Whenever we at Fortune talk about how to motivate staff, the first point we stress is that managers never actually directly motivate their employees. Motivation is internal, it's personal – it's either in your people or it isn't... and if they don't have that spark or drive, managers cannot synthetically put it there! However, by creating an environment or climate where people's natural motivations can come to the fore, managers can strongly and positively influence and increase staff motivation.

Unfortunately whilst they can't motivate, many managers appear to find it quite easy to demotivate employees, often unintentionally; we see it in businesses every day. Left unaddressed, managers who demotivate their people create an environment of negativity and resentment that cripples productivity.

There are countless ways managers can demotivate people. Here's three common examples:

  1. Falling into the "Hands On" vs "Heads On" trap

    When promoted into management, new managers move from a predominantly "hands on" role of doing work to more of a "heads on" role of overseeing others do the work. But when thrust into the 'unknown', managers will often regress to their comfort zone, to what's comfortable for them. This is understandable because the reason they were promoted out of their old role was as a result of being good at it! However when managers demonstrate how great they are at doing their people's work, they're usually taking an ego trip at the expense of their people: it may make them feel better but it leaves their people thinking, I'm not you and I don't want to be you.

    It's worth noting that the root of this problem often lies not with the newly promoted manager, but with those in more senior management roles who haven't provided the necessary support, tools and development to guide the transition of new managers from their previous "hands on" role to the new "heads on" role.
  2. Creating task interference

    As we covered with some example in an earlier blog, task interference occurs when someone or something interferes with the desire or ability to perform. For example, we often find that managers have a blind spot or false view that just because their people have a job, they are expected to be able to do it as is, without additional training or support. This can be especially true with new employees who may come into a new position with the perfect set of skills. But just because they may have the right experience for the job, a new hire is still incompetent about how you operate. Therefore, unless their manager provides them with the necessary guidance to succeed, they're productivity and likelihood of success is strongly diminished.
  3. Tearing down people's perceptions of themselves

    You may read this description and think there couldn't be a more obvious example of a demotivating tactic, that no one in their right mind would do it. But it happens more than you may think! You see, before performing any task, people must believe that the value they'll receive from completing it is equal to or greater than how the perceptions they have of themselves. When this isn't the case, managers have two options to close this gap and help their people accomplish the task: increase the perceived value of completing the task or decrease the employee's perception of themself.

    In what may be based in moments of ignorance or desperation, some managers actually try to bring their people down! They may say something along the lines of, "I know you think this task is below you, but let me tell you how fortunate you are to have this job. I could find a replacement for you tomorrow and not lose a moment's sleep over it." Clearly this is an attempt to motivate by fear, and for some managers with certain people it will net short-term results. But longer-term (and that's about 3 weeks), it's a crippling demotivator and causes significant resentment. Furthermore, it defeats the entire purpose to which a manager should be dedicated, and that's to build people up.

From these three examples alone, we can see how easy it is to demotivate employees. And because many actions that result in demotivation are done with the best of intentions – perhaps a manager offers to work with an employee so "you can see how it's done" or the manager doesn't put a new employee through training because "I don't want to waste your time" – managers often have no idea of the damage they're causing until their employee leaves the company. It's why we so frequently hear that employees quit managers, not companies.

Ask yourself: Are my managers doing anything to demotivate my employees, on purpose or unknowingly? Are any of them motivating by fear? Are we creating an atmosphere of resentment? If you think they are, or if you're not sure, give us a call or send us an inquiry. We'd be happy to discuss your situation.

Posted: 2/22/2011 7:59:00 PM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
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I'm calling it rewards, but you can call it whatever you want: salary, remuneration, money, cash, incentives, prizes, bonus, etc. They're all rewards.

When you try to motivate employees only with rewards, you can get immediate results.

But yesterday's rewards become tomorrow's rights.

It's a slippery slope. And in the long term, it simply isn't sustainable or enough; something more is needed!

Posted: 2/21/2011 6:39:13 PM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
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The other week we discussed how employees are motivated by viewing their jobs in the context of the larger business, as this develops a greater sense of pride in their work. Conversely, an employee that works with a sense of isolation, with little or no appreciation for how they fit into their team or the larger picture, will almost never have much pride in the business.

There's another lens through which we can view this dichotomy, and that's how each of these two groups focus on their work. Because you see, successful employees and teams – the ones who see the full picture – are motivated by achieving results that contribute to this larger picture. Less successful employees and teams, on the other hand – often those working in isolation – are motivated by their own day-to-day activities. In the eyes of this latter group, they may be productive, but to the outside observer they're simply busy being focused more on inputs than outputs and as a result, don't contribute to the bottom line.

While conducting a client assignment several weeks ago, John noticed that most of the employees were engrossed in their work, which should be a positive thing. In this case however, it quickly became apparent that despite their hard work, and despite how content they seemed to be performing it, no one had a purpose. There was no clear, larger goal in sight, just the repetition of the same work over and over again. They were unwittingly caught in an activity trap, motivated by pleasing activities, and from John's perspective it was having a significant stagnating effect on the growth of the business.

For a manager, it's the most basic of fixes: ensure your people clearly understand and appreciate their place in the organization, and how they personally contribute to its ongoing success. Because when they do, they will engage in activities and develop positive habits not just because they're pleasing to themselves, but because they're necessary for the business to achieve results and continue to grow.

Posted: 2/15/2011 7:45:18 PM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
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Angelo recently attended the national conference for one of our largest clients, a company with world-wide offices. As the first order of business for the conference, for the entire first morning, the CEO gave a detailed and glowing report on the company's local and global performance.

Over the course of the next three days, Angelo asked the different groups he worked with what they had taken away from that presentation. Without fail, they said they appreciated hearing first-hand how well the company was doing, and that it made them feel good to know how they were contributing to a company that was doing something great.

The cause and effect here is apparent: a successful company, one with a defined and shared mission, engenders prideful employees. And more often than not, prideful employees are motivated employees.

Working with some client businesses, however, we unfortunately find that managers often fail to communicate to employees how they and their team contribute to the bigger picture. This disconnect of context, in which employees view their jobs in isolation, practically stifles any chance employees have to derive pride from their work.

What a failed opportunity to create a motivational environment and engaged employees! And it's not that hard.

For employees to perform at their best, managers at all levels must ensure that their people understand the structure of their job and how it fits with the rest of the business. It's a simple matter for managers to address, one of the most basic possible and a fundamental management responsibility. But by neglecting to do so, managers almost guarantee they will de-motivate employees and sabotage their team's chances for success.

Have you structured your employees' jobs so they can perform at high levels? Do they clearly understand what the job is, how they fit into the rest of the business, how they are measured and the standards they are expected to perform to?

Posted: 2/8/2011 7:27:43 PM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
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The latest Leadership Development Carnival has just been posted over at the Inflexion Point blog: http://inflexionadvisors.com/blog/2011/02/07/love-leadership-development-carnival

As always it's full of fantastic content from a variety of leadership experts. We're honored that our post on accepting personal accountability has also been included.

To add an extra element to this month's edition, we've created a Twitter list of all organizations/people that were featured and created this tweet cloud of the most popular words used in our tweets. Can't say it's a huge surprise to see what the biggest (hence, most used) word was!

Leadership Development Carnival tweet cloud
Click here to view an interactive version of the cloud

A few interesting facts from the 800 tweets that we pulled to create the cloud:

  • Over two-thirds (67.75%) had a link
  • 40% included at least one hashtag
  • Just over half (51.25%) were retweets. Clearly we're a sharing community!

A big thank you to Mark at Inflexion Point for hosting the carnival this month. Next month it will be back at Great Leadership, its regular home.

Posted: 2/7/2011 11:53:27 PM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
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