3 Things you Forgot About Motivating People
When we think about motivation we tend to imagine people bounding around, smiling and excited to make things happen. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s not much of a recipe for long-term productivity in a work place. While I’m all for a healthy dose of inspiration, there are three things which are completely underestimated in their ability to motivate employees, and all available without delivering a stirring speech:
1. Every aspect of an employee’s job should be as clearly defined as possible.
You are defining success, drawing a goal line, establishing an ideal. This is no place for mushy ill-defined terms. The quote from Einstein serves well here: “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
When you outline their job, and goals clearly, they’ll get straight to it. People almost universally want to succeed. Thus, if you define success, and it falls within reachable boundaries, they’ll do it. Don’t forget about the quote. If you can’t explain it to a six-year old – you failed. Try again.
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2. Give all staff the best available tools to get the job done.
That’s your job. To make their job as simple and easy as possible. The only obstacles employees face in their work should arise from external forces. Any work with no value add from human involvement? Automate it. Bottle necks where you need supervisory authority? Eliminate or reduce the requirement. Streamline things so everyone can soar in their position. Remember, your job is to remove anything that might impede their ability to work successfully.
How many times have you called a business only to have to speak to multiple departments to get answers? While you were frustrated as a client, so are the people on the other end of the phone. It’s no fun to tell people no, to be unable to help.
Whether it is information, a stepladder, or a wrench – put the tools in worker’s hands to ensure they can succeed. Their success is great for them, great for clients, and great for the company.
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3. Listen. Listen. Listen.
Get the idea? Most employees can explain to you exactly what is wrong with a product, a computer system, or a procedure. But often management is so busy worrying about what some expert thinks, they fail to ask the real expert – the person who actually does the work.
I can remember working as a consultant for a steel cutting company. The owner wanted some recommendations on how to improve profitability for the business. When I went to the factory floor and asked the people there for some ideas. I could scarcely write fast enough. They’d been waiting for someone to ask!
Later when I delivered my report to the owner, who was unaware of my journey to this wealth of knowledge, he was awed by the suggestions. He began to praise me and then I informed him where I’d gotten most of my ideas. He was stunned that “his people” knew so much.
A great reminder that there is plenty of gold to be mined under our feet. Just ask the people in the mine.
management is so busy worrying about what some expert thinks, they fail to ask the real expert – the person who actually does the work.
4. That’s right. In the spirit of under-promise and over-deliver, here’s a bonus tip…
Explain how your business works to your employees, so they know what the company is trying to accomplish. Get them to understand how what they do fits into the larger picture, why it matters. Moreover, make sure all employees understand how what each of them does benefits the other.
This serves a couple of interests. 1) When people know why their work matters, their work almost universally improves. 2) When people understand how other positions work, people develop much stronger empathy toward one another. By the way, when this fourth step is done, you’ll get some new feedback on step three. The people doing the work always have insights.
There you have it. Four simple, yet often forgotten truths about keeping people motivated for the long-run. You don’t need to have the voice of Morgan Freeman or the passion of Tony Robbins to motivate people. Just treat your employees as the important resource they are: be clear, provide help, and listen for more information. Be sure they know why their work is important. An additional benefit is that once you’ve aligned the people and goals of the organization, you’ll likely find you have managed to renew your own motivation as well.
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Inevitably someone responds to this sort of article with an “I know that”. Guess what, “I know” isn’t worth a hill of beans. It’s what you do that matters. Not just today, not through next week. As long as you have employees, you are responsible for these items. Your job is to be helpful, and continually find ways to make your employee’s lives easier. Now it’s time to get out there and help them make some magic.
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