I may have mentioned this before, but there was a period when I worked for what was inarguably the worst audit manager in the history of my company. (Trust me, there were a lot of contenders. And lest someone decide to ask pointed questions about my tenure as manager, I will ever-so-quickly move along.)
I worked with him for a couple of years and escaped through promotion. However, his reign of mediocrity continued for a number of years. In fact, I eventually replaced him. (A little career advice. It is always easy to look good when the shoes you fill are nigh-on nonexistent.)
During the period of my absence from the office, I was still in close contact with the staff. I heard story after story after story after story, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, ad absurdum, ad etceterum of the issues and incompetence they faced.
One problem was that the manager spent most of his time shut up in his office. There was little communication, little feedback, and little to make anyone in the department feel they were part of any kind of team. Morale was low. (Surprise, surprise.)
The group came up with what I thought was a genius reaction. And it all came to mind as I was reading the blog post of a longtime friend, Brad Ellgen.
Brad has worn and is wearing a number of hats. But one of his current incarnations is life coach. (Certified no less; there is a certification for that.) In his blog post, he discussed the use of a "what went right" journal — a daily reminder that, in the face of the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune on which we far too often focus, there is also a lot going right. The act of taking the time to remember those moments is something he has suggested for those with whom he is working. And he decided to take his own advice.
(An aside to all the internal auditors. You give out a lot of advice. Ever thought about trying out those pearls of wisdom on your own department? I digress …)
The blog post discusses the adventure and how it worked out for him. (Spoiler: It worked very well.) It is an excellent example of how remembering the things that have gone right can make a difference in all our lives.
So, let's return to that internal audit department, because they found their own way of doing much the same thing.
The department put together a log — an open book placed where all had access. Any time one of them had what they considered a significant achievement — and each person was allowed to determine what he or she thought "significant" meant — that person would write it in the log. It didn't have to be daily; it didn't have to be weekly. Just any time individuals felt something important was accomplished, they would document it. And any time someone wanted to see how the team and/or individual auditors were doing, all that was needed was to go over and read the latest entries.
They were not getting the positive reinforcement every leader should provide, so they found a way to provide self-affirmation, a way to share success with the team, and a way to see how individual auditors and the group were making the organization and the department better.
We all have our own personal needs in this arena. Some may need no more than a nod and an occasional word of "Well done, good and faithful servant." Others (most of us) require more. There is no right and wrong amount of reinforcement, only the amount that is right for each individual. So, the first step is for each of us to understand our personal requirements. And a good next step is to start keeping track of the related achievements. But it then falls on leadership to identify the needs of others and take steps to ensure they are met.
So, two things. One, check out Brad's post and see how it worked for him. And see if, in these times when things are going, shall we put it mildly, roughly, this is a panacea for what ails you.
Two, take a (virtual if necessary) look around your department. If you are in charge, are the auditors on the verge of putting together their very own "What We Did Right" log? If so, step in now before it is too late. If you are not in charge, but recognize the void that needs to be filled, then step up and put something together — a log, a reminder, a meeting, a happy hour — anything that helps the team recognize what it has accomplished and helps bring them together because of those accomplishments. And, even if things seem to be going along swimmingly, it never hurts to take the extra step of ensuring everyone in the department knows they are part of a team, that they help that team succeed, and that they have value to the team.
And one final note. Remember, you don't need a title to be a leader.