Are you guilty of these motivational sins?

1. Supervising by merely giving orders, especially in the form of emails
Remember: Positive personal and human contact raises morale. Lack of personal contact with employees will put you out of touch with the good ideas and creativity of your staff.

2. Using expressions such as “I do it this way”
Remember: The jobs of team members are all different, and each requires a different type of person. As a result, you should encourage employees to stand on their own two feet and develop their own approaches to doing things.

3. Falling into or encouraging office politics
Remember: Politics can destroy people’s spirit and enthusiasm. It leads to low morale and will lessen your ability to achieve your objectives. Making frequent personal contact is the most effective way to prevent jealousies and office politics from thriving.

4. Giving answers rather than problems to solve
Remember: Encouraging, even forcing, employees to make decisions is a great way to help develop an effective team.

In my conversations about leadership, I continually run into an interesting theme. People are frustrated in their role as a volunteer, or conversely, people can’t figure out how to engage volunteers. Oddly, the frustrated volunteers are exactly the type of people the other group tends to be looking for.

After spending a significant amount of time in the non-profit sector as well as working with military reservists and cadets, I have seen several comprehensive programs designed and put in place to lead volunteers effectively. Quite frankly, those efforts kept those who didn’t know how to lead employed and gave consultants a decent revenue stream.

In my opinion, the only difference between leading volunteers and leading employees is how they are compensated.

At a staff meeting, a manager was describing the performance problems she was having with volunteers. Apparently, an employee had delegated some work to a volunteer and after some months discovered the work was not done satisfactorily.

I spoke up and asked the manager, “What would you do if one of your paid supervisors left another employee for months with poorly defined tasks and then got angry when it wasn’t done right?”

The response? “I would discipline them!”

I thought to myself, “Really?” As the person who assigned the work to these volunteers, was she the pot or the kettle?

A terrific friend of mine, who is a very accomplished businessperson and a community leader of the highest order, related to me that she had been asked to take part in a membership drive. At the inaugural committee meeting, a consultant sat everyone down and lectured the volunteers about proper protocol. These volunteers are all very accomplished in their own right, and to be treated like five-year-olds must have been very off-putting.

How would you respond if this were your boss talking down to you? Now, how might you respond as a volunteer?

I have served with volunteers who—when given authority and responsibility, and held to account—led the responses to some of the most complex disasters of our time. I saw reservists who, when treated like the professional soldiers they were, could accomplish superhuman tasks. So I know first-hand that money is not the most important motivator!

Whether paid or unpaid, people want to:

• Have honourable and engaging work to do
• Be given clear expectations
• Feel they are part of something bigger than they are
• Be employed at or above their current capacity
• Be respected and appreciated

What Is Motivation?

The long-studied art and science of human motivation is complicated and often debated by academics and business practitioners alike. One thing is certain: the ability to inspire others to perform is a key element in effective leadership, and a key concern of organizations dedicated to quality and achieving results.

To motivate means to inspire action. What can managers do to inspire their employees? In order to answer that question, we must know what our people seek from their jobs.

Many managers assume that all people want from a job is money. If this were true, then all we would have to do to motivate people is give them more money for producing more, or better, work. This rarely works. It almost never has any long-term impact on motivation or performance.

What People Want from Their Jobs

If you want to get the best results from your people, you should know what rings their bell or drives them to greater effort. In order to do so, you must know people’s goals and how they look at their jobs.
Do you understand the aspirations, ambitions, and competitive spirit of those you lead? How do their personal lives affect their work?

It is important for managers to treat team members according to their individual personalities. People are different, and no two people respond exactly alike to the same situation or circumstances.

Managers need to get close to their people, understand them, and be able to inspire them under varied circumstances.

Light That Fuse

In your efforts to inspire team members to greater effort and greater results, remember that people are incited to action by their own personal motives.

This means, in effect, that all motivation is self-motivation. Therefore, your job is to help your employees find a cause that compels them to act while achieving the organization’s goals. It is your job, as their manager, to get your people to want to do what needs to be done.

Here are some ways to fire up people’s motivation:

1. Set clear, well-defined, and high (but attainable) goals. Be sure they understand and accept them.

2. When discussing goals with your people, get their ideas and suggestions. Don’t forget to review the problems they may encounter. People who are involved in producing ideas and goals will usually work harder to achieve them.

3. Assure your people that you rely on them and have confidence in them. They need to know that the boss believes in them.

4. Back up your people and fight for them when necessary. Public support, when appropriate, gives people confidence that they have the authority they need and shows that they have your trust.Be genuinely interested in your people and listen to their triumphs, their problems, their ideas, and their grievances.

5. Demonstrate that purposeful, dedicated, and consistent effort will lead to meaningful results.

6. Demonstrate how their work relates to their future and the advancement of the team.

7. Give deserved praise and meaningful recognition.

8. Get rid of “dead wood.” Workers are more productive when every person contributes to the team effort.

What are you going to do today to stay out of purgatory?

Two things you can do if you need help?

Click here to have a conversation with Steve

2 thoughts on “4 sins that demotivate your people and 8 ways to get out of motivational purgatory

  1. This was a very timely entry. I am leading a significant change in my organization right now and I have been discussing these very concepts with my supervisors. We are encouraging people to find their “ace in place” or match their skills and passions with the bundle of work that needs to be done. Thanks Steve.

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