The Insider’s Guide to Employee Motivation

employee motivation

Often, it can feel as though you are only one who cares and is willing to do the “heavy lifting” in your company. So, how do you get your employees to care enough to work hard like you and treat customers with care like you do?

Well the research has been around for decades, actually almost 100 years, but for some reason you might be fighting it. What seems to be the case is that your employees are already motivated to get out of bed each morning and do something they love. That’s called “intrinsic” motivation. You know, but might not want to admit, that you don’t motivate anyone but yourself, so stop trying to “make” your employees do things. (Want to see your employees go passive aggressive really fast? Try to put your thumb on them to control them. They’ll subvert you every time – and with smiles on their faces pretending to conform to your wishes.)

“Leadership is the art of getting someone to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” — Dwight Eisenhower

Alfie Kohn in his book Punished by Rewards, reviewed decades of research that showed that Skinnerian behaviorism might work well on dogs and birds, but really doesn’t work on people. He boiled down what gets employees revved up to: Content (say over what they do), Control (say over how they do it), and Collaboration (be able to work with others to get it done). Daniel Pink did a similar review of the research in his book Drive, summing up the salient factors as Autonomy (self-direction), Mastery (develop and hone talent), and Purpose (have a really impactful reason for why they do the work).

In the late 1960s, an actual researcher, Frederick Herzberg concluded there were two factors required to keep people happy and productive, companies needed to (1) get rid of “dissatisfiers”, like bad policies, bad supervisors and unfair pay that caused employees to gripe about work, then (2) build in “satisfiers”, like meaningful work that gave employees a sense of responsibility and provided job opportunities appreciation, recognition and continued skill development.

So what can you do to unleash your employees’ natural intrinsic motivation?

First, set your ego aside.

Have you examined your abilities as a leader? Are you someone who others want to follow or work for? Or maybe your ego comes into play when you hire or promote people and they don’t work out. Are you willing to admit your mistake and let them go or move them back to a position that fits their skills and temperament?

Same goes for making sure that the company culture you created is not squelching your employees’ natural inclination to do something great. Make sure you don’t have restrictive or nonsensical policies, procedures, or pay structures that may be administered inconsistent or unfairly.

Second, focus on building relationships.

To build relationships with your direct reports. You should do things like:

  • Take stock their talents, current performance level, and long-term potential. This helps to determine what trajectory each employee is on — promotion, move to another position, redeploy, monitor more closely, etc.
  • Treat your people like people, not cogs or machines. Get to know them personally to a certain degree.
  • Appreciate their talents and the roles they might play in your company: devil’s advocate, trickster, historian, herald of danger ahead.
  • Set and communicate clear expectations for each direct report, tied to company goals
  • Acknowledge contributions made and note where they need to contribute more, better, or more often.Determine frequency and type of feedback they to hear from you.
  • Acknowledge their good work and willingness to go the extra mile when it happens. A simple thank you is good enough usually.
  • Reward them for their performance and commitment.
  • Develop their skills and competence.

As Zig Ziglar said, “You don’t build a business – you build people then the people build the business.” Spend time building your people, and their motivation will shine through.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Coordinating Action Through Communication

Coordinating Action Through CommunicationI haven’t known a company yet where employees didn’t complain about a lack of communication. It isn’t that there is silence going on. To the contrary. People talk to each other all the time at work. The words are floating out there, but we don’t truly connect to each other’s meaning.

So many words are wasted at work because you assume that everyone else shares your assumptions about what you said. Really communicating – at work or at home – involves aligning your own expectations and assumptions with the assumptions of others. Based on our assumptions, Judith Glaser in her work, identified three types or levels of conversations:

Transactional – These tell/ask conversations are the most superficial of all conversations. They are an exchange of simply factual information. You share what you know and seek to bring your facts into alignment with facts that others have.  For example, “I have a dentist appointment today at 2:00 and will leave the office early.”

Positional – This type of conversation is about advocating/inquiring and happens when you inform others of where you stand on an issue and seek to persuade them to seeing things your way. Problems occur when we cling to our own perspective, needing to be right, instead of showing a willingness to adjust our information based on what we hear from others.

Co-Creative – In these conversations, you and others explore a topic through sharing/discovering and remain connected to each other as you move through the topic together. The point of these conversations is to be open to information you don’t know and to be open to the fact that you don’t know what you don’t know.

“We live in historical conversations . . .
and live our assumptions as though they were true.”
– Julio Garreaud, Human Architect

Within these conversations, you make statements and ask questions using the following linguistic distinctions:

Assessment – an opinion based on your perspective, beliefs, and assumptions.
Assertion – a statement based on your expertise in a certain subject matter
Request – a stated desire that includes what you want, by when (date/time)
Promise – a YES/NO/MAYBE response to a request, indicating whether or not you will fulfill the request as stated, renegotiate the terms of the request, or revoke an earlier promise due to changing circumstances
Declaration – a statement based on authority/power
Offer – an unsolicited promise made without getting a specific request in advance.

Of all the linguistic distinctions, requests and promises are critical for coordinating action because they drive results. The trick is to ensure you make your request explicit enough so that someone else knows what you want and how they can successfully give it to you.

In meetings, for example, the key is to share enough information about a situation, so the people involved can make specific requests about what they need, and others can make informed promises to fill those needs. When you request “an executive summary on the ABC issues by Thursday at 3:00 p.m.”, others know whether or not they are capable of promising to do so.

When you are skilled at knowing which type of conversation to have to serve your purpose along with the specific linguistic distinctions you can use to craft your conversations, your company or work group can become a symphony of communication that results in harmonious action.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

team, purpose, trust, psychological safety, goal

5 Reasons Your “Team” is Not a Team

Although there are countless books about creating better teams, participating on and leading teams remains a top frustration in most companies. Here are 5 reasons your “team” might not actually be one:

1. There are no shared goals or values.

Your “team” may believe it is working together and headed in the same direction, but when push comes to shove, each of you pursue activities that serve your individual interests and behave without accountability to each other. In other words, your oars are rowing in different directions.

In contrast, you know you are a team when you are a group that shares a few core values and pursues a measurable goal that will define the team’s success. Once a measurable team goal is set and values identified, each of you ensure every person on the team understands how to behave according to those values and is held accountable to do so. Further, you understand how each person contributes to achieving the team goal through individual competencies (e.g., ability to build consensus, drive for results, etc.) or technical expertise.

“Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.” — Casey Stengel

2. There is low trust or no trust.

With little or no trust, members of your so-called “team” withhold their best and secretly look for ways to “win” at someone else’s expense without regard to a common goal. 

Team trust is strongly correlated with team commitment and follow-through on promises made to each other. To work together effectively as a team, each or you must believe the others have your back.  Also, when setbacks occur (and they almost always occur), you have to believe/trust everyone else is doing his best. This helps your team avoid the blame game and to get back on track quickly.

3. There is not a clear path to achieve the team goal.

When you only have a destination but no map to get there, a group of individuals will spend precious time wasting uncoordinated effort in different directions.

Mapping the route to achieve the common team goal assists your teammates in understanding how and when all team members’ contributions come together to achieve success. A clear path often includes quick wins to gain momentum and milestones to mark the way.

4. Communication is not open, honest, and transparent.

If people on your “team” are more concerned with withholding information and opinions while masking what they really see happening, team accountability and effectiveness are severely hampered.
To behave as a team, you must communicate in a forthright manner to get on the same page, to stay on the same page, to coordinate action, and to hold each other accountable to team commitments and values.

5. “Team” members are overly focused on their own contributions, wins, and reputations.

Ever seen a scoring basketball player point to the teammate who passed him the ball? Acknowledging contributions by teammates reinforces the notion that each person’s success is dependent on the contributions of others, no matter how small or behind-the-scenes.  No one does it alone. Recognizing each other’s contribution to the team fosters better relationships and, in turn, more trust.


WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with executives and senior leaders to create team environments that optimize ownership, accountability, learning, and results. Learn more at firebrandconsultingllc.com.

A Simple 2-Step Assessment to Manage Your Team

team performanceIt’s easy to simply react to the day-to-day grind.  Before most managers know it, they can find themselves in a situation where key talent has left their teams.  Additionally, managers may realize they have the wrong people in the wrong positions for the wrong reasons.

Managers Need “Monovision”


The concept of Lasik surgery for eyes is familiar to many.  With Lasik, there is an option called “monovision”, which allows the patient to have one eye adjusted for seeing things close up and the other eye adjusted for seeing things far away.  The same concept applies to managers as they keep an eye on their teams:  the manager must focus both on individuals and on the team as a whole. 

Flexing Focus Between Individual and Team is Critical

Getting to know employees as individuals is important and assists managers in setting specific expectations for each individual regarding personal performance, compensation, and career path.  However, many managers do not spend time taking stock of the team as a whole to ensure that the mix of current talent and future potential is working well to position the organization for success in the future. 

A Simple Assessment Can Make All the Difference

This simple exercise can give managers clarity about the current team configuration and provide insight about what the manager must do to create and maintain key team talent into the future.

Managers can take these 2 steps to get a good picture regarding overall team status:


Step 1: Reflect on the relative rank of the employee’s performance with the rest of the employees as a whole.  Is the employee in the top 10%?  Top 25%?  In the middle? Or in bottom 10%, etc.?

Step 2: Record each employee’s potential, using terms to reflect what the future might hold for him.   Is he “Struggling”? “In the right place”? “Needs challenge”? “Ready to Advance”? “Future executive”?, etc.  Use whatever phrases are relevant to your organization.

Based on this simple 2-step assessment, a manager can discern support required for individuals’ career development while gauging the overall strength and career trajectory of the team.  From here, the manager can create a plan for addressing individual as well as overall team needs.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman is the advisor for senior leaders who want to get clear and focused to create increased productivity and profitability in their organizations. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: bethstrathman.com.

Is Your Company Culture “Incognito”?

 Incognito:  with your true identity kept secret.
Merriam-Webster.com

lack of trustIn 2013, the Miami Dolphins released Richie Incognito after an investigation concluded that he bullied and made racial slurs against a teammate. Although the sport recognized Incognito as a top player, he had a history of a explosive emotional outbursts and “dirty play” against other players, coaches, and fans.

Lately, example after example of a leader or star performer with a long history of “bad” conduct have come to light, showing time after time, that company boards, leaders, and practices dismissed it, enabled it, and allowed it. It highlights the conundrum that many companies face: How to balance the equation when a leader or star performer gets results but behaves badly and counter to your stated company values.

“Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch”

Culture is those shared norms, assumptions, experiences, and beliefs that distinguish your company from others. Peter Drucker’s quote, “Culture eats strategy for lunch,” underscores how influential a company culture is.

The question is, is the company culture you describe in your mission, vision, and values, the same culture that shows up in your workplace every day? In short, is your company or team culture evident  . . . or is it “incognito”?

As a leader, whether formal or informal, you must go first. You reinforce and redefine cultural norms based on how you act, what you pay attention to, what you praise and reinforce in others, and how you react when challenges occur. In spite of what you say about who you are as a company, is there an unwritten assumption that the ability to produce excellent results will “hide a multitude of sins”? At least for your leaders and top performers.

All employees — especially leaders and top performers —  must be held to the same behavioral standards as everyone else; otherwise, employees get a mixed message. This muddies the waters about what is expected for how they should treat co-workers and what kind of treatment they should expect in return. If the stated culture isn’t evident in how people work together, such a mixed message can signal to employees that it’s “everyone for himself”, which leads to a lack of the necessary trust and team camaraderie.

If your leaders and superstars are not displaying the kind of behavior that reinforces your team culture on a consistent basis, what are you prepared to do about it?

Postscript on Incognito

After being released by the Dolphins, the Bills signed Richie Incognito in 2015, where he has been elected to the ProBowl each year since (2015-2018). In 2017, an opposing player accused Incognito of using racial slurs. After an investigation, the NFL is not expected to impose any consequences.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders to maximize the “people side” of business and evolve into the leader they want to become. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

working together, leadership

3 Reasons Why Being a “Nice” Manager is “Mean”

Have you been “putting up with” a certain employee’s bad conduct or poor performance for a while now in an effort to avoid conflict and be “nice”?

It never ceases to amaze me how often managers avoid addressing issues with employees, as though bring up an employee’s poor conduct or performance would be “mean”.  Guess what? That’s a manager’s job. when you are avoiding an issue with an employee, it tells me (1) you have limiting beliefs that are holding you back, and/or (2) you don’t know how to set expectations or correct an employee in a professional and respectful way.

In reality, avoiding conflict in order to be “nice” or likable is actually “mean”. It creates an enabling, co-dependent relationship that isn’t good for anyone.

You are being “mean” when you don’t address employee issues because you are:

  1. Preventing the employee from acquiring new competencies (instead of providing feedback that will help them grow);
  2. Reducing the employee’s sense of self-efficacy and control over their work (instead of empowering them); and
  3. Reinforcing old or maladaptive behaviors (instead of encouraging new coping strategies or behaviors).

When you address issues timely and appropriately through healthy conflict and confrontation, your company, department, work group, business unit, or team will operate much more cohesively. They will become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses and more likely exhibit the behaviors required to work together effectively. However, when you don’t approach conflict in the context of your responsibilities, your workplace becomes coated with the waxy buildup of poor performance and conduct that fuels unvoiced concerns, resentments, passive aggressive behavior, disengaged employees, and gossip.

Reflect on how well you are addressing issues rather than avoiding them. Are you really being “nice” or “mean”?

Want support for planning out tough conversations, so they are more likely to stay on topic and on track? Get my Conversation Planner today.

WANT TO USE THIS IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with executives and senior leaders to create team environments that optimize ownership, accountability, learning, and results. Learn more at firebrandconsultingllc.com.

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