I’m not sure what’s happening at GoodPractice, but I was struck the other day by the fact that myself and three other men in the office are trying to lose weight and we find ourselves in conversation about diets.  The Dukan Diet is the current favourite and Dr Dukan points to the importance of quickly seeing that your efforts to lose weight are having an impact.

My reason for wanting to lose more than a stone is that I do a lot of mountaineering and, at my age, anything I can do to help my knees is a good thing. Mountaineering also teaches you about the importance of progress. When you are on a steep slope that seems to go on forever, the most important thing is to keep aiming for small goals and taking the next step. Don’t look at the big mountain ahead of you (the size and steepness can seem overwhelming) but rather find the next small goal and get there. If you’ve climbed any sort of hill, you’ll know when you look back down it always seems incredible how far you’ve come.

The Progress Principle
The Progress Principle

The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement and Creativity at Work by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer is an important book that outlines the significance of managers helping their team find the small areas of progress every day and the importance this brings to working life.

It’s based on the diary entries of 12,000 participants in a study and according to the ‘progress principle’ of all the events that can keep people engaged and happy at work, the most important is simply making meaningful progress. The progress doesn’t have to be big; even small levels of progress have a positive effect.

The flip side is, of course, that a perceived lack of progress, or being stalled at work, stymies creativity and innovation, and reduces wellbeing.

Today, with ongoing financial uncertainty and change being a constant, one of the ways a leader can make a really positive difference is to help employees see the progress being made and value the small steps. Achieving major goals and visions (the equivalent of reaching the mountain top) are rare and so helping people achieve small wins every day is vital.

Of course, there will always be problems along the way and Amabile and Krammer suggest three ways to turn setbacks into progress:

  1. Don’t treat setbacks as failures, but rather as challenges and learning opportunities.
  2. Don’t constrain the solution in advance. Be open to learning and changing direction.
  3. Focus on the small achievable wins.

As leaders and managers we need to know what the big goals are, but everyday we also need to help our teams see and feel that the hard slog up the hillside is a small step forward. If we don’t, we miss the most important opportunity we have to inspire and get the best from them.

A small positive win for me today was stepping on the scales and finding I’m the lightest I’ve been for a decade. Much more to do, but another small win and yes, it does feel good.