My friend has three nephews—4, 8 and 13 years old. One Sunday morning, he watched their mother try everything in her power to get them to cooperate for a church video. The boys were ungovernable.
Later that day, my friend watched those same boys play Fortnite, the video game. He was struck by their focus and synchronization. They coordinated their moves, supported one another, and got things done.
The very same boys, on the very same day, in the very same clothes, go from ungovernable to disciplined. What changed? The video game was their choice. The church video was not.
I am similar to these boys. When I’m commanded to do something, my energy downshifts. I resist and withdraw. When I’m allowed to choose my path, I’m engaged and appreciative.
I watch great managers at Lessonly create video game energy on their teams wherever they can. Our annual and quarterly goals primarily come from the structure of our business. They aren’t chosen. So our managers offer choice in the work itself. They give their teammates ownership over how they pursue these goals. And it makes all the difference. People appreciate the sense of control and responsibility that comes with charting their own path to a goal. And they’re more likely to own their successes and failures along the way.
A different friend, Jeff Toister, does a lot of consulting with customer service teams. He asks agents to share their biggest obstacles and dream up potential solutions. Agents are free to experiment with any idea, so long as it fits within existing policies and resources. This exercise brings momentum to the team by encouraging creativity and autonomy. And many of the agents’ experiments work better than their supervisors’ scripts. This is Jeff bringing video game energy to situations that might otherwise feel like a church video.
We are at our best when the wind is at our backs. Choice and ownership are natural tailwinds. Let’s offer them where we can.
This is Max’s note—an every-so-often message from Lessonly’s CEO about learning, leadership, and Better Work. Sign up below to subscribe via email. No spam, we promise!