Blue Monday; January 20th 2014, officially the most depressing day of the year. A gloomy combination of poor weather, the arrival of Christmas credit card statements, still a while to pay day, already failing New Year’s resolutions… This is also the time of year when most people feel dissatisfied at work and, if they’re not doing it already, could be thinking about moving on. Imagine, though, if you could head off this negative thinking at the pass. Here’s my antidote to Blue Monday:
Take a glass half full of communication
Each year our research highlights communication as the number one improvement an organisation can make. So therefore it might be as simple as communicating with your people to make sure they remember all the great stuff about working for you.
In a world where information flow is super-fast – at the time of writing almost 300 billion emails are sent daily, the average teen sends 3000+ texts a month and the only constant is change – it’s difficult to get the message across. However it’s not impossible. The trick is to think ‘big picture’ and make messages super clear and in the right ‘language’. It’s interesting how many companies / HR departments / marketers communicate in ways they would relate to rather than putting themselves in the shoes of the recipient.
Look back at the last three major communications sent out to your people – were they really as clear as they needed to be. Was there a high impact ‘why’ at the beginning. Did they really reflect the required level of importance, excitement and impact? Can you recall what the message was? How did you measure whether it landed? If you answered ‘no’ to any of these points then you’ve found your starting point…
Mix in some SMARTER goals
A great antidote to Blue Monday is to designate it as ‘goal setting day’. This switches the focus from negative retrospective to positive forward thinking. Imagine the buzz around an entire company, department or team all setting goals which are aligned, measured and realistic. These need to cascade from the strategic goals of the organisation which must be simple to articulate and understand (see communication above). Keep it big picture – goal setting is about the destination not the journey. The next step will be to work out the ‘how’; though make sure you add in a timescale.
And don’t forget, your goals will be influenced by your values…
Therefore finish with a splash of value alignment
Blue Monday is a great day to review, align or communicate your values. People need to know what their organisations stands for in order to make a meaningful contribution and feel proud, inspired and able to progress.
Very successful organisations understand this and make sure they live and breathe these values every day.
If you’re looking to create a workplace where people want to stay, they can progress, make a contribution and have fun doing it, it will certainly help if they know in advance what you stand for; how you ‘do things around here’. And if you can make this clear, unambiguous, easy to relate to, then that tells everyone something very positive about the way you run your organisation.
This is only half the story though. For your employees to be happy and successful you could help and encourage them to define and understand their own personal values. So Blue Monday could also become ‘Defining Values Day’.
The strength of an organisation where company and individual values are aligned cannot be underestimated. This is not fluffy ‘business-speak’. It’s just common sense – if each party knows what they’re looking for, you’ll be more likely to achieve it.
How to define personal values:
- Take a blank piece of paper
- List everything that’s important to you about work. Do your best to keep going until you reach the end of the page (this might mean thinking of about 25 words). And please do keep at it because, in my experience, at least one of the last five words is usually of fundamental importance.
- If you’re not very disciplined or find it hard to concentrate, ask a friend (or mentor) to help drive your thought process. If you can afford it, pay a coach to help you.
- Now study your list carefully and, assuming you can only have 10 of these important factors, eliminate the rest
- Once you get to ten, eliminate a further five (you’ll still need these later)
- Now put the remaining five in order of priority by importance.
These top five are your core values; the fundamental things you must have at work to remain enthused and able to progress. You’d be surprised how many people know ‘things aren’t quite right’ at work though can’t quite identify why – it’s usually because although on the face of it, things are fine, underneath there is something that’s in conflict with their personal values. An example of this would be if one’s core values include ‘achievement’, it’s not possible to thrive in an environment where people aren’t focused on the goal and constantly fail to get things done. Or if ‘trust and self-reliance’ are core personal values, being micro-managed isn’t going to work.
Values 6-10 are still important though as these are your desired values; they’ll be the ones you’re be prepared to compromise on.
If you only do three things:
- Create your Blue Monday antidote by giving the day a new, more positive, purpose
- Review the way you communicate with your people
- Use value alignment and goals to improve performance