Before spring officially sprung here in Pennsylvania, we had the pleasure of experiencing a few days of early spring. In between the gray, cold and wet days, we had one or two days of beautiful blue skies and warm sunshine. The unexpected spring gave flowers the courage to sprout from earth and begin to show off! Everywhere you looked, there was growth. You could see small sprouts just popping their heads out of the dirt and revealing the very tips of their green leaves, there were more mature bulbs already bursting forth their blooms to reveal bright yellow blooms and grape hyacinths were creating purple patches that looked like royal carpets swaying in the breeze! It was amazing how these beauties just needed a small bit of encouragement to begin the process of growth.
As I admired the scents and beauty all around me, I began to think about growth and comparison. As these flowers began to bloom, there was no comparison, they each just did their own thing. You did not see daffodils stretching their heads further towards the sun as they noticed the growth of the other flowers around them. There was no shrinking back into the earth as a new bud felt the closeness of a bulb that had been blooming for many seasons, and the beauty of the day was enhanced by all the collective growth, not just some here and there.
When we walk into a work environment, we long to see the same beauty that was shown on those unexpected, yet appreciated spring days, with teams contributing their individual talents and strengths to bring overall success to the organization. However, many times what we see is team members comparing themselves to others and assuming that for one person to be successful, another has to be less successful. We can also see individuals observing the growth and success of others rather than focusing on their own, and the result tends to be anxiety and stress to the point where people begin asking themselves questions like, “Does this mean I’m not doing a good job? What do I need to do to show I am more valuable than that person?” These are toxic questions that do nothing to add to the success of the individual, the team or the organization.
What we all should be asking instead is how do we encourage a work environment that does not focus on comparisons and where each person feels like a confident, secure and valued member of the team?
Recognize people for the contribution they are making.
It’s very hard to recognize people too much. As with flowers, just a bit of sunshine and warmth makes a big difference! Make the recognition specific to the work each person does and how it uniquely contributes to the success of the project, team or organization. Behavioral-based recognition allows people to understand what they did that was valuable, as well as what they can do to repeat their success and what changes they might like to consider in future work.
Learn the specific talents of each person on the team and focus work on those talents.
When we give people the opportunity to do work that comes naturally to them, they are good at and they enjoy, the need for comparison is minimized because they can more clearly see the impact of their own efforts.
Invest in each team member.
Not only is recognition important, but continued skill building is also a way to show that you see additional potential in each team member and you want to continue to help them bring their A-game to the team. If I know you are invested in me and my development, I don’t have to look at others to see what I might be missing out on.
Communicate projects and priorities to the entire team, as a team.
Regular team check-ins keep the entire team updated as to what is going on. This team update allows people to hear about the contributions of others, share their current successes and more fully understand how the work of each individual is contributing to the success of the whole.
When people see how their individual work is valuable, and how it contributes to the success of the end product, the need for comparison is gone and each person can bloom where they were planted!
Jeanne Heath is the learning and engagement champion for Vizo Financial Corporate Credit Union. Ms. Heath has spent the bulk of her career conducting training within the financial services industry with a strong focus on technical and change management training during mergers and acquisitions. Jeanne has developed and implemented a dynamic onboarding program which immediately immersed new employees into the company culture of “positively impacting people’s lives” through an atmosphere of high performance, high accountability and high care. She is a certified Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and has earned her Credit Union Development Education (CUDE) designation.