Friday, September 16, 2011

Motivation and Morale: Keys to a Successful News Room

By Christine Larsen

Upon entering the room, with a big smile on her face, Jill Geisler shouts: "Who
went to the ball game last night?" When more than half of the room raised their
hands, she responded: "Great! I'm in a room of people who ate brats and drank
beer last night!"

Geisler, Leadership and Management Group Leader at the Poynter Institute, came
to motivate and teach on the most effective way to get morale up in the news
room. However, it seemed she did more than that while engaging the AP editors
in the audience and helping them reflect on some significant morale-boosting
moments in their own careers.

What's the big deal about Feedback?

"Feedback really is like nutrition," she said. "I think of it as the threshold test.
Every day, we walk through the threshold in the place we work."

She added that people are constantly seeking approval and positive
reinforcement, regardless of how high up the totem pole one is. Although
admitting she cannot put more hours in the day, she said she can help improve
the quality of what is already given.

Feedback Defined: Information with Intent to Influence

"What can we influence?" she asked the room, to responses of: "behavior,"
"performance," and "attitude."

Key intrinsic motivators, according to Geisler, include: competence, autonomy,
sense of purpose, and growth. Confidence and insecurity in attempting
something tend to actually hold people back.

"Confidence as a motivator is one of the reasons why people resist change," she

According to her, most people view feedback as one of two things: praise or

Positive Feedback

Information: Good News or Updates
Don't praise, reinforce. Don't declare victory, acknowledge work. "Say things like
'I see what you're doing..."

Appreciation: "This does not have to be the world's most significant praise," she
said. "This is the word of thanks." We struggle with self-doubt and sometimes
just need a quiet word of encouragement.
Praise: "'Who's awesome? You're awesome.' That is not good enough-- the
question needs to be answered: 'Why?'" Say things like "I loved your story
Effective praise is sincere, specific, and timely.

Celebration: "It doesn't need to be popping champagne corks, just to show
they're doing a good job and it's recognized," she said. "These days, people
should be celebrating big wins and small wins."

Negative Feedback

Information: No News or Bad News

Clarification: "This is a surprise negative," she said. "In the days of email, the
simple act of asking for information can strike someone as a criticism, as
negative feedback."

The first line of every email sent sets the tone for the rest of it; one line can
make a big difference. "The law of proportionality says that a long email of
multiple questions with a one-word answer of "fine" makes recipient question
what that one word's underlying meanings are.

Concern: "By your very tone, people know its going to be a 'concern

Intervention: Advice for Tough Talks:
Go into a difficult conversation knowing your goal. What do you really want to
Know yourself. Are you quick to conflict? Love to debate? What makes you
Start strong
Don't pile on
Focus on behaviors
Expect emotion: yours and theirs
Avoid hyperboles
Listen: Dare to inspire with your feedback.
Stay on track.
Stay calm
End smart.

Want to hear more great tips? Check out:
"What Great Bosses Know"- a free Ipod cast that has had more than 6 million
downloads and Geisler's book: Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know.

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