At Happy Brain Science, we try to “walk our talk” as much as possible, doing our best to apply all the science we teach and activities we recommend. If we forget, our awesome Director of Operations and Speaker Ayla Lewis reminds us. It’s part of why I love working with her so much!Like any business leader, I wanted to be informed of what my employees were up to, so I requested that all of us write status reports. But status reports can become boring and sometimes feel pointless.
On the other hand, research led by Harvard professor Teresa Amabile suggests that progress is a huge factor in happiness and engagement at work. In our workshop, The Science of Being Happy and Productive at Work, we cover this extensively in the section called Flow to Goals.
Structure of a Progress Report
So I realized many months ago that our status reports could be emphasizing progress as much as possible. First we started calling them Progress Reports instead of Status Reports. Then we experimented with new standard sections we would all complete. We came up with the following sections:
- Most meaningful: What activity or, even better, result was the most meaningful to you in the past week? This is included because being engaged at work and satisfied with your life is strongly correlated with finding work meaningful.
- Deepest connection to others: What was the deepest connection to another person you had this past week? This is included because science suggests warm, deep relationships are a primary source for happiness for most of us, most of the time.
- Biggest mistake (to be celebrated): What was the biggest mistake you or your team made this past week? This is included because we all want to have what Stanford Professor Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset–and because as a business owner I want to encourage appropriate risk-taking. Mistakes happen when people are taking action and innovating!
- Learned the most: What experience did you have that led to the most learning in the last week? This is included because evidence suggests that opportunities to learn and grow are central to employee engagement, and asking about learning helps ensure we are each getting the learning and growth opportunities we need to stay engaged and keep improving.
- Improved the most: In what way did you improve the most in the last week? This is included because mastery is a key motivator for people; we want to be improving our level of mastery of the science of thriving any time we can. We know we can’t stay at the same level of quality and continue to thrive as an organization.
- Most progress toward goals: Where did you make the most progress towards your goals this past week? This is included because the science is clear that progress towards meaningful goals is a key motivator.
- Next week’s priorities: What are your top priorities for the upcoming week? Inspired by David Rock’s great book Your Brain at Work, we prioritize prioritization! This is included because we know that prioritizing is one of the most important things our brain does. We also know that all too often, we first jump into email, which exhausts our prefrontal cortex, and then we try to prioritize with a tired brain. Or worse still, we get caught up in busyness, and go through a whole day or even week without ever intentionally choosing our most important projects to focus on.
How We Experience These Reports
I know that every time I receive one of these from my awesome colleagues, I feel an uplift in mood. It’s wonderful reading about other people’s progress, learning, connection, and even mistakes!
I know from writing them that they can be a joy to write as well. That’s right: a status report that’s a joy to write!
As always, we want to learn from you. What do you think of this status report format? Have you found a better way to report progress in your organization? Please comment.
Amabile, T. & Kramer, S. (2011). The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work. Harvard Business Review Press.
Dweck, C. (2007). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Ballantine Books.
Rock, D. (2009). Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long. HarperBusiness.