It is well known by now that work-related stress is a major contributor to loss of productivity. What isn’t so well understood is how leaders within the organization can make simple changes to decrease stress and bring quantifiably better bottom-line results. Even where stress doesn’t appear to be an issue, the bonus is that the same simple changes will produce even better results.

Paula, the Vice-President of a corporation with 1,000 employees, wanted to tackle a number of specific problems, including the high rate of staff turnover, the wastage of materials and other quality control issues, and the relatively poor showing on sales in a highly competitive market. Paula also recognized that the pace of the work and the demands on employees, together with a lack of communication contributed to the stress that people exhibited, resulting in time off for sickness and production errors.

After discussing this with the President and other fellow executives, Paula obtained their agreement to develop a different way of communicating, starting with them. That’s when I was invited to take part. Paula had been on an Emotional Fitness course and knew that some of the processes would be ideal in their organization.

First we defined the desired results that the leadership team wanted to see. They were to improve the staff retention rate by 20%, reduce wastage by 10%, increase sales by 15% and reduce customer complaints to zero over the following twelve months. All of the targets were achieved. Staff retention rates were increased by a phenomenal 85%! What happened to cause these changes?

Based on the book “The 9 Steps to Emotional Fitness”, we selected a combination of three of the steps as being appropriate for the organization - Listening Power, Learning from Experience and Group Dialogue. Starting with the five executive directors and working with the management and supervisory team leaders across the corporation, we developed a system which entailed every employee being asked to note their observations and experiences of anything that was noteworthy in relation to their work during the week. In their teams, consisting of an average of eight people, an employee had an opportunity to present his or her experience. The team leader invited each member to listen, ask questions and then give their own thoughts on possible solutions. By the end of the 45 minute meeting, the individual presenting the issue, plus the rest of the team, would leave with a clear action plan to improve the situation. The following meeting would firstly check on the improvements and then look at another person’s experience. By the end of about two months all members of the team had presented an observation or experience, been listened to and seen the effects of any changes. The team leader took the ideas developed to his or her peer group, so that all key changes were brought to the attention of the executive team within a very short period. Similarly, any ideas from the executive team were transmitted to the supervisory group and their teams within two weeks.

The effects began to be felt. Ideas flowed, where before people only complained. Action was taken at every level, instead of being blocked by middle management tiers. Sales and production staff, usually at each other’s throats, understood the pressures and started to support instead of fight each other. Everyone felt listened to, respected and a part of the corporation instead of apart from it.

When Paula reviewed the results, she reported a 1,000 % return on the corporation’s investment. “But even that doesn’t seem as significant as the new sense of involvement, creativity and vitality of the people in our company,” she said.

There was resistance at first, as with almost any new approach. Cynics included a significant number of managers and supervisors who felt under huge pressure to perform, who had not seen the value of meetings and who had been through too many “fix-it” projects to believe that this was anything more than another burden for them. We overcame the objections by demonstrating the value to them directly, by involving them right from the start and by providing them with the training to carry out the program effectively. Once they saw that the time it took to run the meetings actually saved them much more time in the usual fire-fighting activities that consumed most of their days, the doubting managers fully bought into the process.

Author's Bio: 

Warren Redman is President of the Emotional Fitness Institute and author of fifteen books including the award-winning “The 9 Steps to Emotional Fitness – a tool-kit for life in the 21st century” and “Recipes for Inner Peace”.