October 2003

From the Director

CIDMIconNewsletter JoAnn Hackos

Dear Friends,

At the 2003 Best Practices conference, our Fish! theme focused on motivating team members to do the best job they could. The four Fish! principles each speak to the ingredients necessary for a positive and innovative business culture: choose your attitude

  • make someone’s day
  • turn work into play
  • be present for your customer

Some of the responsibility for motivation lies with the department managers; some lies with the corporate executives. Department managers, as participants discussed, are responsible for maintaining the lines of communication. They ensure that the concerns of team members are heard, even when the explanations for decisions may be disappointing. Executives are responsible for communicating the organization’s vision and ensuring that the role of each team in achieving that vision is understood.

The responsibility for motivating a team is not solely the responsibility of the leaders. As Fish! authors Lundin, Paul, and Christensen make abundantly clear, each individual is responsible for personal motivation. The first principle, “Choose your attitude,” captures the essence of self-motivation.

People often find it easy to blame everyone else for their negative attitudes toward their work environment. We often hear complaints like these:

“The company doesn’t respect what we do in technical publications.”

“Everyone seems to think we should work extra hours to meet every deadline, but we’re never rewarded for the effort we make.”

“The manager isn’t being fair. She tells us that it’s our responsibility to learn new things.”

Considering how many information developers have been laid off, how many are doing the work once done by two or three times as many former colleagues, and how many tales I hear of outsourcing information development to other countries with less costly workers, it’s easy to have a negative attitude toward the workplace. Despite all the demoralizing problems, going to work every day quickly becomes unbearable if we concentrate on the negatives.

People often ask me how I manage to travel so often. Traveling to give presentations, conduct workshops, meet with CIDM members, and work with clients is an integral part of the consultant’s world. Some months, I’m away for many more days than I’m home. And I sometimes complain about the wear and tear travel causes. Yet, whenever I’m visiting a city, I plan dinners with friends, spend an evening with a new book, work on my writing, or even get more rest. Now-if they would just make the airplanes fly faster.

As managers, consider how you might introduce the principle of “choosing your attitude.” The fictional manager in Fish! is quite blunt. She explains to her team members how others in the organization perceive them. Their department is nicknamed the Toxic Waste Dump as a result of their hostile behaviors toward others in the company. She places the responsibility for change squarely on their shoulders. They can choose to come to work each day as if the workplace were truly toxic, or they can take a more positive personal attitude. She points out that a negative attitude exacts its own toll on a person’s mental and physical health.

Many of the articles in this issue of Best Practices focus on motivation. In them, you’ll find good ideas from managers who have succeeded in building positive work environments, even in these challenging times. Read carefully and take the advice offered. Choose your own attitude as a manager and help your team members find ways to motivate themselves.