groups of people into a team of friends. A little potluck lunch goes a long way in team chemistry. And aren’t project successes more meaningful when shared among good friends?

When motivated employees surround a cause, it becomes personal. When invested on a personal level, delivery becomes emotional and when emotionally engaged, teams can break down any barrier—whether they be obnoxious clowns or ferocious tigers–and succeed.

By david hilton
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Comments (1)
Chris Vyse

I was reading this piece and thinking how great it is at capturing the essence of engaged employees and a high performance team. The “I’m not going home, we’ve come too far and give me an hour” dialogue really captures what it’s all about. The recommendations section is excellent as well. I was wondering who wrote this thing and then I noticed it was David Hilton. Then I thought, no wonder it’s so good, David has so much experience working on these huge projects and getting a team fired up to walk through walls with him! David – thanks for taking time to share this.

November 25, 2011   |   Reply
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