Make the journey as good as the destination

We all know top-level
executives down to
hourly employees who endure their jobs, thinking that
if they can hang in there long
enough, they can leave with the
carrot for which they have suffered. It could be a retirement
pension, a stay bonus, health
care benefits, a gold watch, a
golden parachute or any combination of the above.

This mindset makes for a miserable journey, and when one
gets to the destination, the payoff
is seldom as fulfilling as imagined. Worse yet are those people
who have muddled through
their entire careers doing jobs
they despise, all the while
dreaming of the “thereafter.”
When the end finally does come,
their life could suddenly turn
into a premature “hereafter,” as
in pushing up daisies.

Think about the wasted
effort and frustration of
waiting to realize a dream,
only to find out in the end
it is really a nightmare. Maybe
this sounds a bit draconian, but
there are too many people who
say they’ll put in their 20, 30 or
40 years and then go do something “worthwhile.” Imagine
the dismal quality of their
lives when their workday
feels like a week and weeks
seem to pass like years. This
makes for disgruntled workers
who inhibit productivity and
pull the good people down with
them.

Create enjoyment in
the workplace

Ask your employees what
their favorite and least favorite
days of the week are, and it’s
almost guaranteed that Friday is
at the top of the list and

Monday is at the bottom. Now that is not
terrible, but if your people
are more concerned about getting through the week than pursuing the challenges with which
they deal every day, your business is suffering or surely will
suffer from inertia.

Management’s job is to make
sure that employees can gain a
sense of enjoyment and satisfaction from doing their job efficiently and effectively. Leadership must set measurable
benchmarks so that everyone
can keep his or her own personal scorecard and recognize his
or her own self-worth. Measurements can be just about anything from reaching a sales goal,
completing a project or solving
customers’ problems in a way
that meets or exceeds their
expectations.

Sometimes, it is the simple
things that count the most. As
an example, in many major call
centers when customer reps
make a sale or solve a caller’s
thorny problem, they walk over
and ring a bell in recognition of
their accomplishment of the
moment. Workplaces such as
this, where performance is continually recognized, can be highly fulfilling. These same techniques can be translated into
any environment. Sometimes
the more outrageous the action,
the more satisfying the recognition. Of course financial rewards
are important and a meaningful
reflection of good performance,
but, as they say, “Man does not
live by bread alone.”

Show appreciation
to get appreciation

Most companies pay “market
rate” for employees in any given
category. So why is it that one
company has terrific employee
satisfaction while others, whose
pay is comparable, have dismal
scores? It is not just about
money. The best organizations
figured out long ago that they
must engage their employees
and make them part of the
process, not just spectators.

Most people don’t get up in
the morning and say, “I’m going
to do a mediocre or bad job
today.” When that happens in
your company, ask yourself if
management is communicating
with employees about the
progress of the business, including the good news as well as the
challenges. Equally important,
has management told employees “thanks” recently and
underscored to them that their
efforts are not only just appreciated but also have enabled the
company to succeed? Find the
hot buttons that invigorate your
people and start pushing them,
not just when you think of it or
feel like it but on a regular and
sustained basis. Also, don’t be
afraid to share periodic setbacks or bad news. This, too,
sends an important signal that
every employee is a part of the
team, and it’s the employees
who define the company.

By doing all of this, don’t be
surprised at 5:00 p.m. on some
Friday afternoon when you
wish your people a good weekend and they respond with sincere enthusiasm, “Look forward to seeing you Monday.”
When this happens, you’ll know
that you’re making the journey
as rewarding as reaching the
destination.

MICHAEL FEUER co-founded OfficeMax in 1988 with a friend and partner. Starting with one store during a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide, with annual
sales approximating $5 billion before selling this retail giant for almost $1.5 billion in 2003 to Boise
Cascade Corp. Feuer immediately launched another start-up, Max-Ventures, a retail/consumer products
venture capital operating and consulting firm headquartered in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. Feuer serves
on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and
building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at [email protected].

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