With this fall's NFL football season well underway, gridiron fans are as committed as ever to cheering on their favorite teams—and will do so even through rain and snow as the season proceeds. It's the kind of dedication any business leader would like to inspire in their own company, the kind of enthusiasm that can make a business thrive.
So how can you bring some NFL-level fan energy to your office environment?
According to employee motivation experts, one solution is to take a page right out of football fans' playbooks: Learn to lean in to the passion that comes with competition, gather your people together under common goals, and share the spoils of victory with all of your company's departments.
"Human beings are wired to be social," says Steve Sims, employee motivation expert and chief design officer at Badgeville, a gamification technology company. "People like to feel that they're part of something, and the narrative is not only 'How am I doing as a business leader?' but also 'How is my company doing?' and 'How do I further connect to my company?' "
Satisfy that narrative, and you stand to engage your key players in fresh ways. Let's break out two key concepts that contribute to that goal, and focus on the winning strategies that will make your workplace more productive—and more fun—all year round.
Competition Raises the Stakes
You know what drives football fans to a fever pitch? Great rivalries. Of course, business is a more serious undertaking than football, but a bit of gamification can change the playing field for your best performers.
Whether it's challenging an office in one city to beat the sales numbers of an office in another location, or you're encouraging a race to the top between departments when it comes to a tough schedule of reports, competition can breed a sense of excitement—and respect—among participants.
"There are definitely sensitivities you want to acknowledge," Sims says. "Certain team dynamics work better than others. For instance, store-versus-store generally works better than people-in-the-store versus people-in-the-store. Even though it's friendly competition, if someone's winning and someone's losing, you still have to see that other person all the time."
It doesn't have to be a productivity-related goal to provoke the thrill of the match either. For example, Team A and Team B within a single company can be pitted against each other to raise money for a charity.
And, Sims says, "Even if Team B raises $400 and Team A raises $1,000, everybody's a winner because they're all helping the cause."
Tailgate Tactics Strengthen Affiliations
It's not just people at the 50-yard line who are following the game—people outside the stadium are participating as well. In fact, a lot of what they're doing in the parking lot before the kickoff helps define their experience of the sport. Long story short, tailgating is team-building and for most people, it provides a boost to be included in the "tribe."
"People are arbitrarily thrown together, in environments, be it the tailgating scene or the workplace," Sims explains. "And when you're thrown together, you have the chance to form an affiliation."
Business leaders can add positive energy to the office by reinforcing that phenomenon. Creating a social environment that enhances bonds is one way to go about it. "Can you build up camaraderie, goodwill and happiness by doing events outside of work?" Sims asks. "The answer is yes. That's what company picnics have been doing since the beginning of time."
And then, Sims notes, it's also important to reward your workers, to give them the chance to enjoy the victories they've helped your business earn. Think of it as the confetti-and-parade moment after the winning pass.
"People are motivated by feeling smart, feeling successful, feeling social value—status and affiliation," he says, "and they're also motivated by feeling structure within their jobs."
There's a place for rewards as a way to structure and recognize employee growth—and those rewards can include access, status and privileges. The point is, if you introduce motivating ideas from football into your work space, remember that a sense of winning is a big part of why we watch and play.
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