Have you ever wondered why some moments in your life stand out in your memory more than others? Why do some experiences have such a big impact?
A lot of these moments come down to chance and luck – being in the right place at the right time, a sudden loss, an accident, meeting a soulmate in a crowded room. But can we create our own stand-out moments?
What are the ingredients to create a life full of moments that have extraordinary impact on your life and how can you transfer this to a work environment and create powerful moments at work? According to Chip and Dan Heath in their book The Power of Moments these moments can come about from one of the following; Elevation, Insight, Pride, Connection.
In the book, the authors make the analogy of a trip to Disneyland. The entire trip is scattered with a small handful of outstanding memories and plenty of ordinary ones; the thrill of the rollercoaster ride and meeting some Disney characters versus standing in line for one hour for the rides, standing in line for food, missing the bus back to the hotel, someone getting sick, blisters etc. Despite plenty of average moments, your long term memory of the trip to Disneyland will be up there in your memory bank as one of the best most memorable trips, a highlight of your life. We remember the powerful moments and forget the mundane ones.
Think of some of the best jobs you have had. No doubt at the time there was a fair share of mundane tasks, ordinary moments, bad days, difficult work colleagues and so on, but if there were some, even just a few, stand-out moments and accomplishments that really made you feel great, then overall you will have fond memories of the job. Those powerful moments will outshine a hundred less extraordinary ones.
Psychologists call this phenomena the peak-end rule; defined as a cognitive bias that impacts how people remember past events. Intense positive or negative moments (the “peaks”) and the final moments of an experience (the “end”) are heavily weighted in our mental calculus. In other words, people judge an experience largely based on how they felt at its peak.
Couple this with another interesting phenomena called duration neglect; whereby people forget the length of the experience. When we reflect on experiences, we don’t average our minute by minute sensations, rather we tend to remember the flagship moments, the peaks and the lows.
How to create powerful moments or ‘peaks’ in workplace as leaders?
According to the book, defining moments are created from:
Moments of elevation are those moments that we feel joy, elation, amazement and motivation. As leaders we need to think of how to create opportunities and situations in which we rise above the everyday/ ordinary. In order to create these moments, we need to boost sensory appeal (think of amazing party with loud music, flowers, incredible food (to appeal to our senses of sight, smell and taste) as well as raising the stakes and breaking the usual script (doing something out of the ordinary; a surprise day on the water on a boat, for example).
Creating moments and opportunities for employees to have defining moments that rewire our understanding of ourselves to the world. Bringing new ideas to life, making an impact at work and creating opportunities for people to do and create meaningful work. Leaders can push their staff to experience profound moments of insight by setting high standards, offering assurance and encouragement to step outside their comfort zones and provide direction and support.
Creating opportunities and moments to recognise and reward achievement in a ceremonious way will have lasting impact on people. Likewise recognizing people in unexpected ways is also impactful. In the book, the authors suggest writing a letter of gratitude to someone that has had a positive impact on your life; an old teacher, an old boss; taking just half an hour of your own time can create a powerful moment of recognition in someone else’s life. Create opportunities at work where others can randomly compliment and show gratitude to one another. Being kind, receiving kindness and witnessing an exchange of kindness all create a spike in dopamine and makes everyone feel elated; all the ingredients for lasting positive memories.
Moments that bring us together such as weddings and birthdays. In a work environment these can be created by doing away days, holidays, Christmas parties. Creating the opportunity to create strong bonds and lasting memories will have a big impact on your employee’s lives and perceptions of their work. Connection brings with it a strong sense of belonging to something bigger than ones self. You can also create moments to remind employees of the collective connection to a higher meaning in the work being done.
Powerful moments can be created in the workplace with a little thought and imagination.
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