Motivation is a very personal thing so when you find it alive and well within someone you work with, it’s in your interest and theirs to do all you can to keep it vibrant. The challenge with those who would be motivators is they easily disconnect themselves from the perspective of others. Being egocentric beings, we all look at the world through our own eyeballs. The trick is to see things through another’s while still doing your job as manager or leader.
In the end there is not much you can do to motivate someone who is themselves unmotivated but there it is fairly easy to throttle it down or kill it outright by making easily preventable and avoidable mistakes. Here are 5 of them:
1. Be sure to tell them how expensive the utility bills are for the store, shop, or factory so they will want to work harder so you or your company will have more money to pay them. Whenever you have an employee meeting make certain that everyone knows that the electric bill for last month was $25,000 or whatever. Why this doesn’t work? Each person you tell has his or her own utility bills to pay on whatever income they are earning. Hint: They don’t give a flying flip about the company’s electric bills and trying to help you pay them is so far down the list of important things to your associates it’s not even on the list of important things to your associates. In one business, the general manager tried this for quite some time until more than one of their key associates reminded the manager that their electricity at home had been disconnected twice because they had not had enough to pay the bill. Your overhead costs cannot possibly compete with the challenges they face for their own survival.
2. Remind your top sales people that the end of the accounting period is approaching so they need to snap to and address all the open estimates out there. Be sure and do this when they’ve had a great sales week and do this without saying anything about how terrifically they’ve performed so far. Remind them of how far there is to go without celebrating how far they’ve come.
3. Send a generic email to everyone using general terms and vague references commending progress for the entire team but avoid face to face commendations. Use email to hide behind while at the same time congratulating yourself on what a wonderful communicator you are. Better yet, don’t say anything until they are fed up and turn in their notice, then on their way out the door let them know how you’ve appreciated their contribution. That goes down real well. Hint: Get out from behind that desk, walk over to where they are and tell them face to face how they are a valued member of the team. If they’re in another building or State, pick up the phone and tell them. Emails are ok. Conversations are terrific. Face to face conversations are the best!
4. When they come to you to report on a big sale, a deadline that’s been nailed, a contract that’s been secured or a project that’s been completed, let the first words out of your mouth be an interrogation over why they didn’t do more. I actually saw this happen more than once (Truthfully I’ve seen all these things happen more than once and done some of them, I am ashamed to say, myself). A salesperson would call up the sales manager or a general manager and tell them they had just closed on a big, big order then the first words out of the manager’s mouth were to ask if they pushed any add-on sales. This one has to rack up there as one of the stupidest things a manager/leader can do. The message conveyed is that nothing the associate does is EVER good enough! Dumb, dumb, dumb! If the car is running and travelling at high speed, don’t puncture a tire.
5. Mess with their pay and tell them it is a positive move going forward. All employee and associate issues are local. See #1 above. You may be a member of management in your company or you may represent management in your company and you may be dialed in to what the company has to say and speak what they decide to do from their perspective. But your associates, your employees are dialed in to WII-FM, What’s In It For Me and they do not take kindly to being compromised. Never forget that your associates and employees are not stupid and can see a spin from a thousand yards away. One major US company suddenly and with but a three day notice eliminated all sales commissions and spiffs from their sales staff telling them that they did this for the employee’s benefit. The spin was that “We know how difficult it is to budget when your wages are inconsistent from paycheck to paycheck so we’ve eliminated the commissions so you can have a consistent known amount each pay period. This is a positive move going forward.” This is not only unfair it is insulting. Every affected person could see it as a positive for the company but a negative for themselves. It’s only a positive move if it affects your associates and employees positively. Everything else is considered negative no matter how you try to spin it. If pay cuts and benefit cuts are beyond your control, empathy for those who now have to get by on less won’t hurt. One manager of said company above added insult to injury by advising his people that they really shouldn’t consider their pay to be that important but to buy stock in the company for long-term growth and wealth. This is an example of high position blindness brought on by forgetting what it is like to be a wage earner. I can guarantee you that every employee whose wages, benefits, commissions, or spiffs were cut has only one long-term objective and that’s to get the hell out of that company as soon as they can.
If your biggest cost is personnel it should also be your biggest asset if you work it well. What examples of demotivation have you seen, experienced, or gasp, done yourself? I’d like to know and so would my readers. Know someone who could benefit from this, do them a favor and pass it along.