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Small Changes, Big Results
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Your computer freezes as you check your email before leaving home. You get a flat tire on the day of a big meeting. We’ve all had days when nothing seems to be working right.
In the grander scheme of things, these little things can add up to a really bad day — especially when you know that some of the misfortune could have been avoided: The Post-it to make an appointment for new tires is sitting next to the phone; the message to upgrade software arrived last week.
It’s easy to gripe about things that go wrong, but have you ever noticed the power of a series of good occurrences? A stranger opens the door for you when your hands are full. Your boss asks for your opinion during a meeting. A colleague stops you in the hall to say your advice last week was helpful. A bad day just got a lot better.
The Japanese term “kaizen” is used often to describe the use of small operational changes to improve efficiency and produce higher quality products and services. Automaker giant Toyota is the master of this. All employees are expected to develop the mindset of improving the wayproducts and services are created and delivered. They are empowered to offer suggestions and act on improvements on a continuous basis. Nordstrom, the retailer, is famous for exceptional customer service using this approach.
The same principle holds for creating a better workplace. It's the small things we do over time that make people feel valued and appreciated. The norm will soon become more good days than bad days.
The bottom line: The way we treat each other matters.
People feel valued when their contributions are acknowledged and appreciated. Some simple, cost-free ways to build a culture of appreciation include:
- Saying “thank you” for going the extra mile
- Seeking views from those who are usually not included
- Sharing honest feedback in a way that shows you understand the person's potential
- Sharing information usually kept behind closed doors (demonstrates trust)
Consistently offer these small gestures in a sincere manner and you will build a new “normal;” a new culture of appreciation. Do it, and others will follow the lead.
Try for yourself. The next time you go food shopping, grab a few extra carts to return to the collection area. Then watch to see if others do the same thing.
Are you willing to practice Japanese philosophy to create a new normal? Help spread consideration and kindness in more places, especially at work. The No. 1 reason people hate their work is inconsiderate bosses. Lost talent costs companies a lot of money. It's a pity such a cheap fix is ignored.
Susan Adams is professor of management and senior director of Bentley’s Center for Women and Business
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