An Emotional Paycheck

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- At the end of every two weeks, many count on getting a paycheck. At one time it was a piece of paper; now, it's an online bank statement. More importantly, a paycheck represents a contract with an employer: a fair day's wage for a fair day's work.

Yet in today's world of significant and rapid change, an organization's resiliency is put to the test. People are asked to do more, on a much reduced budget while worrying whether their jobs are safe. Although some succumb to the pressure, others don't. Some weather the storm.

So with increasing budget deficits, layoffs and tough economic times, what can leaders do to build resiliency? Leaders can give people an emotional paycheck, along with the financial one. Leaders can help people cope and strengthen their overall resiliency by encouraging six feelings:

1. My work is important and meaningful. Help people feel what they do matters. Explain their role in the organization and why it's important. Show how they match with the organization's mission and vision. Everyone has a part to play.

2. I am responsible. People want to feel empowered, so make a concerted effort to give them responsibility for meaningful work. Trust them and don't micromanage them. Give them the opportunity to risk and succeed. Tell them what to do, not how to do it.

3. I am recognized for my achievements. Recognition, both formal and informal, costs almost nothing and is worth everything. Besides formal programs, a sincere word of praise or a handwritten note are good ways to recognize people.

4. I have the opportunity for professional growth. If training dollars are tight, look for local classes or consider joining other organizations for mobile team training. Finally, consider holding unit professional growth events to keep morale high.

5. I am valued and appreciated. People want to know their opinions matter and that they are appreciated. So be a good listener and provide feedback at least once a quarter. Everyone appreciates a supervisor taking the time to discuss strengths and opportunities.

6. I have accomplished something. A sense of accomplishment might be the most important feeling to have at the end of the day. If people know they are making a difference, they are much more likely to stay the course and continue the march, even when it's a tough slog.

While many leaders can't control government wage increases or position cuts, they can help people bounce back stronger. Giving people an emotional paycheck helps them handle difficulties more easily and navigate through the rough periods successfully. And best of all, it costs nothing.