A Review and Outline of The Progress Principle
What’s up? Progress is one of the most powerful ways to ensure employee engagement and enrich the inner worklife of employees. Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer in The Progress Principle stated that 95 percent of leaders fundamentally misunderstood the most important source of motivation ranking it last as a motivator. Facilitating progress, even small wins, is the best way to motivate people day in and day out.
So What? If we neglect to focus on and leverage progress as managers we are failing to use one of the more powerful evidenced based approaches to employee engagement. We will make progress in employee engagement when we help all employees make progress. Here is a section from the Harvard Breakthrough Idea 2010:
The key to motivation turns out to be largely within your control. What’s more, it doesn’t depend on elaborate incentive systems. (In fact, the people in our study rarely mentioned incentives in their diaries.) Managers have powerful influence over events that facilitate or undermine progress. They can provide meaningful goals, resources, and encouragement, and they can protect their people from irrelevant demands. Or they can fail to do so.
This brings us to perhaps the strongest advice we offer from this study: Scrupulously avoid impeding progress by changing goals autocratically, being indecisive, or holding up resources. Negative events generally have a greater effect on people’s emotions, perceptions, and motivation than positive ones, and nothing is more demotivating than a setback—the most prominent type of event on knowledge workers’ worst days.
What? The findings of the progress principle are based and 12,000 daily event diaries. The progress principle states that the single most powerful positive event that influences inner work life is progress in meaningful work and that setbacks in work are the biggest inhibitors. Even small progress can make all the difference between a great day and a terrible one. On days with progress people experienced more interest, enjoyment, challenge and involvement in the work itself.
J.D. Meier in his blog Sources of Insight wrote a short review of the progress principle and outlined seven catalysts that inspire progress:
- Setting clear goals.
- Allowing autonomy.
- Providing resources.
- Giving enough time — but not too much.
- Help with the work.
- Learning from problems and successes.
- Allowing ideas to flow.
- Buy the book
- Read the book
- Make progress
- Work at managing progress
- Keep a daily diary to bring mindfulness and meaning to your daily work
What I think. I have looked forward to this book since their idea was the number one breakthrough idea in the 2010 Harvard Business Review list of breakthrough ideas. It is well-researched, laced with managerial anecdotes, practical applications and focuses on the power of small wins. I appreciate how progress is woven into the fabric of work and managing rather than heaped on as something additional managers and employees need to do to “get engaged.”
A personal change based on the book I have made is to facilitate more of my own progress by recording chunks of productivity and using the principles of gamification to enhance the experience of progress and overall wellbeing.
What else? Sign up for the free webinar with Teresa and myself on Wednesday August 31st at 9:00 AM EDT. To register, click here.
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David Zinger is an expert on employee engagement and founder of the 4200 members global Employee Engagement Network. David believes that progress is a vital behavior for engagement and he is using the principles and practices of gamification to encourage, monitor, and master his own progress for the remainder of 2011. David is applying the principles of honeycomb hive building to create an engagement and wellbeing game to facilitate his progress.