How to get that warm feeling

Editorial Director

Ever a reliable source of nickable ideas, the Harvard Business Review ran a nice article debunking the ‘leader as hero’ myth that stirring words from the top are the thing to inspire employees.

Forget it, staff are cynical about your motives, says author Adam M Grant, a Wharton professor. Instead, outsource inspiration to your customers.

People are more motivated, satisfied, and effective when they work in jobs that have a positive impact on others. So why not get these anonymous ‘others’ in to meet staff?

Facebook, for example, flies in users from around the country to meet its engineers and share how the site has reconnected them to family and friends. Alzheimer’s patients are ‘buddied’ with scientists working to develop treatments for the disease. And a photograph of a patient they had never met inspired radiologists to read X-rays more accurately.

I like his example of a university sales team, employed to cadge funds off alumni, where the staff churn rate can be over 400% (with associated sky-high hiring and training costs). One had a sign up on his wall: “Doing a good job here is like wetting your pants in a dark suit. You get a warm feeling, but no one else notices.”

A 5-minute visit from a student given a life-changing scholarship (paid for by alumni funds raised by these callers) raises morale and boosts productivity by, well whaddya know, 400%.

All US employees of Medtronic, a Redhouse Lane client, have a ‘defining moment’ in which they come face-to-face with a patient whose story deeply touches them - and motivates them in a more sustained way than any boss’s pep talk could hope to achieve.

Have you had yours yet?

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