By VICTOR SL TAN
It has often been said that human resource (HR) is the greatest asset of an organisation. However, the truth is that HR is only an asset if the people working there have a positive attitude towards work.
Too often, organisations have very knowledgeable, well-educated, experienced and skillful people but their attitude is negative.
In my consulting work with organisations, I have found that the attitude of people has a significant impact on their productivity and quality of work.
In fact, the true value of leaders lies in their ability to inculcate a positive attitude in their employees and this can be the organisation’s key competitive edge in the marketplace.
Able and positive workforce
Developing an able workforce is no longer enough. Organisations need to develop a positive workforce that is motivated to achieve.
The great motivator, W. Clement Stone said it better:
“There is little difference in people, but that little difference makes a big difference. The little difference is attitude. The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.”
Leaders can take very specific strategies to get people to develop a positive attitude towards work.
1. Revere work
If leaders want people to have a positive attitude towards work, they need to first respect the work they are assigning others. They must not treat work as if it is a chore to be dumped into someone’s ‘in’ tray and abdicate all responsibilities altogether.
Instead, they must treat work as an important assignment to develop and grow themselves. It must be reflected in their thinking, words and actions when they delegate work to others.
Work provides individuals with the opportunities to understand themselves and others better.
Doing our work well in organisations provides us with an intrinsic sense of fulfillment as well as extrinsic monetary rewards.
2. Make work fun
Subordinates are more likely to look at work positively if leaders help create an environment where the work itself is fun. This means allowing others to come up with new ideas and encouraging people to do things differently.
Work should be treated like a game whereby players use their various talents to achieve the desired results in a fun and enthusiastic manner.
Warren Beatty, a man whose career has run from actor to producer to director and writer, said:
“You’ve achieved success in your field when you don’t know whether what you are doing is work or play.”
The truth is, if we do what is required of us at work, we become slaves, but if we go beyond what is required in a fun manner, we are free.
3. Provide meaning in work
Work should not just be about meeting organisational goals. It should provide meaning to individuals.
Work can help individuals develop their self-confidence; for example, a young sales executive who learns how to make a good presentation and close a sale will develop a new level of confidence.
Likewise, work can help one develop courage and self-belief. Work provides meaning not just from the tasks we do but to the value it adds to others and their lives.
Mother Teresa once said:
“It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.”
In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, first published in 1959, describes his experiences in Nazi concentration camps, where he noticed that those who survived were often those who had a reason to live.
“There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions, as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one’s life.”
He believed that human beings are not driven by power so much as by the need to find meaning in their lives. Leaders should therefore provide people with meaning at work and unleash this powerful positive productive force in the workplace.
4. Make work a talent expression
No one ever achieves great success with talent alone. It is through work that one gets the chance to transform one’s talents into a spectacular outcome.
For example, someone with a great speaking ability will come to no avail unless one utilises it to excel through one’s work. Thus, a litigation lawyer can practise his/her great speaking ability to become an outstanding professional while in court.
Work truly serves as a conduit for each one of us to express our talents and thus, achieve great things. Leaders must therefore encourage people to fully utilise their talents at work.
5. Recognise outstanding work
People will be more positive towards work if it comes across as more desirable rather than obligatory.
Of course, if the work were motivational in itself, one would view work more positively. How then can we make work desirable rather than obligatory?
One effective way is to recognise outstanding work. Admit it or not, humans crave recognition. People become more motivated if they are recognised for their outstanding work.
Leaders can help people view work positively, if they provide the necessary support and recognition to these achievers.
Allow me in closing, to share a poem from my book, The Secret of Change:
Make Work A Play
If you treat work like play,
You don’t work a single day;
It is like a holiday,
It is fun all the way.
If you treat work like clay,
You can mould it your way
In your own forte
To express true joy: Hooray!
Never say, because they underpay,
You are going to delay,
As a way to convey
Your demand for more pay.
With this, you go astray;
Your credibility, you betray,
Jeopardising your mainstay.
There is always a better way.
Instead, enjoy your work everyday,
Like a dancer with his elegant sway.
Taking the workplace as a pathway,
Work wholeheartedly all the way
To give yourself the headway,
And get yourself to “Broadway”.
Make your work, the best play,
Live life joyfully, everyday!