The question I am asked most during my training seminars by leaders, managers, and sales managers is “How do I motivate my people?”
As a manager and leader for many years in a very large organization leading a big team, it was the question that I asked quite often as well. Since the answers I got were very vague and really unusable from an application standpoint. I decided to study the topic myself.
For about five years I studied the topic of motivation, peak performance, willpower, inspiration, human behavior, and anything else you can think of that would have something to do with motivation.
I read all of the great studies around human motivation and human behavior. I read and studied the experts who had studied under the greats in the field of psychology and human development.
There are several books that I would consider to be some of the best on any of these topics around motivation. But honestly the best answer to this question is to study yourself.
I recently wrote an article on some of the mistakes managers make when leading other people. You can read it here
In this article I stated that managers make a mistake when they try to use tactics with their employees that they have found or use to motivate themselves. I am not contradicting what I said here. What I am saying is, what are the conditions that must exist for you to do your best work?
That is where the motivation comes from, not tactics, not words by themselves, but from conditions and the right environment.
When I think about the conditions that existed for me when I was most motivated here is what I found them to be.
I had the right attitude first and foremost. Although, I may have not known what to do or how to do it, I was willing to learn. Since I was willing to learn, it opened opportunities up that were already around me, all I had to do was take advantage of them.
I had a manager, and a manager above my manager, that allowed us and me specifically, to operate under minimal supervision and provided me the resources to experiment to see what worked. This autonomy was very motivating. I didn’t have any fear of failing and was allowed to operate how I saw best.
They provided guidance and support, which was very beneficial because nobody can do it alone. The guidance was more of a conversation around what can we do to get the best results for our department, instead of “you should do it this way or that way”.
One of the biggest failures I see in business today is the all or none mentality. We either hit a home run or we didn’t win the game. We either achieve the goal or we didn’t. I am all about results and I believe we should all meet and exceed expectations. However, there are times when a single should be celebrated just as much as a home run, to use a baseball analogy.
We as human beings need to have little victories, it is built into our DNA. These little victories are what motivate us to keep moving towards the bigger goal. And when I think about the times when I was most motivated, we were hitting a lot of singles and eventually we hit a few home runs. But those singles and doubles kept us motivated.
So what conditions existed when you were most motivated? Maybe it is now, which makes it even easier to see and make sense of it.
Lastly, I want to share this. It is a formula that I have shared with thousands of people who have attended my trainings and seminars.
Motivation usually begins because you were inspired by something. It could have been a talk you heard, a book you read, something somebody said to you. It could be a variety of different things. But that source of inspiration usually provided you some information that you didn’t have before.
So motivation is preceded by inspiration, and inspiration is preceded by information, or what I call education. The education is the true source of motivation.
It could be that you had never saw something the way someone opened your eyes up to seeing something. Your doctor could reveal to you that you have a condition that you weren’t aware of before. It could be that you learned about a diet that seems easy to do. It could be that some new information gets you to see something that you just haven’t seen before. It could be for a cause that instills anger inside you because of some hardship of others that you weren’t aware of.
In all of these cases you received some additional information/education that you didn’t have before. That is the source of motivation.
When I was most motivated on the job, I was getting new information and an education daily. That motivated me to keep trying new things. This education was the source of my motivation that pushed me to keep trying and tinkering with processes and approaches. It kept me excited and engaged in the job I was doing.
I ask you again. What was it that was so motivational about the job you had were you seemed to be most motivated? What conditions existed? My guess is your supervisor had a lot to do with it, but you were also learning every single day which kept you excited and inspired.
To your success and your future.
When I was first starting out in sales one of the things that motivated me the most was winning. Duh, right? I wanted to be the person who was leading the pack. A weekly leaderboard or scoreboard was sent out weekly and I wanted to be the one at the top.
Fast forward to when I became a manager, I used these same processes and tools to lead and motivate others. I can remember vividly sitting down and having a conversation with a team member and making the statement “Don’t you want to be at the top of the leaderboard?”
Their reply, “Nope, I don’t care about the leaderboard!” I am not here to debate whether or not a person in sales should or should not want to be on the leaderboard. That is another story for another day.
Here is the mistake I made as a young leader. I assumed that what motivated me and pushed me to work harder was the same thing that would motivate and push someone else. As I found, that just wasn’t the case.
I recently was working with a group of leaders and we discussed the three things that demotivate versus motivate us, which in turn if you are in leadership could demotivate your team members.
- Assuming what motivates us will motivate them.
My story above makes this case, but I see it everywhere and it is a fundamental flaw I have found to be true in many leaders in organizations. Unfortunately, one of the problems with leadership over time, is that they tend to hire people just like themselves. Which makes it even easier to assume that our team members will be motivated by the same things that motivate us.My advice is to learn your employees motivations and desires. What is it that they want out of their position? Where are they looking to go in their career. Questions such as this will give you insight on how to properly motivate and lead your team.
Sarcasm is a tactic that many leaders use. I see it more as a weakness. Instead of being truthful with your employees you instead decide to be indirect hoping to get a response that is positive. The reason it doesn’t work, is because is decreases trust and is looked at as a sign of weakness more than strength.Additionally most people are smart enough to know what you are trying to do with sarcasm. So it actually becomes a double negative for a leader who uses it. Trust erodes and perceived weaknesses are increased. Both of these conditions make it difficult to motivate and inspire employees to produce more and accomplish more.Lastly, most people don’t think it is funny. And they don’t appreciate it. Quit telling yourself that they do. Be direct and tell them how it is. They will appreciate the directness more and respect you more as well.
- Poor Manners.
It is true “everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten.” I think that was a book. Simply put. You need have to have basic manners. Things such as “please”, “thank you”. Ask for permission and staying positive. These are little things. But they go along way to showing your team members that you respect them.
Now that you are aware of these three behaviors. The big question is “Which ones do you need to work on?”
Unfortunately, we as humans are not very good at assessing our own behaviors. Matter of fact 90% of the people who demonstrate these behaviors haven’t read this far. But if you are still reading. I would encourage you to ask for feedback from your team and ask them which ones of the above you need to work on. Their answers may surprise you.
To your success and your future.
One of the greatest and most respected leaders of the modern times is Jack Welch. Jack Welch was responsible for General Electric’s massive growth in the 1980’s and 90’s until he picked his successor to take over as CEO in 2001. Since Jack’s departure from General Electric he has authored several books and is a thought leader in many areas of business and also has a school that carries his name.
Jack was known for being very brash and straight to the point. He was also known for getting things done. I have read several of Jack’s books over the years and they are all full of great information.
A few years ago in one of Jacks books, I read his 6 Rules to Live by. These rules were designed around business and was the way he led his company. At the time I read the 6 rules I wrote the rules down on a 3 X 5 card. I have carried that card with me for several years now and refer to them often.
Here are the 6 Rules:
1. Control your own destiny or someone else will: Take control of your life, your career, your business, your finances, etc. You get the point. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission or wait for someone to show you how. You have to control your own destiny or someone will control you.
2. Face reality as it is: In business or in life how many times have you heard someone say, “Well it should be…” , “I thought we were going to do…”, “If this would happen, then…”. All of these phrases are stating something that is not. You must face reality as it is. Don’t kid yourself.
3. Be candid: Most people are afraid of candor. Instead in today’s world everyone wants to skirt around the truth or not be brutally honest. Sure there are times, when you don’t want to overshoot and hurt someones feelings, but the only way people and organizations get better is when they know exactly where they are and where the stand.
4. Don’t manage, Lead: We all know it or at least we have seen it. You have two types of hierarchy within a company. You have the managers. They are the ones that protect the process and manage everyone the same. Then you have leaders. Leaders are the ones who are out in front, looking for new and better ways. You know who the individuals are that are waiting to be told what to do. The difference between successful businesses and people who grow in those businesses are the ones who are leading and not just managing what they have always done.
5. Change before you have to: If you wait to change, it is too late. I work with lots of businesses and people that are doing what they did years ago. We don’t want to discount what has worked in the past, but the market is changing and we have to be in front of it, if you aren’t, you will get behind and never be able to catch up. It’s no different in life. If you think that your degree that you earned from college 10 years ago is enough education, you are wrong, you have to continue to increase your skills and your knowledge. If you wait until someone makes you increase your skills, the chances are, they won’t. Instead, they will just go and find someone who already possesses the skills they need.
6. If you don’t have a competitive advantage don’t compete: Several years ago in my business I had to make a decision that included making significant strategy changes, which included eliminating several peoples positions. It wasn’t an easy decision, but after looking at several years worth of data, and looking at the current market, the decision was clear. We were competing for customers in a market where we didn’t have a comeptieve advantage. The decision was hard, but it was necessary to invest our resources into the more profitable areas of our businesses. Jack Welch said that when he was CEO of GE that he wanted the company to be #1 or #2 in each of the markets they were competing in, and if they couldn’t be, they got rid of those divisions.
What I like about these 6 rules the most, is that they apply to business as well as us as individuals. What if you started applying these rules in your business? What if you started applying them in your personal life? What would be the results?
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To your success and your future.
If you didn’t know this already, you will now. We are currently in a leadership crisis in our workforce. According to Gallup and Dale Carnegie Training companies, the current workforce is made up of a bunch of workers who aren’t really excited to be doing the work they are supposed to be doing. Nope. According to their research and their continued follow up on the research, they continue to see only about 30% of the workforce at any given time is actively engaged with their work and their company.
According to the research and specifically Dale Carnegie Training companies research. There are three major contributors that impact employee engagement. You can access white papers here on some of the research conducted.
- 1st: The employees relationship with their immediate supervisor.
- 2nd: Belief in Senior Leadership
- 3rd: Belief in the company.
As you can see all three are directly controlled by leadership, or in many cases the lack of leadership.
So what can you do about it? Well, here is the 1 BIG WAY. I understand most management and leaders are overwhelmed by many tasks and requirements of their positions. I get that. However, leaders have to spend time with people. The time you spend will show appreciation to the team members. You will also understand them better by knowing what their values and motivations are. Time spent increases trust and respect. These are two very important characteristics all leaders must have.
So what else does spending time allow you to do?
- You will be able to instill a sense of purpose in your employees because you will know them better.
- You increase communications with your employees by spending time. I have worked with hundreds of companies and the number one complaint I always hear is “lack of communication in the organization.” Spending time with your employees will obviously increase communication and their perception of increased communication.
- Employees want to work in an environment where they feel that they are supported. When you spend time with people it shows that you are supporting them and the projects that they are working on to serve the company and the business.
- Employees want to be bought in to the mission and vision of the company. When you spend time with them. You have a chance to reinforce the mission and vision of the organization and this creates more buy-in from the people that are critical for executing the mission.
As a leadership trainer I have done extensive research in the areas of employee motivation and human motivation. If you are interested in learning more about either of these topics, which feed into employee engagement complete the form below.
To your success and your future.