The key to any organization’s sustained success is leadership. While this statement, in and of itself isn’t that profound, it’s always a relevant topic when companies are looking to improve and achieve all of their business goals.
Critical to understanding leadership is knowing how, when, and why we need to be looking for ways to motivate others. We can make an easy business case for motivation, as motivation drives engagement, engagement drives productivity, and productivity directly helps us to achieve goals for revenue, expenses, and profit. Furthermore, motivation drives retention of the cream of the crop in every company, allowing for greater and more sustained success year after year.
As a case in point, imagine that one of your more capable and experienced contributors has lost some enthusiasm for her work in the last month, she’s not responsive to her team, peers or customers, or she is doing just the least she can to get by. There may be many reasons why her engagement and productivity levels have waned. In most cases, managers and organizations react to these situations as a performance issue, when in fact it’s a motivation issue.
The challenge and the opportunity for managers is that motivation is a personal issue, not a universal issue. All of us are driven by different things in life, such as how we focus our energy, what we like and dislike, and what we value in self, others and organizations. Ultimately, how you motivate others for improved engagement and productivity will be based on your knowledge and application of these key drivers or preferences.
In today’s post, we will first provide a few areas to consider as to why an employee’s motivation level has dropped. Next week, come back to this space, where we’ll talk more about getting people back on track through effective leadership and influence. To learn even more, join us on March 19 for the “Engaging Your Team through Effective Leadership” webinar as our special guest.
The One-Style-Fits-All Mentality
One of the most common mistakes for managers is when they are married to their own style and preferences. Today’s business workforce is a diverse lot—people from various backgrounds, levels of education, and prior work experience, not to mention the diversity of their viewpoints and perspectives.
So why should we even think one style would fit all of these diverse people? The best managers take a multi-faceted approach to motivating their teams, knowing that they need to tailor their tactics to meet people where it means the most to them. To do this well, managers must adapt their leadership and communication styles to fit the wants and needs of their individual team members. They must leave the possibilities open to understanding their employees, knowing that some may need to be pushed and challenged, others may need more frequent appreciation and recognition, and still others may respond to more basic incentives.
Lack of Faith
Many companies find themselves stuck with individuals in leadership positions that administer and manage versus coach and lead. When you administer and manage, the tendency is to micro-manage your teams. Where does micro-management come from? Quite simply, it’s a lack of faith in the team and in individuals to make their contributions on a consistent basis.
We see this over and over again—a manager feels betrayed by a particular employee’s failure to produce results on-time and within budget. Rather than working on the performance issue, the manager falls into the trap of micro-managing all of their direct reports. Micro-management, while intended to guarantee results for the organization, has the opposite effect. What it really guarantees is disengaged, unmotivated people who will deliver the bare minimum to avoid further scrutiny.
Belief in Universal Self-Motivation
One of the hallmarks of many leaders is self-motivation. Having an internal drive to reach goals—no matter the situation—separates many of us from the pack, leading to promotions and recognition from executives. Since many managers have an abundance of self-motivation, they fall into the false trap that others must be motivated the same way, that everyone should be self-starters and self-reliant with the ability to take independent action when necessary.
The fact of the matter is that none of us performs in a vacuum. We can attribute our personal success to many different factors, from self-motivation to working in a great team environment where we grow from our interactions with other engaged employees at every level of the organization. Managers must recognize this fact, and instead of projecting self-motivation on others, work that much harder to understand their people, how they function together, and what makes individuals and the team drive to success.
Failure to Provide Timely Guidance and Feedback
One aspect of motivation that is universal is that we all need to know how we’re performing, and there’s no better-positioned person to tell us than our manager. Failure to provide timely guidance and feedback to employees sets up multiple situations that can be avoided. Lack of motivation can come from not understanding the team’s goals or even the work that needs to be accomplished to reach them.
Sometimes this lack of timely guidance and feedback is attributed to the traditional expectations of managers to conduct periodic performance reviews at assigned intervals. As we well know, the pace of modern business moves at lightning speed, and the vast majority of your performance and motivation issues fester between these reviews. Addressing issues and challenges with employees through timely dialogue is the better course of action. Employees receive the coaching and guidance they need to make better decisions and get results.
Managers can make or break their team’s performance many times by the levels of positivity and negativity that they exemplify to their employees. From an engagement standpoint, it’s very difficult for employees to stay motivated when their managers are hyper-focused on their negative attributes and fail to communicate appreciation for all of the positive elements that members of their team bring to the table. We’re all human, and we all display both positive and negative traits. The key here is balance—we shouldn’t disregard the negatives, nor should we think “it goes without saying” that we appreciate great work habits and attitudes.
When managers occupy a negative mental space, particularly with regard to the team and even the company itself, this negativity is contagious. We can’t expect individual contributors and the teams they comprise to achieve tangible results when managers exhibit a failure of leadership through open negativity.
Motivating others is not something you can do successfully unless you commit to it as an ongoing process. Your team will always have a wide range of needs, and those needs often cannot wait until the next scheduled interval for performance reviews or coaching sessions.
At TM Solutions, we spend a lot of time with our clients, helping them as they instill and fuel the processes and tools needed to build a culture where managers tailor motivational needs to the individuals that make up their teams. To get an even deeper flavor for our thoughts on the subject of motivation, check out our blog series on the Eight Keys for Engaging Your Team through Effective Leadership, as well as our series on the Eight Leadership Essentials for Forging Trust through Action.
Again, we’d also like to invite you to be our guest, at no cost, for our upcoming webinar, Engaging Your Team through Effective Leadership, coming up on March 19 at 11 am Eastern time. Packed with real-world application and multiple learning opportunities, our leadership webinars give you the tools to develop a foundation for ongoing trust-building and motivation. Please follow this link for registration details.
Tune in next week as we explore multiple solutions to set up managers for success in leading and influencing their teams.