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Everyone has been abuzz about “quiet quitting” lately. This workplace trend essentially involves doing the bare minimum to meet one’s job requirements. No extra projects. No overtime or answering emails after hours. If it’s not in the job description, it won’t be done.

I have mixed feelings about the trend.

On the one hand, workers should be able to have a healthy work/life balance. With access to emails, chat groups, and texting, it’s easy for a boss to check in after hours and say, “Can you do just one more thing…” If the workplace is in crisis mode, an after-hours check-in could make sense, but aside from that, it is unwarranted and unhealthy. We all need some separation from our work lives and our homes lives (and that barrier has become quite thin lately, with so many people working from home).

However, I can also see quiet quitting going a step too far and turning into apathy. If you’re only willing to do the minimum, you won’t be willing to grow or challenge yourself. You won’t think outside the box, take initiative, challenge yourself, or get creative. In short, you’ll stagnate.

How can leaders push back against quiet quitting?

Leaders are not helpless when it comes to quiet quitting. In fact, they have much more power than they might realize. A person who feels motivated and inspired is not going to want to quit quietly. Someone who feels supported in the workplace, has strong connections with their leader and co-workers, and is engaged in their work is not going to quietly drift into “bare minimum” territory.

Let’s talk about ways leaders can build a team of enthusiastic doers, rather than quiet quitters.

1. Understand the reasons for quiet quitting

Essentially, quiet quitting stems from discontentment. Is your team (or a specific team member) feeling overworked or underappreciated? Are their voices and perspectives stifled in some way? Are they doing work that doesn’t suit their abilities and interests?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, take note! The environment is ripe for quiet quitting.

2. Get to know individuals

Running a team is not just about doling out assignments and making sure work is completed. That is the bare minimum. Effective leaders get to know every individual on their team—their interests, their capabilities, which types of projects energize and excite them, any barriers (including personal struggles) that might be holding them back, etc.

Getting to know your team members takes time and a concerted effort. I suggest meeting regularly with each person one-on-one, asking good questions (e.g. What are your most interesting projects right now? Least interesting? What do you wish you could be doing more of?), and listening closely to their answers. Consider keeping a file on each person to track anything useful that you learn.

3. Work toward a shared vision

When people feel as though they are part of a shared vision, they feel included and energized. Their path is clear (they know the big end goal), and they understand how their work contributes to the vision. This may be an overarching company vision, or it may be a vision you establish as a team. Either way, keep your vision top-of-mind, discuss it often, and make sure everyone understands how they are contributing and pushing the needle. This is true team work.

Effective leaders have no need to fear the quiet quitting trend. If you take the time to truly get to know your team members, make sure they are doing work they love and care about, and work toward a shared vision, you’ll likely have an energized team that is excited about their work and want to contribute. Even if that means stretching themselves past the minimum.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE

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In my experience, there is no better way to support and nurture your work team than through mentoring. And mentoring is not just for new hires or people switching roles within the organization; it’s helpful for anyone who is looking to learn a new skill, change roles, or climb the ladder.

There really is no substitution for working with a mentor.

Mentors can offer:

  • Personalized guidance
  • A roadmap for obtaining a new position
  • Lived experience and real-life lessons
  • A bridge to other resources
  • A chance to expand a person’s network

I’ve written about mentoring benefits in a few past blog posts, but today I want to talk about something slightly different: starting a mentoring cohort.

What is a mentoring cohort?

Companies can approach mentoring cohorts differently, but in essence, they are groups of people who are moving through a mentoring program together. That might sound formal, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Typically, each mentee will be assigned a mentor, who will work with them for a certain period of time (3 months, perhaps, or 6 months).

The mentees might occasionally meet up and offer each other support, as well. This often makes sense if the mentees are new in the organization and could use the same type of support or resources. Typically, the mentors have been with the organization for at least a few years and are well-respected and knowledgeable.

How do you start a mentoring cohort?

First, it’s helpful to identify the mentees’ needs. Are they interested in learning more about the organization, in general? Do they have their sights set on leadership? Are they seeking guidance in a particular area? You might send out a survey to discover what type of help people need most.

After you’ve pinpointed needs (and have drummed up some excitement about the program!), start compiling a list of potential mentors. Do your best to match the mentees’ requirements with the mentors’ experience. Then, send a personal message to each mentor, inviting them to participate in the program.

In your email, don’t forget to mention the reason you’ve chosen this person—their expertise in X, their reputation as a top salesperson, their enthusiasm in collaborating with others. Then, be sure to specify the time commitment. Since many people are busy with their day-to-day responsibilities, it’s best to keep this at a minimum (say, 45 minutes every month or half an hour every two weeks).

Once you’ve paired your people, give some mentoring guidelines (suggested questions to ask, suggested meeting times). Then, take a step back and let the mentoring commence! You may want to check in every once in a while (at the midpoint, perhaps), but this should mostly be hands-off for you.

When the program concludes, take a survey to see how it went AND ask your mentors if they would be willing to stay active in the cohort program. Then, start the whole process over again with your next batch of people.

A mentoring cohort is a great way to connect batches of people with appropriate mentors. If you think several people in your organization could benefit from mentoring, I encourage you to initiate an in-house mentoring cohort. And the bonus? You will also gain recognition as a leader, a doer, and someone who is actively trying to improve company culture. A win all around.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE

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It’s no secret that employee retention is a problem right now. With the Great Resignation (or Great Reshuffle, as some call it), individuals have more leverage than ever before and they are less nervous about quitting when they’re unhappy with their current work situation. That puts pressure on companies—and by extension, company leaders—to recruit and retain top talent.

But there’s no need to panic! There is still a clear correlation between job satisfaction and employee retention. Satisfied workers aren’t going anywhere, despite a tidal wave of resignations. And, fortunately, leaders have the power to influence retention. A recent report by Gallup finds that the number one reason employees leave a job is “due to a bad boss or immediate supervisor.”

So…how can leaders improve? How can they demonstrate respect for and recognition of team members? And, ultimately, how can they retain a talented and motivated team? Increasing pay and benefits may help in the short term, but those incentives only go so far. It’s better to focus on what makes people satisfied in their work.

In my experience, two critical factors pave the way to worker satisfaction: 1) giving people the right work and 2) providing stretch goals. Let’s talk about both.

The first factor involves assigning the “right” work.

I like to think about this factor as “getting the right butts in the right seats.” In other words, different people have different skill sets, talents, and interests. An attentive leader understands where each team member thrives, and attempts to align their people with the appropriate work. If someone loves to dig into the data and run analytics, give that person data-centric tasks. If another person thrives on teamwork and creativity, orient that person to work that involves creative collaboration.

Building an understanding of your team members’ strengths/weaknesses and interests/dislikes takes time. I encourage you to regularly meet with people in one-on-one settings and ask the following questions:

  • Which parts of your job are you liking right now? What’s working?
  • Which parts are not working?
  • What would you like to be doing more often?
  • What would you like to be doing less often or not at all?
  • What does your ideal day look like?
  • What are your personal goals in the company? And what can do to support those goals?

The second factor has to do with stretch goals.

When people are bored, they tend to quit. AND when people are overwhelmed, they also tend to quit. Stretch goals sit in the middle of boredom and overwhelm.

A stretch goal is a challenge you might set in front of an individual or team that stretches their abilities, but is still attainable. It’s a healthy challenge—an opportunity to grow and, perhaps, learn new skills (or tap into underutilized skills). When it comes to stretch goals, keep a few best practices in mind:

  • Use SMART goal setting (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound)
  • Make sure the team/individual is supported with information and resources
  • Define what “success” means (if only part of the goal is achieved, is that still considered a success?)
  • Make sure objectives are clear (and make yourself available to answer questions in case they’re not)
  • Check in regularly about the stretch goal
  • Celebrate your milestones and wins!

By 1) making sure your people are doing work that aligns with their skills and interests and 2) providing regular stretch goals for your team, you will foster a supportive, motivating workplace environment. No one likes to feel like their talents are wasted. Get your team members in the right set of tracks and provide the fuel to inspire them to move forward. As a leader, you have that power.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 

HER NEW EBOOK IS CALLED A QUICK GUIDE TO COURAGE.

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