I want to speak to editors and newsroom managers now: The most important thing you can do as a manager, right now, today, this instant, is to help team members engage in work that is personally meaningful to them. Say it to yourself until it becomes a mantra.
Monique Valcour is a management professor at EDHEC University in France. She discussed this management truism in an essay last week published by the Harvard Business Review.
Provide the people in your employ with opportunities to engage in meaningful work. Keep saying it.
It’s why I find it pretty easy to hire reporters and photographers. Folks in our field want to contribute to the common good and communicate with the people around them. I can help them with that opportunity. It’s a much more powerful motivator than money. Don’t think so? Consider how many fulfilled people work in nonprofits and how many miserable pro athletes you see on television.
But here’s the trick. After you’ve hired a talented, competent reporter who is intelligent, curious and interested in the people you cover, you have to empower her to engage in work that is personally meaningful to her.
When workplace disharmony gets in the way of our task at one of our newspapers, the root cause is most likely that managers don’t see the forest because they are lost in the trees. They want more production from reporters. They argue over covering weekend shifts or night meetings. They dither over byline counts. They would do well to put ego aside and help their team members engage in work that is personally meaningful to them. …
Say you have a reporter who just isn’t operating on all cylinders. He grouses. He is unproductive. He comes in late. His stories are thoughtless. You can bury him in briefs and crappy assignments and, if you are lucky, he will eventually leave. If that looks like victory to you, I submit you aren’t much of a manager.
Or, you can sit down with the grumbler. Tell him your concerns. Tell him that you want him to succeed and that you care about his development. And ask him what he wants to do. Ask how you can help him engage in work that is personally meaningful.
Good luck. If you have a problem and want to discuss it with me, you know where to reach me.