When you’re dealing with your team at work, you can’t do everything on your own. Not only is the workload way too much to think about, not only is it not your responsibility to chase everyone up on their tasks, but most importantly you can be most effective as a recruiter by helping people to help themselves.
Self-discipline is a valuable asset in a team member because it gets things done and it fosters a can-do (and will-do!) attitude that can positively influence the whole team. So how can you work with your employees to help them develop the levels of willpower required for the role? Let’s have a look at a few options.
If you have an employee whose focus has been drifting, who struggles to turn up on time, or keeps missing deadlines – offer them a clean slate. It is not so much the tabula rasa that can strengthen their resolve, but the marking of a new regimen. When you’ve had your little talk with them, say that things are going to change starting Monday morning at 9am – and they are more likely to see their good intentions through.
Of course you don’t have to call it a manifesto, and neither should you oblige your employee to share it with you – but asking them to take ten minutes to make a list of the reasons they want to improve their self-discipline can be a great way to adjust their focus and priorities. This list should be made up of the noble, higher values such as ‘to fulfill my potential’ rather than the ‘because my boss said so’ kind of thing.
A list of healthy intentions is one thing, but fantasizing about success has also been shown to get errant workers back on track. Encourage your employees to visualize the impact that their success will have upon themselves and upon others, and it can help to jolt them out of the smaller picture and imagine something worth striving for.
Good willpower is quite distinct from good intentions because willpower requires action. Help your employees to identify specific choices they can make with their behavior when temptation rises – for example, if they’re frequently late from oversleeping, suggest that next time they reach for the snooze button they should instead switch on the radio.
It’s very difficult to keep to good resolutions when the payoff may be several weeks or months down the line. You can help your employees get into good habits by taking steps to ensure the tasks that they are avoiding are more desirable in themselves. For example if there is a certain weekly task that can be done on a laptop, allow your employee to work at a nearby café while they do so – it will soon become a part of the week to which they look forward.
Nobody wants to be school principal, confiscating unwanted distractions from the desks of your staff. But if you have a team member with a habit of drifting to their iPhone whenever they have the chance, you might want to advise them to leave it in their pocket, desk drawer or locker. Remember, you are helping them to disciplining themselves.
It is easier to concentrate when you are alert and in good health. Sleep deprivation, for example, can impair the functioning of your prefrontal cortex – the part of your brain that deals with self-regulation. If you notice that one of your team is constantly tired, try suggesting that they take steps to get a better night’s sleep – you can help them out with this by changing their work schedule to fit their natural sleep cycle. Also let them know that while what they do on their own time is their own business, excessive alcohol intake could be impairing their performance – and thus inhibiting them from fulfilling their full potential.
No employee works in a vacuum. Try to make self-discipline high on your list of contributing factors while recruiting, and those well-discipline employees you take on should help drag up the standards of those who are more prone to distraction. You can also encourage your staff to look out for each other, and prompt each other when bad habits arise. Nobody has to report anything to the boss, but giving your staff more sense of collective responsibility over the success of your organization can have a real effect.
Self-discipline is most achievable when it is done for oneself, rather than to please others. If you have a team member who is struggling to motivate themselves despite your efforts to help, it’s possible they just aren’t passionate about their job. Have a friendly talk with them to see what’s up, and think about how else they might fit into your organization or how you might make their present role more suitable.
This new checklist from CashNetUSA explores all these ideas and more. Have a run through it when you notice that self-control is dipping among your workforce, and you can help your employees to be the best they can.
About the author: John Cole is a digital nomad and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. A native Englishman, he is always on the move, but can most commonly be spotted in Norway, the UK and the Balkans.