11/08/2013 03:10 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Are Your Employees (Or You) Playing Small? If So, Here's What To Do About It


The holy grail of business is figuring out how sustain the growth of your company. From business schools to journalists, we look at successful companies to discern the keys to success. One area of focus in the last two to three years is how fast growing companies are so successful, even in a down economy. There are many factors including attitude toward risk, communicating vision, resilience, and embracing innovation.

One overlooked factor is the company's attitude toward employee wellbeing. What my research has uncovered is that fast growing companies that defy the economic outlook are committed to creating an energized work environment that fosters resilience, vision and innovation.

One of the ways these companies do this is

Creating a place where employees can play big.

Are you and your employees playing big?

Why Does Playing Big Matter?

We are trained to think that the workplace looks like The Office, 9 to 5 or Office Space with lots of biting, backstabbing, unproductive and honestly, people playing small. In fact, you may work in such an environment. For a long time, I thought that was what work was supposed to be like. And when you're in that environment you have a choice: get out or you sink to the same smallness.

You can imagine my relief over the last four months as I have researched the interplay of employee wellbeing and the performance of fast growing companies and found there are companies where employees get to play big. [NOTE: The centerpiece of this research is over a dozen interviews with executives of companies identified by the Business Journal or Inc. Magazine as fast growing.]

It turns out that companies who are growing by leaps and bounds and are the envy of their industries are paying attention to the environment and culture are encouraging their employees to play big. But why?

Benefit To The Company

As a manager or executive why do you want your employees to play big? Employees who play big . . .

• Get more done
• Contribute more creativity, provide excellent customer service and innovate
• Are more resilient to changes in the marketplace and customer demands
• Care about and will live the mission of the organization
• Are more flexible and nimble
• Are more engaged in your mission and vision

Benefit To The Employee

As an employee, why would you want to play big in your career? People who play big at work . . .

• Get promoted more often
• Get the plum assignments
• Get compensated more
• Feel more fulfilled because they contribute more
• Have a bigger voice in the organization
• Have more energy and better health because they feel part of something bigger
• Are happier

What Does It Look Like To Play Big?

Now that you see why playing big at work is important, what the heck does playing big look like? People who play big at work . . .

• Speak up, even when it feels risky
• Ask for support, even if they've been denied help before, but only after exhausting all other resources to get things done
• Admit they don't know something and set out to learn it or find someone who knows how to do it
• Go the extra mile to deliver excellent customer service
• Go the extra mile to save money while producing an excellent result
• Ask how they can support others in getting the job done
• Are fully engaged in the mission of the organization
• Lead regardless of their title

How To Get Your Employees (Or Yourself) To Play Bigger

The bottom line is employees who play bigger and contribute more are more energized. There are numerous ways to create an energized workplace that I can't cover in this one article. Instead I'm focusing on those factors that will encourage your employees to play bigger.

Now before you say, I'm not a manager or executive so this doesn't apply to me, stop. The things that managers can do to get their team to play bigger are the same things you can do to play bigger for your own career.

The strategies that came out of the research on employee wellbeing and company growth showed that to get your employees (or yourself) to play bigger . . .
• Acknowledge the work of your employees, team mates and boss
• Know what's important to your employees, co-workers and boss and honor that in your words and action
• Be flexible
• Keep your word to your employees, co-workers and bosses
• Treat your employees, co-workers and boss with respect
• Actively listen to your employees, co-workers and boss
• Ask questions so you know you truly understand your employees, co-workers and boss, i.e., don't assume anything
• Encourage your employees (or your self) to network
• Invest and engage in professional or personal growth for you and your employees

A workforce that is playing big is unstoppable. They set the pace in the industry and they deliver excellence. The world is moving too fast to play small. It's time to play bigger. Your future depends on it. Your company's future depends on it. Get out there and lead.

If you're ready to have your employees play bigger, schedule an Ignite Your Business Discovery Session with the Ignite Well Being Institute to discover how to solve your slow growth.