The Sunday night feeling

Employee engagement surveys; the temperature check of many businesses. For some, it’s a way to get reassurance that their leadership is having the impact they seek.  For others, it’s a nerve wracking way to find out how their team is feeling. For many, it’s a box-ticking exercise that doesn’t warrant much attention.

But how much do they really tell you? Answers to questions like; Do you feel your development needs are met or are you given the right resources to do your job can really vary depending on the day of the week.

We all have good days when everything seems to be going our way; when we feel seen and appreciated, even if the sun is shining or you have some great plans for the coming weekend!  If the survey lands that day the answers will be very different to a day when you’ve had some challenging feedback on a piece of work, when for whatever reason you’ve not slept enough or if the weather is gloomy and pay day is weeks away.

To find a great measure of success for an internal culture I don’t know why we don’t look to mirror the NPS score – the single question survey asking respondents to rate the likelihood that they would recommend a company, product, or a service to a friend or colleague. 

And for me, that single question should be quite simply “Do you have that Sunday night feeling?”.

Songs of Praise

We all remember those dreary Sunday nights, when the only thing on telly was Songs of Praise; the dreaded feeling that we hadn’t done our homework yet, and knowing we were just hours away from a miserable day, in school uniform, trying to keep our eyes open through physics and geography, with a long stretch of 5 days until another weekend of fun. 

And for many people, it’s natural to carry that feeling with us into adulthood. The doom appearing as Sunday evening draws in; the creeping sense that on Friday you’d left yourself a long list of “I‘ll do that on Monday” things, the overwhelm that you’ll face another day of fire-fighting and locked in a world of too many demands, too much stress and few or far between moments of feeling like you’re actually achieving anything. All this whilst trying to squeeze in some exercise to rid yourself of the weekend’s excesses and battling the need go to bed early with the urge to get sucked into watching MAFS Australia on catch up til 1am. 

For some of my career, this was me. Looking back, it was either when I was working in cultures where I didn’t feel valued or seen (that’s another blog!), or when the workload just outdid the hours in the day. During my years at Eurostar I frequently had to chose between work and sleep and remember on occasion having to ask people in the team to follow me to the loo so I could give them the answer to a question over the cubicle wall. I was THAT time poor. 

That Monday feeling

Reflecting on this as I write, I am so happy to report this hasn’t been the case at all in the last couple of years which is testament to the change in perspective I have had on the back of #slowthefuckdown; to make better choices, surround myself with the right people and be selective about the work we do.  

There were times before that, since I set up the business that the stress had really got to me and the Sunday nights had become a thing. When clients haven’t shared the same values and the relationships have spiralled. 

But now, I can actually say I look forward to Mondays. I know I will be spending time with my lovely team, doing work I enjoy doing, making a real difference and with a mindful approach to my performance in terms of my mental, emotional and physical well-being.

I appreciate there’s a lot of advantage that comes with that. I run my own business so I have chosen my own team, I make a concerted effort to choose my clients and make sure those values match and, within reason, can dictate the hours that I work. And of course the backdrop to that is I am steeped in the privilege that comes with a middle-class background, a grammar school education and all the headstarts that come with being white so I appreciate not everyone is afforded such luxury. 

But as leaders in business, I am adamant that it’s our job to not only make sure we’re carving out a place for ourselves that means we’re excited by the prospect of a Monday morning but even more so, to make sure the culture we’re creating, the values that we embed and the integrity and humility with which we lead means our teams get to feel the same. And if they don’t, we need to change it! To make sure our teams feel motivated by the thought of a Monday not in fear of it. 

The key to motivation 

The way to do this is to make sure the right conditions exist for a motivated team. The key to motivation is the right levels of Control, Connectedness and Confidence, If your team aren’t feeling positive in their roles it’s very likely that they don’t have the right amount of connectedness into either the business itself, the strategy and direction or their manager; or they lack confidence in their role (need development, better feedback, role clarity, the right tools) or control (the right amount of autonomy that suits their style and workload to have the right work:life balance).

If all these elements of their motivation are met, people are most likely to feel positive about their jobs and therefore avoid having that Sunday night feeling. If the opposite is true, its worth spending some time to work out how to change it. We call this slowing the fuck down to work out what matters.

And whether you believe in the benefit of employee engagements survey or not, maybe it’s easier to just get to the point. To ask your team that one single question survey:

Do you have Sunday night dread?