Silicon Valley is all about metrics, metrics, metrics. The numbers tell us what’s wrong, and then we fix them. That’s why I was surprised to learn that the CEO of one of the Valley’s flagship companies has a different perspective on what’s important to discuss at weekly staff meetings.
While Valley dogma says that meetings must be kept as short as possible and that discussions must focus on hard numbers and data, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner avoids talking about metrics at all when starting off meetings. Before getting down to focused business talk, Weiner actually requires every person in the room to share something that’s soft and mushy, not rigorous and quantifiable. He asks each of his direct reports to share their “wins” — “one personal victory and one professional achievement” — from the past week.
Weiner observed that weekly status meetings are often dour affairs that “devolve into a round robin of complaints.” By beginning his meetings with wins, Weiner had an interesting insight: making people think and talk about accomplishments established a tone of positivity for the meeting and for the company. That set the team up to delve into metrics and discuss them with a positive frame of mind instead of one focused on what’s going wrong.
This unconventional technique actually harnesses a fundamental key to motivation that managers so often get wrong. Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile interviewed over 600 managers and found that 95% of them incorrectly thought that what motivates employees at work is financial incentive or pressure. Rather, after analyzing over 12,000 employee diary entries, Professor Amabile found that the number one motivator for employees was something soft and mushy but absolutely vital. Professor Amabile called it the power of small wins: employees are highly productive and motivated to do their best work when they feel as if they’re making progress every day toward a meaningful goal.
Negativity and setbacks at work happen to be quite effective at robbing that motivation. Not only do they interrupt and detract from the feeling of progress, but they also have a tendency to stay much longer on your mind. It’s no wonder why status meetings can devolve into grumbling sessions.
You can combat that negativity by celebrating your small wins and training yourself to inject more positivity in your day, and as Weiner does, by helping your coworkers to do so. As mushy a practice as talking about personal and professional wins in a meeting can sound, that positivity can have a real impact on productivity and creativity. And that impact will eventually make a difference on those ever-valuable metrics.
Just because something is not quantifiable at the start doesn’t mean it can’t shift your future.