Engaging direct service workers on a limited budget – Part 2
This is the second of three posts on engaging direct service workers without more pay.
In the first post I talked about autonomy. To summarize, giving people more control over things like when, how and even with whom, they do the work; you can take engagement to new levels. Engagement equals better outcomes for the people we support and lower staff turnover in our organizations.
This post is about mastery. The feeling we all crave that we are good at something, getting better at something or, at the very least, doing something that feels good.
Thinking about mastery takes me back to a very frustrating house manager interview. In the post, how a house manager trashed morale in the workplace, I explained how a new house manager gave her staff very little flexibility. She went on the assumption that everyone had the same skills and talents.
Contrast that with the many interviews of great house managers that I have done where the constant is taking the time to know staff, understand what they enjoy doing, or want to get better at and getting them doing more of that. If they like spreadsheets, computers or admin work, we all have lots of that we can move their way. If they truly enjoy taking supported individuals on outings, we can plan more of those on their shifts and move other stuff (like the painting or yard work project) to shifts with staff that are more “home bodies”. If they like to be acknowledged for their skills and enjoy talking in front of others, we can assign them to run part of a staff training session normally done by a more senior manager, who may be sick of doing it anyway. The point here is to get our staff doing things they want to get better at or at the very least feel really good while doing.
The great manager’s opportunity to use mastery to improve engagement does not end with just figuring out the unique things about our staff and moving them in these directions. Just as important is providing feedback on how they are doing. On the path to mastery we want to feel like we are getting better at something and that takes coaching and encouragement. This is the hard work. For me shaking things up like I describe above is fun. Observing how people do in these flexible and fluid roles and providing them meaningful guidance on how to get even better is a bit harder, but then trying to get better at anything is hard work and that is the whole point with mastery. People will do hard work and exceed your expectations, if you make sure it is the right kind of work for them and help them see themselves improving.
If you have a great example where you have helped someone on the path to mastery, pass it on. The first person who sends me a great example will receive a free copy of DRiVE by Daniel Pink, a great book on just this subject. Email me or post a comment and I will send you the book!
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