What Candyland Can Teach You About Leadership

Do you remember Candyland? You know, the board game with the colorful slides and lollipops. Many of us played it as kids…but have you ever played it as an adult with a toddler? Typically, they start the game off really strong, making sure they are counting the colors on the cards, paying attention to where they are at on the board, and working really hard on not cheating.

But as time goes by during the game, they start to get antsy. Watching TV, jumping over the board, going out of turn, and most certainly…cheating. They start looking for something better, something with more excitement. Because now the game isn’t “new” like it was in the beginning; it’s just doing the same thing over and over – drawing a card and moving your game piece around the board.

Something similar happens at your job. When you first start a new job, you probably come in ready to rock. You pay close attention to what you are doing. You make sure you are following directions. You challenge yourself to stay focused on the task at hand. You’re learning. You’re growing. And you’re making a difference.

However, as time goes on, you find yourself getting bored; and then you start losing your sense of purpose. You start doing the same things over and over, without seeing how it affects the overall goals of the company. Similar to how you lose excitement in Candyland, each time you draw a boring card, your excitement and your motivation at work starts to decrease as well.

If this happens to you, odds are it’s happening to others, even those you lead. And we know that to keep employees engaged, the work environment has to be both fulfilling and energizing. And while motivation can come in many forms, the ultimate reward for working must come from the work itself. As a leader, you should be finding ways to motivate your team.

It’s important for people to perform meaningful, purposeful work that reflects their core values and provides an opportunity for them to make a tangible difference. You can read about many different theories regarding what makes a motivating work environment, but the most common theories usually contain these elements:

  • Purpose and meaning
  • Independence and control
  • Understanding
  • Recognition and reward
  • Resources to accomplish the job
  • Opportunities for growth

So here’s our challenge for you. Get out your notebook. Review each of these elements. Write down what motivational needs you believe are being met for your team members. And then work to pinpoint the areas where you might be falling short. Some questions to ask:

  1. Do each of your team members know their purpose at work and how their work contributes to the overall goals of the organization?
  2. Are your employees looking for opportunities for growth? And have you communicated what those might be?
  3. What are you doing to allow your people to gain more independence and control?
  4. What could your employees be doing that would allow them to utilize their strengths?
  5. Are there opportunities for cross-training that you haven’t yet implemented?
  6. Have you taken time with each employee to help them set individual goals?

Good employees are hard to find. And they’re even more difficult to keep. As managers and leaders, we have to do what we can to show them that their work is meaningful. Otherwise, like in Candyland, they’ll give up on the game and find something better to do. Don’t let this be the reason you lose your best employees.

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