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183.

Let Employees Make Their Own Choices

Many leaders wrongly believe that they have to control everything that happens in their organization. After all, they are ultimately responsible--to themselves, to their board, to their stockholders and to their stakeholders--for the outcomes. But total control curbs enthusiasm, decreases morale, diminishes independent thought, and ultimately squelches productivity--the exact opposite reaction leaders are looking for.

An effective approach to turning around these negatives is to offer employees choices. When that is done, they usually feel more ownership of what they are doing, they are more interested in the process and product, and they are happier and more motivated.

At first glance, you might fear that anarchy will reign; but it probably won"t. Here"s what you can do: When assigning tasks, instead of assigning a particular task to a particular individual, offer that person a choice between two, three or four activities. The one selected will be the one he or she is most interested in, and the task will probably stimulate and challenge that person to be more productive.

The same process can be used with teams. First, suggest several possible teams for employees to join. Again, their interest will lead to motivation. Then, given the topic and goal for the team, have them devise effective and hopefully creative approaches to addressing the challenge. Rest assured that the ultimate result of the tem effort will be far more creative and powerful than the status quo.

What kinds of choices have you offered your employees?

184.

Create Opportunities for Community Service

Many companies have found that when their employees give back to the community, they are proud of themselves. So it makes perfect sense to encourage employees to get together and volunteer. This will help build teams, camaraderie and pride in your own organization.

185.

Be Sure Job Descriptions Are Accurate

Sometimes the most embarrassing moment for a leader comes when an employee shows up for a performance review, is criticized for not fulfilling a certain task or responsibility, and the employee simply responds "That"s not in my job description."

The job description is a key component of any performance review. It"s the legally binding contract between you and your employee, and it provides clear guidelines for what the employee needs to do and how--or it should. It is not unusual for that contract to either omit certain tasks the employee currently performs or include ones that the employee is unaware of.

As an exercise in honesty, accuracy and effectiveness, you need to perform a regular review of what each employee is supposed to be doing, matching up reality with the job description. This process will also tell you whether or not you have the necessary human capital to effectively carry out your mission.

186.

Make Sure Employees Have What They Need

You can"t drive your car if it has no gas. Musicians can"t play without instruments. And employees can"t perform their jobs effectively if they do not have the correct materials in the correct amounts.

Leaders usually see their employees busily doing their jobs, but what accommodations and adaptations are they making because they do not have what they need to be even more productive?

As a leader concerned with productivity, employee satisfaction and morale, you need to find out. You can conduct a formal survey or simply ask each person about their needs and requirements to fulfill their responsibilities. The results may be a real eye-opener.

187.

Investigate the Compensation System

Everyone wants to be paid as much as possible. But do you know how your compensation system compares with other companies of equal size, product and output? There"s a good chance that some of your employees know the answer--the ones who are thinking of leaving your organization to work with a competitor. The cost of a noncompetitive pay-and-benefits system is very high in several respects. Underpaid employees do not produce at top levels. They tend to be unhappy and undermotivated. And they kill office morale by complaining to other employees, who will then also be concerned about their own pay and benefits.

They want the system to be different but they are unable to effect any change. They spend company time thinking about other jobs, often researching and applying for them on your time.

As costly as it may be to your bottom line, it is well worth your time to make certain that you have created an equitable compensation system for your employees.

188.

Know What It Takes to Be Successful in Your Organization

What are the specific attributes of your organization"s culture and of its employees that lead to success or failure? Many leaders are unable to answer that question. But it must be answered if success is your ultimate goal, however you define success.

Achievement looks very different depending on where you are in the hierarchy. Front-line workers may simply want to do their jobs. Managers may want to ensure that their workers are in fact doing what they are supposed to be doing. And leaders like you may want to ensure that the organization"s revenues exceed its expenses.

Assemble a team of employees up, down and across the hierarchy. Define a goal of identifying which traits, characteristics and factors lead to the accomplishment of the organization"s stated goals, and which ones are obstacles in the way of attaining success. This will take time, so be patient.

Then empower them to identify specific improvements in policies, procedures and norms. This multifaceted team will certainly find sources of success (and failure) that you were not aware of.