Meaningful Progress: The Fundamental Management Principle

October 28, 2011

The most effective way to affect the inner work life of those around you is to help them make daily progress in meaningful work. In their book “The Progress Principle,” Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer go so far as to say “any manager’s job description should start with facilitating subordinates’ daily progress.” (p. 89). They believe this progress principle should become a fundamental management principle, and I agree.

The authors strongly emphasize that your efforts to support the progress of folks around you should focus more on avoiding the negative than accentuating the positive. Your influence is most effective when it is used to eliminate obstacles rather than create supports, because “small losses can overwhelm small wins” (p. 92). Bad leaders and the damage they cause have more impact than help of good leaders.

The power of setbacks to diminish happiness is more than twice as strong as the power of progress to boost happiness. The power of setbacks to increase frustration is more than three times as strong as the power of progress to decrease frustration. (p. 92).

Leaders also need to be aware of how they rob meaning from peoples’ work. In their research, Amabile and Kramer identified four actions that managers should avoid because they negate the value of work (p. 96):

1.     Dismiss someone’s ideas

2.     Make employees doubt the work they do is important

3.     Assign people to work for which they are overqualified

4.     Keep people from assuming full ownership of their work

In addition to meaningful progress, positive inner work life is also influenced by what Amabile and Kramer call catalyst factors (events supporting the work) and nourishments factors (events supporting the person). I’ll discuss catalysts and nourishment factors in future posts, so stay tuned!

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

Related Posts:

Meaningful Work: The Role Of Servant Leadership

Leadership Integrity, Value Congruence, And Employee Engagement

Leading Potential

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Comments (2)

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  1. Another excellent article Brent. The mix of performance and human relationships is at the heart of the sustainable 21st century business, the social business.

    Amabile & Kramer offer remarkable value in that rare mix of the big picture and real tools.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Glad you like the book and review, Clemens. thanks! Bret