Within each of us there seems to be a ‘game on’ switch that is hardwired in our DNA. For some of us the switch is more easily flipped than for others. When activated in the workplace, this switch can dramatically increase employee engagement. To throw the switch and drive engagement, leaders must make work a winnable game. This may sound simple, but it is rare because few organizations have mastered the art of making work a truly winnable game. In fact, far too many teams are simply playing not to lose.
To enable you to throw the switch, consider the following 10 ways to make work a winnable game for you and your team:
#1: Identify a worthy but defeat-able opponent.
Playing a game is a costly endeavor. It takes time, energy, and resources. If the opponent is easily beaten, people disengage. They also disengage if the opponent is unbeatable.
#2: Create clear rules to play by.
If the rules of the game are not appropriate for the undertaking, clearly defined, and consistently applied, players will lose interest or, worse, become highly cynical.
#3: Clarify the consequences – winning or losing matters.
People care about a game when the outcome matters. If no consequences for winning or losing exist, players simply won’t care about the game.
#4: Challenge the players.
The best games challenge players to put themselves to the test – unleashing their best knowledge, skills, talents and abilities to win the game.
#5: Strive for a fast pace – or at least an appropriate pace.
To keep players engaged, the scoreboard needs to change often. When a game moves too slowly, players may become disinterested or move to another game. As a result, the original game is abandoned.
#6: Ensure the players interact with each other – the play of others impacts what you do.
The best games involve team member interaction. One player’s move may support, enhance or complement another team member’s actions or may cause a change his or her plan, strategy, or play.
#7: Keep playing to become a better player.
The act of playing the game sharpens a player’s ability to play future games and develops essential decision-making, problem-solving and leadership skills.
#8: Reward successful play.
As the game unfolds, players must be recognized for great play – in much the same way athletes get cheers and video gamers get points. Small, timely rewards encourage people to play longer and harder.
#9: Reflect and Celebrate
Since playing and winning matters, players take tremendous pride from their efforts and results. The person who plays and wins a winnable game speaks positively about the experience and often admits that the time, effort, and resources expended were worth the sacrifice. Celebration brings one winning season to a close and prepares the players for the next.
#10: Make it a Game of Choice.
Games of chance can be fun for a while, but less rewarding than games of choice in the long-term. Many people disengage when they realize the game of chance requires no skill and may not be winnable. Employees prefer games in which they can predict the outcomes of their actions and require them to choose how best to play.
I wish you all the best as you and your team work to win together at what matters most!
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Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.