Playing The Game

One of my favorite job functions is to attend women’s biz conferences. Some CEO’s think this is a chore and a bore, but for me, the opportunity to hear great speakers who ‘up’ my game always feels like a blessing. Plus, it’s a happy time being with my peeps of power and influence. The stories, the tears, the laughter and the triumphs we each share tops anything I’d ever find on a soap opera or reality show! 

I’ve always found it odd that most leaders spend more on their cars then they do investing in their own growth vehicle – themselves. So, investing time to hear and learn from the best of the best is a no brainer for me. I choose to drive a Ford F-150 with a very happy heart. 

I recently attended the WPO (Women’s Presidents Organization) conference held in Atlanta this May. The keynote speaker really touched a nerve and has me thinking. Her topic:

“It IS possible to hack our own brain and rewire it for success!” 

As an employer I find great joy in seeing the potential in others, and helping them develop. Many times I’ve secretly wished that I could find a cliff notes version of brain hacks to empower those who have lost their childlike ‘I can be anything’, and their ‘pick yourself up and try again’ versions of themselves. That naivety that makes us fearless and unstoppable, is what we need most to drive innovation and business success.

I was fortunate enough to win a private meeting with this years keynote speaker, Jane McGonigal – a great perk of being a member of Platinum 5, as almost everyone attended. Jane is an American game designer and gaming expert, brain researcher, and author, who advocates the use of mobile and digital technology to channel positive attitudes and collaboration in a real-world context.

I wanted to know how I could make every employee become super-empowered, hopeful individuals at work, and at home. 

Here are my key takeaways from that meeting: 

We all need to learn new things and connect with people around us.

There’s a reason 1.5 billion minutes a day are spent on playing games like Candy Crush, playing the odds at casinos or solving puzzles in coffee shops. People want to connect.

As employers we can stage new learning opportunities each day for employees. One of my most engaged teams (at Dayton Hudson store where I was a leadership trainer) shared or listened to feedback each day in a five-minute morning huddle at a different department each day.

It gave us all a chance to talk and share with customers, who also felt like they connected. That sense of connection is infectious, like an authentic smile, and it spread around the room as customers and employees alike learned about a new deal or a style trend as yet unseen.

We all need to explore.

Exploration is the #1 or #2 reason cited across all demographics for gamers love of gaming.  Males value the competition more, while females value cooperation and collective experiences more (even with the most competitive ones). However, they all feel like they’re ‘playing the game’ when they are exploring new terrain and are faced with new choices that get them to an end goal. The choices are empowering if they’re short ranged with quick feedback.

What surprised me the most, was that women won’t engage unless they feel a 60% chance of success at winning; whereas men need only a 10% chance of winning to play. My thought is that as employers, we need to reason a bit longer with women on how the win will translate into the collective good in order to gain their full engagement. 

We all need constant feedback.

More often, and much quicker. Research shows that we learn faster when feedback is quickly looped and ongoing. In gaming, the happiest brains are making 60 choices per second. As an employer or parent, it’s important to engage in a way that others are continually learning new things they can apply to all areas of their life. This is why people like gaming, it’s an empowering feeling to make personal choices that contribute to team wins. Jane McGonigal says “The opposite of play isn’t work—it’s depression.” Now that’s a sobering thought!

We all need a perceived positive impact in our work to be happy.

What we all need to know and feel is that what we are doing is leading to team success. We like, and want to be held accountable. We want to see the impact of our input and feel appreciated. Studies show that a project- based environment with strength-based coaching creates the best results. Whereas a process based environment, with coaching on an individuals weakness is disempowering and halts all learning. As a manufacturer, much of our work is routine, so I think this is particularity important to see how what we do has a positive impact.

One of the ways we recently engaged in this was to turn our plant into a welcoming oasis for vendors, customers, community, and employees for a celebration of our 10-Year Anniversary. It was a high-ticket item, but when compared to the high cost of turnover, it was a priceless investment. The reality check for every employee on the positive impact they each make was invaluable. They all commented on how good it made them feel to interact and engage with all stakeholders in such a memorable and authentic way. 

So, I came away from the meeting with Jane with invaluable ideas that can be immediately implemented – if we employ each of these things that the human brain requires to become super empowered, hopeful individuals, we’ll create more curious and confident employees who view and maneuver change like a fun empowering game. 

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