Fostering Excellence
Bringing out the best in each of us
Positive work environments are a part of every successful organization. When the atmosphere is fun, motivating, and challenging, employees thrive and organizational visions are reached and exceeded.  When the work environment is stifling, boring, or fails to deliver accountability or challenging work, employees leave seeking greener pastures. Leaders cannot leave the work place environment to chance; it needs to be cultivated and realigned when the environment takes a turn for the worse. Effective leaders will always have their fingers on the pulse of their organization’s atmosphere seeking to make sure it is positive.

There are many things that go into a healthy work environment, but I believe they can largely be summed up into just a few broad topic areas. Positive work environments always have challenging work, recognition, empowerment, accountability, and last but certainly not least, fun:

Five Elements of a Healthy Work Environment

Challenging Work–  What? Fun is not the first item on the list? We will get to fun later (promise), but this is not the first element on my list for a very good reason. If your employees are worth their salt, they are working with you to be challenged and enlarged. They want to develop, to become more and to grow. Environments that do not challenge are boring and worse, stifling to your best employees. Your organizational vision should be bold, aggressive and inspiring. Make sure your goals and objectives are challenging so your employees have worthwhile work to accomplish and meaningful pretexts for personal development.

Recognition For Work Well Done – When your teams do accomplish the challenging work you give them, they deserve to be recognized. Environments that fail to recognize and reward their performing teams risk losing them. To be clear, it is not that your best are working just so they can be recognized, but they do find it demotivating when they work hard and they feel like no one noticed or no one cared. Consistent and commensurate recognition is a must for any healthy work environment. Recognize your best, they deserve it!

Empowerment to Succeed – Healthy work environments always provide their employees with some scope for independent action. No one wants to ask for permission every time they need to make a decision. Not only does this slow down work, it stifles initiative and the creative spirits of the employees. Obviously some decisions need to be made at higher levels, but not every decision. To the extent possible, empower your employees with scope for independent action and free those creative juices and opportunities for initiative to do great things!

Accountablity - Your workplace needs to be one of accountability. You can’t have your performers saddled with nonperformers and expect them to be happy, fulfilled and motivated. I won’t linger on this topic except to say that the environment that does not ensure everyone is pulling together for the success for the team will always be demotivating to those members who are trying to make the team successful. Don’t burn out your best, hold your teams accountable for performances!

Fun, Fun, Fun – I told you we would get here. Fun is absolutely a critical part of any healthy work environment. Team building days are great ways to break up monotony, build social capital and have great fun at the same time. Additionally, consider investing in a recreation room that nurtures creativity, provides a rejuvenating place to recharge, and is inviting. If your employees skip the break room to relax somewhere else, it’s time for an upgrade. However you do it, make sure that the opportunity for fun is a part of your workplace culture and environment.

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Healthy and positive workplaces rarely emerge spontaneously; deliberate effort on the part of the leader is usually involved. Make sure you are delivering challenging work that is satisfying and meets that human need to develop into something more. Take care to recognize your employees when they actualize your organizational vision, and make sure they are empowered to do so in the first place. Lastly, make sure everyone is pulling together, doing their share, and ensure folks are having fun along the way!

Michael Farr, PMP, is a Chief Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and founder of He is passionate about recognition and enabling professionals to motivate their organizations through recognizing their member’s excellence. When he is not slaying dragons with his kids, he can be found at @fosterxcellence on Twitter and @fosteringexcellence on Facebook.