Junk Pile Management: How Leaders Can Engage Employees

Junk pile Management

We’re going to ask you to ‘fix’ something in your work environment in this blogcast. It will require your getting all of your folks involved, at all levels. It’s the kind of workplace improvement that’ll reap incredible rewards:

  • improve morale,
  • increase productivity,
  • enhance team relationships,
  • heighten optimism,
  • strengthen employee engagement; and
  • elevate employees’ trust in management.

We’re serious! It’ll do all of that.

Here’s how this ‘fix it’ works.

1. Write the following statement boldly on a piece of chart paper and post it front and center:

The most demeaning, annoying, time-consuming, unnecessary, or humiliating company-imposed rules, business norms, protocols, assumptions, or beliefs that get in the way of me doing my job in the best way I can are …

Then surround this centerpiece statement with individual charts, each containing a different category. For example,  annoying company-imposed rules;  non-productive business norms; useless protocols; time-consuming practices; unempowering regulations; … (you get the picture). Use terminology that fits your group’s work, your business jargon, and everyone’s level of understanding.

PostItNotes-Colors2. Call your people together in groups – each group with the same work responsibilities. Distribute packs of Post-It notes to everyone. Let everyone know that you are there to find out what is getting in the way — and there are no holds barred!

Have the group spend the next 10-15 minutes conducting a no-nonsense self-assessment by listing as many of those demeaning and humiliating annoyances as they can — one per Post-It note.

At the end of the time you have allotted, ask each group member to affix their Post-It Notes on the chart paper, under the appropriate heading. The collection of demeaning and humiliating annoyances is your organization’s ‘junk pile.’

Congratulate everyone for their honesty and commitment to the process. The next step is to review what people have written, and combine similar statements, to identify the biggest offenders in the junk pile list.

QuesMark3. If possible, allow the ‘junk pile’ to simmer over night. The next day, after a second cup of coffee or tea, bring the group back to their junk pile, and talk together about each issue identified, using the following questions:

  • What is it about this issue that makes it so annoying, irritating, or frustrating?
  • What is it about these annoyances that has kept us attached to them for so long?
  • How do they interfere with our professional growth, personal happiness, and team expression?
  • How have they blocked our success?
  • Why have we allowed ourselves to be held hostage by them?
  • What is the purpose of this issue? Can we eliminate it? If not, how can we transform it to be more efficient and effective for you?

Then as an entire group, reach agreements on what actions can be taken immediately, and which items need additional study. Commit to a schedule to get back to folks with a progress report.

Continue to downsize the junk pile until you have eliminated or revised all of the annoyances. (Yes, this is quite a process. So, we invite you to get your groups started as soon as possible. The question is: how soon do you want to improve morale, increase productivity, enhance team relationships, heighten optimism, strengthen employee engagement, and elevate employees’ trust in management)?

Free-mountaintopYour company’s metrics, morale, productivity, and customer satisfaction will rise exponentially every time you eliminate an annoyance. Each annoyance represents a layer of crust that negatively affects your bottom line. Each time you lift a layer you will inch your way a little closer to aligning your work with your mission. The better you get at ‘junk pile’ management, the clearer your path will be toward obtaining the position you want in the marketplace.


(Adapted from The Manger’s Short Course to a Long Career, by Bil & Cher Holton.)

About Cher & Bil Holton

Since 1984, Cher & Bil Holton have been co-owners of The Holton Consulting Group, Inc., helping corporate and association clients enhance bottom-line results using cutting edge employee engagement. Their keynote speeches, turbo-training, and coaching sessions are practical, grounded in research, and lots of fun to boot! They are prolific authors, and take "Indiana Jones" vacations to continually stretch their limits!
This entry was posted in Leadership, Positive Psychology, Productivity, The Extraordinary You, Work & Life Enrichment and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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