I just finished a book called The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work. I’ve read several books on this topic, and I really like this topic because it gets at the hear of the question “What do I need to do to keep moving forward?” I find that in many of my goals, after some time, I realize I haven’t made much progress.
The authors of this book, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, used their research on this topic to write this excellent book. Their research is rigorous and well documented. I like their attention to detail. They studied several companies over an extended period of time by having the employees send in a daily survey of that day’s happenings, and their thoughts and emotions that went along with the day’s events.
Their findings are both surprising and common sense. Essentially, the way we make progress at work is by small daily wins. We accomplish little goals, often several each day. For example, in one company the authors studied, a software engineer who was working on a difficult bug finally solved it, and this small win both increased her happiness, and also increased her creative approach to other parts of her work.
One of the most remarkable findings in the book was the effect that managers and team leaders have on those under them. The authors identify events and individuals that help employees make progress called catalysts and nourishers; and they also identify events and individuals that prevent progress and cause distress in employees; these are called toxins and inhibitors. Team leaders and co-workers have a huge impact on the work life of other employees, which greatly impacts productivity and creativity. Happy employees are more productive, more creative, and they stay longer. The best team leaders in the study were able to shield their team members from harmful influences outside the team, and were also able to keep them motivated and got them back on track when things weren’t going so well.
So, how does this all apply to the Entrepreneur? Since the authors studied employees in companies, they did not speak directly to entrepreneurs or the self-employed. As I thought about this, I realized two things that apply well to entrepreneurs. First, the daily progress is crucial for entrepreneurs–in fact, maybe more so than employees. As entrepreneurs, we often have to work on something for many months before we see results; knowing that each day we have accomplished some small thing or won a small win is what keeps us going toward that goal. One of the recommendations the authors provide is to start a journal, where you can keep track of your daily wins. I have done so, and I like looking back over the last couple weeks to see that I have made progress.
The second thing I realized is that entrepreneurs might also have team leaders and motivators. I tried to figure out who were my motivators and team leaders. The answer for me is my coaches and mentors. These are the people who are able to keep me motivated, and help me out when I have difficulty, whether it’s a difficult business problem, or a personal situation. As an entrepreneur reading this book, you will be able to see how your mentors and coaches fit the roles of the nourishers and provide the environment where those small wins can keep you motivated and moving forward.