How to build an innovative team?
How to successfully undermine team creativity?
How to uncover employees’ true inner needs and motivate them?
I hope this article can inspire you.
Your AI-powered meeting assistant — Huddles
01-How We Successfully Undermine Team Creativity
In our day-to-day management, how do we manage to undermine team creativity? A manager shared their experience during a night out with fellow mid to senior-level managers from well-known companies.
As they sat in a cozy corner of a small city pub, enjoying the familiarity and camaraderie of their friends, they pondered a common question in such settings: “What situations in management do you fear the most?”
One friend spoke up first, saying, “What do I fear the most? I fear suddenly having no one behind me. No one to rely on anymore.”
What does that feel like?
It’s when you’ve been traveling for days, returning to your hotel late at night, exhausted and ready to freshen up. Then, you receive a message from an employee: “Boss, I’m thinking about resigning, and I’d like to talk to you about it.”
And this employee happens to be someone you highly value.
In that moment, an indescribable weariness washes over you, and it feels like your heart has been stabbed.
Another friend chimed in, his face expressing deep empathy, “We actually treat our employees quite well, providing resources, time, and space, investing in their development, but in return, they are extremely disappointed with the organization.”
The third friend added, “Dealing with the post-95s and post-00s is becoming increasingly challenging.”
The manager listened to their friends and then gently tapped their glass, drawing everyone’s attention.
Different generations have different personalities and management styles, but, the manager continued, “These are not the root causes. The real issue is the negligence of the managers.”
When the employees you value leave one after another, and the “bad attrition rate” keeps rising, where does the problem lie? Ultimately, it’s with the managers.
The manager continued, “Think about it, why would an employee you value suddenly decide to resign? They were doing well on your team, and your evaluation of them was positive. So, why would they choose to leave?”
The friends contemplated this question, realizing that understanding it could lead to significant changes in their management approaches.
The manager went on, “You see, if you ponder this question thoroughly, it might lead to a profound shift in your management style.”
The friends acknowledged the manager’s words, knowing that this was a truth they needed to confront.
That night, they delved into discussions about employee resignations, management failures, and how to improve management approaches. They began to question how, in their daily management, they were successfully undermining team creativity.
What made outstanding employees feel detached from the team, no longer willing to stand side by side with it?
The manager shared a friend’s story: One day, during a weekly company meeting, an unusual topic came up after the meeting ended: “How we successfully undermine organizational vitality.”
This unexpected venting session brought happiness to the employees but made the boss uncomfortable. Why? Because he suddenly realized that many things he had done were wrong.
For instance, the boss loved reading books and exercising, which were his personal preferences. However, he had turned his personal preferences into key performance indicators (KPIs) and imposed them on every employee.
He required each employee to read 100 books every year and write reflective essays of over 500 words after finishing each book. The exercise regimen was even more agonizing for the employees. They had to run 100 kilometers every month and upload their Keep app data.
The company’s core tasks had shifted from meaningful work to satisfying the boss’s preferences, and nobody was genuinely focused on business anymore.
The employees continued to complain. They mentioned another issue: team-building events.
Many competent managers had turned these events into team-destroying activities. After every team-building event, several employees resigned. These events were supposed to enhance team cohesion and employee identification, but they resulted in employees considering leaving the company.
Why? It was because of the managers’ arrogance. They did not truly care about the employees’ feelings and lacked genuine respect for their well-being.
Many managers couldn’t understand why employees didn’t appreciate company-sponsored team-building events. They couldn’t accept it and asked, “Aren’t these events a benefit for the employees? Why aren’t they grateful?”
However, they needed to consider several scenarios to understand the employees’ perspective better:
- Many bosses used team-building events as disguised meetings. They promised a fun trip but ended up discussing work, which was not enjoyable for the employees.
- Team-building events often took place on weekends, replacing employees’ days off. Employees ended up working extra hours to compensate for the lost day off, which was not appreciated.
- Team-building budgets often fell short. Employees refrained from ordering expensive dishes, stuck to specific activities, and were frugal during outings.
- In extreme cases, team-building events required employees to contribute their own money.
The manager shared an interesting principle: “Do team-building during meetings, not meetings during team-building.” By ensuring clear boundaries, they could maintain a balance between fun and work.
The manager also discussed the importance of understanding the different communication styles of various generations in the workforce. They emphasized that using one’s own value system to judge others could lead to misunderstandings and conflicts.
Lastly, the manager stressed the need to prioritize respect for employees’ needs, fostering an atmosphere where employees could freely express themselves, and appreciating their intrinsic value.
In conclusion, undermining team creativity often stemmed from management practices that neglected employees’ feelings, imposed personal preferences, and failed to respect individual differences. Effective management required a balance between work and fun, understanding generational perspectives, and treating employees with genuine respect.
02 – Find the Trigger of the Soul
Knowing how to respect and motivate employees is essential, but how do you go about it?
This requires managers to dig deep into employees’ inner needs.
Otherwise, it’s like planting a pear tree with great effort when the employee actually wants an apple.
Any effort that doesn’t align with someone’s needs is just self-gratification.
A manager shared a tool: the Eight Balance Wheels.
This tool originates from a branch of applied psychology called Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).
Different things need balancing at different stages of life.
When communicating with employees, you can have them select eight areas closely related to their life happiness, such as health, family, love, friendship, career, finances, personal growth, leisure, and so on.
Then, draw a circle and divide it into eight equal parts, each corresponding to one of these areas.
Next, have them rate their current status in these eight areas on a scale of 1 to 10.
The area they most want to improve is their inner drive, also known as the “trigger of the soul,” where motivation factors originate.
However, a low score in a particular area doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the one they most want to change.
Why is that, you might ask?
He gave an example of a recent college graduate who had been sending out resumes for a long time and finally found a job.
At this stage of life, his “love” area was rated only 5.
But this doesn’t mean that love isn’t important to him; it’s just that he had recently graduated, was still uncertain about his future, and his financial stability wasn’t guaranteed yet. So, he didn’t want to start a romantic relationship and potentially burden a girl with his uncertainties. He wanted to focus on his career for now.
Some people might say, “Well, what can the company do about personal matters like dating and finding a partner? The government doesn’t even arrange marriages; how can we expect the company to help employees with their major life decisions?”
Let’s explore a few more examples that might inspire you.
There was once a company where the logistics manager was a single woman. She always buried herself in heavy work and hardly had time or opportunities to make new friends, let alone find a romantic partner.
Even though she performed exceptionally well at work, her single status was a persistent concern.
In the year-end summary meeting, the CEO prepared a special gift for her—a one-year VIP membership to a well-known dating website.
When the CEO presented this gift to her, the logistics manager initially smiled like everyone else, but then her voice choked up, and tears welled up in her eyes. She looked at the CEO with gratitude.
Music began to play.
Upon the host’s invitation, the logistics manager slowly walked onto the stage, soft lights illuminating her face as tears trickled down her cheeks.
One drop. Another drop. Yet another.
Countless people stared at the stage in astonishment at the logistics manager, who was now a vulnerable, ordinary young woman.
She said, “I never expected the boss to notice my single status amidst such a busy work environment, let alone care about it more than I do.”
In that moment, she felt seen.
A good manager doesn’t just focus on an employee’s work performance but also cares about their life and emotional needs.
This story reminds us that companies should not only provide job opportunities but also become an integral part of employees’ lives, addressing their inner needs and helping them with life’s challenges, making them feel valued and respected.
Mr. Ou Dezhang shared another example.
In my team, there was a colleague named Xiaoyong.
He was a simple rural boy who loved his father dearly and wanted to bring honor to him. Despite his rural background, he held his father in high regard.
Therefore, at the end of the year, we decided to give Xiaoyong a special surprise. We turned his photo into a huge poster and sent it to his home in the countryside, with the title “Alibaba’s Best Employee of the Year for the Jinhua Region.”
To our surprise, a few days later, I received a phone call from Xiaoyong’s father. His voice trembled with joy as he thanked us for the gift.
He told me that their home’s walls were covered with certificates and awards Xiaoyong had received from elementary school to high school. However, since Xiaoyong left home for college and later entered the workforce, his father had been less aware of his son’s specific circumstances outside.
Every time he called, his son would say he was doing well, but if things were so good, why didn’t he come home for Chinese New Year?
Whenever he missed his son, he would look at those certificates and gently brush off the dust on them.
Upon receiving that poster, the old man’s heart filled with joy and pride.
He thanked our company for nurturing his son into such an outstanding individual.
He told me that he had already called Xiaoyong, encouraging him to continue working hard and not to disappoint the company’s expectations.
Both of these stories are examples of low investment, high motivation, and they are built on a deep understanding of individual employees.
If you don’t understand your employees, you will never find their motivational triggers.
What is heaven?
When a person is tired, giving them a bed is heaven;
When a person is thirsty, giving them a bottle of water is heaven.
But if you give a thirsty person a piece of dry biscuit instead, it might be precious to you, but for them, it’s a nightmare.
As a manager, truly caring for and understanding your employees’ inner needs is what can truly motivate them.
Otherwise, you might find yourself in a painful situation, wondering why excellent employees continue to leave.
You may need to open your eyes with insight to see the invisible force within the organization.
That force is called “systemic conscience.”
03 – Seeing Challenges, Hearing Grievances, and Acknowledging Facts
What is systemic conscience?
Managers say that in teams and organizations, there is a special force guiding individuals and departments. This force either leads them toward their goals or down the wrong path. This force is called:
Systemic conscience is unrelated to morality; it is an unconscious cognition that forms between individuals.
This unconscious cognition influences the development of individuals and organizations.
When management behaviors align with the direction of systemic cognition, the team tends to achieve balance and harmony.
When management behaviors deviate from the direction of systemic cognition, the team experiences imbalance, conflicts, contradictions, and, if left unchecked, there is even a risk of destruction.
Systemic conscience cannot be seen or touched, but it is everywhere, constantly influencing the company; it is the company’s invisible driving force.
Similar to the natural laws of birth, aging, illness, and death in the natural world, there are also systemic laws within companies. You can think of them as the natural laws of the company.
The theory of systemic conscience was initially proposed by German psychotherapist Bert Hellinger and was originally applied to diagnose family system issues.
Later, another German psychologist, Klaus Horn, extended the application of this theory to the business field.
Horn believed that companies, enterprises, and organizations are also living, spiritual systems.
Just like in family systems, there are hidden systemic rules within organizations.
One crucial rule in the operation of systemic conscience is:
One must acknowledge the facts as they are.
What does this mean?
He provided an example.
There was a company that needed to downsize from 12,000 employees to just 2,000 due to a business restructuring. Maintaining stability and morale among these remaining 2,000 employees became an urgent matter.
When I received this task, I started thinking about what to say to these remaining 2,000 people.
I knew that their emotions were extremely negative, confused, and filled with grievances at that time.
For example, someone who used to be a regional manager was now reduced to a district manager, a significant drop in position that naturally caused discomfort.
At that moment, I remembered this phrase: “One must acknowledge the facts as they are.”
If I only described a sunny future to them, it would sound hollow and powerless.
I had to voice their real feelings at the moment, as only then could I strike a chord with them.
So, I stood in front of them and began my speech: “I want to know how many of you feel deeply wronged in this change? How many of you feel confused and helpless? How many of you are contemplating leaving this team? Or how many of you are already preparing to leave this team?”
Then, I continued: “What truly makes you heroes is your perseverance during the darkest moments. On behalf of the company, regardless of what decisions you make next, I thank you all for your dedication, and I thank you all for being heroes.”
I saw several people nodding at me. I knew what they were thinking: “I had planned to attend this final meeting and then leave, but unexpectedly, when someone voiced our feelings, it felt great. Finally, someone has spoken about our grievances, someone understands our difficulties, and someone resonates with us.”
In an instant, the distance between the manager and them closed significantly.
If no one openly discusses these issues, their confusion and grievances will accumulate and magnify in their hearts, and their hearts will gradually distance themselves from the team until they eventually leave.
Therefore, all members within the system must acknowledge and respect the true nature of things, acknowledge and trust the power of facts; this is the foundation upon which we can take the next steps.
Many company managers subconsciously believe that as adults, there shouldn’t be so much emotional turmoil, so many “whys.”
Crying doesn’t solve problems, right?
However, nobody cries to solve problems.
When excellent employees start leaving the company one after another, there must be some fatal issues at play. These issues, like oxygen, cannot be seen or touched, but they sustain the organization’s life.
A project going awry leaves room for iteration and improvement, as these are visible problems.
However, many things are invisible.
Those invisible things, when they disappear, often have more serious consequences.
Values, culture, atmosphere, and space are all invisible things, but everyone can feel them.
We cannot ignore emotions, we cannot ignore facts.
Managers always firmly believe that only when facts sound like facts, and only when there’s truth, can it touch people’s hearts.
Seeing grievances, understanding difficulties.
Reduce the sense of superiority, the distance from on high.
Increase respect for management, respect for people, more open communication, more patience to spend time.
More humility and reverence for human nature and management.
Some say: The lifelong pursuit of a person is to be seen.
Management is no different.
When employees lose the desire to communicate with organizational managers, it marks the beginning of their departure.
If an organization is facing problems, there are usually multiple reasons behind it. You must approach it from different perspectives to truly understand the root of the problem and discover the inherent relationships within each related part.
At this point, That maneger shared a management tool: The Six Boxes.
What are the Six Boxes?
It was introduced by an American organizational design consultant, Wesbord, and was brought to China by Alibaba in 2010 as an organizational presentation and diagnosis tool.
Internally at Alibaba, they often say: No matter how the organizational structure changes, go through the Six Boxes.
How do you go through them?
You go through them one by one, in the order of the boxes:
- Goals and Mission
- Structure and Organization
- Processes and Relationships
- Rewards and Incentives
- Tools and Support
- Management and Leadership
Most problems within organizations can be traced back to these six boxes.
Problems in the first five boxes ultimately lead to the sixth box:
Management and Leadership.
Constantly reflecting on what kind of management style and what kind of managers are more suitable for the organization is crucial.
Instead of saying, “You do your job well, and I’ll reward you.”
I clearly separate money, and we’re even.
Treating employees as mere tools is like treating them as inanimate objects with no warmth.
Understanding how to invest and nurture, understanding how to harmonize incentives, knowing the path of balance, and knowing how to inspire employees’ goodwill are the qualities of a competent manager.
In other words: Those who only know how to solve problems with money are not true experts.
True experts understand that the problems that can be solved with money are not really problems.
A company with a culture of active listening, a sense of belonging within the team, respect for employees, open communication, opportunities for self-value realization, and room for advancement…
These are all more valuable than money.
What is a sense of belonging?
A sense of belonging is the feeling of “I belong to this team, and I am willing to fight alongside this team.”
Stop turning team building into team destruction.
Seeing challenges, hearing grievances, acknowledging facts, respecting every employee from the depths of your heart, and igniting their goodwill, instead of using ill intentions to speculate about employees, finding their triggers.
May you have a team to stand side by side with, and may you have employees worth relying on.