Modern Mentor

3 ways to fill your Thrive bucket at work

Episode Summary

Thriving, for me, is about wellness.

Episode Notes

Leaders are finally recognizing the need to refuel and recharge their teams. Here are 3 ways to help your team thrive.

Modern Mentor is hosted by Rachel Cooke. A transcript is available at Simplecast.

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Episode Transcription

Hey, it’s Rachel Cooke, your Modern Mentor. I’m the founder of Lead Above Noise—a firm specializing in helping teams and organizations optimize their working experience. I use a framework to help companies understand the employee experience. It’s got these four pillars you may have heard me yammer on about before but at its core, it’s about creating the conditions in which our teams can deliver, develop, connect, and thrive.

What’s been so interesting to me over the last few years is how the lens of these pillars has helped me make sense of what’s been happening in the world of work. Like early in 2020 when the corporate world went remote overnight, companies, understandably, were focused on that “Deliver” pillar. Questions like how do we do our work and equip our teams and meet with our clients and customers? The logistics of getting our work done got so hard. And so that’s where I focused.

After a few months, the questions shifted to the “Connect” pillar. Now the conversation was more like—OK, we’re getting our work done. But we’re all feeling isolated and lonely. We’ve hired new people we’ve never met in person and Zoom is sucking the life out of us. How do we reignite a feeling of connection? So that’s where I focused.

At some point, the Great Resignation hit and suddenly companies were like—hey, we need to invest in our talent so they don’t leave us! We need to remind people we care about their growth—we want to help them achieve new things, feel challenged and expanded. And that “Develop” pillar was the driving force.

Can you guess where I’m heading next? Yep, it’s time to Thrive. Because these past few months have been a new brand of draining and exhausting. There’s been creepy corporate surveillance, talk of recession, and we’ve seen layoffs—or just anxiety about the possibility of layoffs. Our tanks are running near empty. And leaders are finally recognizing the need to get some Thrive back into the workplace. To refuel and recharge their teams.

So if you, your team, or your workplace has been running near empty lately, let’s talk about some simple strategies you can use to reinfuse a feeling of Thrive around you.

Thriving, for me, is about wellness. It’s about our energy, our feeling of “zing” around being at work. And 3 trusted levers I like to pull are balance, appreciation, and recognition. So let’s start there.

Let’s start with balance.

Balance, for me, isn’t about having a perfect day. It doesn’t have to mean signing off exactly at 5 pm, or doing daily yoga. It’s about a sense of control. You feel empowered to manage your energy, to live a life outside of work, to know when it’s time to say no and be able to do so.

In practice, it means you can—and do—set boundaries. Your out-of-work life can happen fully, and you can manage work within those boundaries. You can sign off in the evening and be with your family. Or your dog or your book or your side hustle. Or just because you’re done.

You’re clear on your priorities. You know what you need to achieve and why. And by default, what you don’t need to focus on or invest in.

Your energy is a priority. To you and to those around you. And time to breathe and reflect is valued.

You feel safe asking for help. Because you know asking for help is not a sign of weakness but of clarity and courage.

How do we do this? We all need to start by setting small boundaries, saying no when overwhelm strikes, and asking, confidently, for help. Leaders need to be role-modeling this. And talking about it positively when they see it in action. Like “Ying, thanks for letting me see how full your plate is right now. Happy to take that analysis off your plate so you can focus on this pitch.”

Small actions and moments of validation seed progress.

Next up is appreciation.

As in, we all want to feel appreciated for showing up and pitching in. We want to feel like our work matters.

I heard this interview with researcher Dan Ariely. He did this experiment where he brought people into a lab to build “Bionicles”—these tiny robots made of Lego. He paid them a small amount of money for each one they built—until they said “no more.”

But here’s the kicker. People were unknowingly placed into one of two groups. In group 1, the person would build a Bionicle and then hand it to Ariely who would set it aside and ask them to build another. He’d repeat this until they tapped out.

In group 2, the process was identical except for one difference. When a Bionicle was built and handed over, Ariely would break it apart and dump the free legos back into the box.

And guess what he found? People in Group 1 built about 50% more Bionicles than those in Group 2. To be clear, these Bionicles weren’t being used for anything. And the effort and exertion were identical in both groups. But the experience of seeing something you just made broken down into pieces again was highly demotivating.

I’ll put a link to the interview in the show notes if you want to hear the full story.

I’m guessing your team doesn’t make a whole lotta Bionicles. But the point is this. People are working for more than just a paycheck. They want to feel like their work means something.

Someone built a deck for a meeting that got canceled? Thank them for an insight you took from their data. Or tell them you plan to use this deck in your next 1-1 with your boss or colleague.

Did a colleague recommend a book or podcast that you consumed? Let them know you valued the reco. Tell them one thing you learned and applied.

As priorities shift and projects get decommissioned, don’t let people feel like their time and energy were wasted.

Appreciation is so easy to bring to life. And making sure people feel like their efforts matter does wonders for the spirit.

And now, recognition.

Recognition is often conflated with appreciation. But they’re not the same thing.

Appreciation is feeling like your work has mattered—it’s a celebration of effort, of input.

Recognition is feeling celebrated for an achievement, an outcome. It’s an act of rewarding someone for a job well done. And it doesn’t only come from a leader—or from money. Recognition can happen in any direction and comes in many forms.

When someone pitches an idea that leads to product or process innovation? Call it out. Give them credit.

When someone pitched in on a project that wasn’t technically theirs to own but they knew they could add value? Make sure their boss knows they went the extra mile.

Help people see the link between their exertion and an outcome that mattered. Help them feel celebrated.

In bigger moments this might mean a promotion or salary bump. But also a well-written thank you note, a shout-out at a team meeting. An opportunity to lead a pitch or a project. These are all valued forms of recognition.

These are just a few ways you might dial up the Thrive factor at work. How do you refuel tanks and spirits at work? I’d love to hear your ideas. Shoot me an email anytime!

Join me next week for another great episode. Until then, visit my website at if your organization is looking to dial up its Employee Experience or deliver some leadership development that activates change. You can follow Modern Mentor on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Find and follow me on LinkedIn. Thanks so much for listening and have a successful week.