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Get the very best from your staff in less than 60 seconds


Sep 29, 2021

By Sid Madge, Meee

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. If not exactly inventing new ways of working, Covid certainly necessitated business to embrace them – very rapidly. Many of us have since fathomed out how to work from home productively and online meetings are the new normal. Even when the pandemic is over, it’s unlikely that our working life will ever go back to the way it was. Business travel will no doubt resume but it’s unlikely that anyone will think it’s a good use of time or money to travel for a day to attend an hour-long meeting. Perhaps the silver lining to all this will be more flexibility in the way we work and where we do that work.

Whatever the outcome every business still faces these new issues alongside the perennials: retention, recruitment, resilience and performance. Perhaps it’s time to overhaul our approach to Learning & Development while we are at it. According to Gallup, 85% of the global workforce is disengaged, and it is estimated that the cost of a disengaged employee could be 34% of their annual salary. Clearly that’s not sustainable inside a post-pandemic recovery.

I’m a great believer in learning how to create micro-moments, rather than having people attend endless courses and interventions. When we foster the ability to actively take charge of our situation and emotions in the moment, we can bring more empowerment and enablement to the workplace and help people create positive momentum for themselves and their teams. Each micro-moment intervention is designed to be actionable in a minute and I’ve written three books on these micro-moments for life, work and family.

In every strong relationship it’s not the grand gestures that win the day, it’s the little things. The same is true in business. If you want to retain the best staff, focus on the micro-moments.

Here are five simple ways to get the very best from your staff in just a minute a day.

  1. Encourage Alignment of Purpose and Values

Corporate mission statements and annual reports are chock full of discussion on corporate mission and values but encouraging employees to understand their own purpose and values is an untapped gold mine. When we feel our purpose and that of our employer are aligned, then we tap into higher levels of motivation and discretionary effort. When we can see the synergy of how our personal values align with the values of the company we work for, there is more connection and enthusiasm in the workforce and engagement goes up.

This also helps with recruitment, resilience and performance. If you recruit for aligned values then retention is less of an issue. Employees are much more resilient in navigating the inevitable ups and downs of work life because they see the bigger values-based picture. They are better able to recognise the importance of their work in the corporate context because that work also fits for them in a wider personal context of what is important to them. Performance improvement is a happy by-product of greater alignment of purpose and values.

Take a few minutes to do the Meee Values exercise (https://www.meeevalues.com/) and consider how your current role allows you to live those values on a daily basis. If you discover that one of your values is kindness, where are you demonstrating kindness in your role, when does your organisations demonstrate kindness? Join the dots for greater personal alignment and connection to your work and company.

  1. Say Thank You (And Sorry)

I get it, we are all busy. There is a mountain of stuff to get through, but a heartfelt thank you can go a very long way in building relationships, trust and motivation. Specific appreciation is always more powerful than generic praise because it proves that you are paying attention. When someone goes the extra mile – acknowledge it and make sure your people know you are grateful for their effort.  This intervention usually doesn’t even take a minute!

It’s worth noting that a very close second in terms of quick interventions that matter is a heartfelt sorry when one is needed. Never shy away from an apology, especially when you know you were in the wrong. Showing humility and honesty also helps to build trust.

  1. Take Responsibility: Give Praise.

If you are the boss, the buck stops with you. Take responsibility and don’t apportion blame – even if it’s warranted. Certainly, never pull people up for any performance issue in front of others. Those conversations need to be one-on-one. Acknowledge the shortfall and work as a team to put it right. No finger pointing.

Conversely, when things go right, don’t take the glory. Make sure those involved are thanked and do that publicly as well as one-on-one. Again, these are quick actions but they bond the team and build trust.

  1. First Things First

Work with your team so everyone knows what you are striving for and who will benefit. This will increase motivation all round. Empower each person to focus on their most important work first and make sure they have the access, responsibility and resources to make it happen. Encourage everyone to do first things first and only move on to the next priority when they have finished that first thing or have progressed it as far as possible at that time.

Productivity always takes a nosedive when employees are unclear of their role, their priorities or the scope of their decision-making powers. Taking a few minutes each day to help clarify that can make a huge difference to productivity and efficiency. Even better, encourage your team to create focused time when they can be free of distractions (for example, turn off the email), which helps us get into a flow and achieve more.

  1. Foster the Beginner’s Mind

Shoshin is the concept of the ‘beginner’s mind’ practiced in Zen Buddhism which refers to an attitude of openness, anticipation and lack of assumptions and preconceptions when learning a new subject – even when that learning is at an advanced level. Encourage your people to adopt this mindset. Perfection is not required: effort and openness are far more important. Purposefully take some of the pressure off, especially if you are asking your people to learn something new or use a new system. Aim for curiosity and engagement and give some leeway in the spirit of experimentation.

When learning something new make sure that everyone has the opportunity to demonstrate the new skill without judgement. Adults learn by doing not talking about doing. But make it is fun: have prizes for the worst initial effort or the most insightful learning. Mastery is not the initial aim – engagement and just trying something with an open mind is the initial aim.

So, what do these five actions look like in practice? We recently worked with Fortnum and Mason, which has a simple and wonderful purpose: to make joy. Delivering extraordinary food, exceptional service and unforgettable experiences takes passion, amazing ideas and talented people. But, when the global pandemic hit, Fortnum’s was forced to make rapid changes.

We worked in partnership to customise our ‘Be the Best You’ programme to support their staff through challenging times and maintain strong team connections. Using online exercises and interactive virtual workshops employees were helped to understand their own values and connect them to Fortnum’s values.

Alexandra Buxton, Fortnum’s Culture and Talent Director was thrilled with the results:

Sid, Joss and the Meee team have been an immense asset to our work in the last few months. We wanted our people to feel we were investing in and supporting them as best we could at a very challenging time. Colleagues at all levels—from our customer-facing colleagues to our back of house teams and our Executive Team members—have had an extraordinary experience on the programme and been raving about what it has done for them personally. Collectively, the programme is helping us bring our values to life and reinforce our culture, while connecting our people and boosting their resilience.

By taking just a few minutes a day and following the suggestions above you can ensure your teams enjoy the work they do and feel valued and appreciated for it. Enjoyment, which comes from aligned values, appreciation, and support are the keys to retaining the best people and it doesn’t have to take a lot – it’s the small micro moments that make the biggest difference.


Sid Madge is the founder of Meee which draws on the best creativity and thinking from the worlds of psychology, neuroscience, branding, education and sociology, to help people achieve extraordinary lives. To date, Meee has transformed the lives of over 20,000 people, from leaders of SMEs to PLCs, to parents, teachers, students, carers, the unemployed and prison inmates.

Sid Madge is also author of the ‘Meee in a Minute’ series of books, which each offer 60 ways to change your life, work or family life in 60 seconds.

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