At a recent Inner Circle Meeting, a member brought up the problem that two key employees seem to be having an on-going morale problem. We chewed on this for quite a while. Lots of good little tips for the short term management of the situation, but nothing quite satisfying.

Then another member dropped this line on us: “Significance and acceptance are the drivers of morale.”

This really caught everyone’s attention. We talked about morale from a more macro level from this point on.

People who feel significant and accepted have good morale and generally good attitudes.

Significance. Can your people see that their work somehow makes a difference to the company? If not you need to show them how it contributes, or else it becomes just a job. They will figure out how to contribute elsewhere if you don’t

Acceptance. This one is bit more difficult. If they feel condescension they don’t feel acceptance and again it becomes a job. Find ways to “accept” them or make them feel constantly “welcome” to your team. Engage their ideas and thoughts. Highlight their contributions.

After thinking about this some more since last week’s meeting, I would like to add one more item. Direction. Having a sense that the organization is collectively headed somewhere makes a huge difference. The feeling of treading water is not a good one. Set a direction, show them how they can significantly make an impact on that direction, and accept their ideas and contributions.

It won’t work with everyone, but will head off most morale problems. It’s called Leading.

And it was a whole lot better of a solution that team building exercises.