The Principle of Positive Balance

You may remember the story of Sam (read it here), the employee who was summoned to the manager’s office. Expecting to be commended for an exceptional month of sales he was instead reprimanded for excessive (although not by much) use of sick leave.

This is a classic example of number 2 in my list of the Principles of Banking and Finance that apply to Motivation. Principle #1 is The Principle of Good Faith which you can read here. The second principle is the Principle of a Positive Balance.

You gotta put money into an account before you can take money out of the account. This principle and principle number 3 are integrally connected and should be understood as such. (I’ll be posting #3 on Monday.) Having enough money in the account to pay bills, make purchases, and most importantly to deal with emergencies calls for a working balance. A working balance means you have enough on account to avoid overdrafts so you never have a negative balance. In this context, a working balance is enough good will and positive feelings that the employee or associate feels optimistic about their future with you and your company, confident in their place within it, and reinforced psychologically

Motivating leaders and managers understand this and know from experience that there will be a time when something negative will demand action. It just might be that Sam may need to be reminded of excessive use of sick leave. In the case of Sam’s manager, there was not a positive balance in the account.

How will the deposit get there if you don’t put it there? It will not merely appear automatically. True enough, there are other factors outside your realm of influence that make deposits into an employee or an associate’s account. Positive experience and interactions with customers, other employees, and the company at large build the working balance. But no one has a greater capacity to build a working balance than you do.

People relate to people. Numbers alone are not sufficient. Reports alone are inadequate. Don’t be like an ignorant and insensitive husband who never tells his wife how much he cares about her, excusing his behavior by rationalizing that “She knows I love her.” She won’t know it if you don’t communicate it. Your employees and associates won’t either.

Positive experiences add to the balance.

Negative experiences reduce the balance.

Motivation is not all that rational. It is highly emotional. People must feel good about themselves, the company, and their relationship to it. Unfortunately, managers are usually not all that comfortable with the personal, emotional, psychological side of things. Leaders are usually better at it. We all need to become more adept. Here is what your employees and associates must feel (how you go about doing this is the subject of  the next installment in this series):

Adequate acknowledgement of their contribution to the good of the company. Motivated people feel needed and useful. And they need to feel that other people see they are needed and useful.

Adequate assurance that you are paying attention. I know you’re busy. I know you have inventory to count, widgets to engineer, reports to write. But do not neglect the people who make the numbers, move the inventory, draw the diagrams, and create the activity that gives you something to write about.

Adequate compensation. It seems obvious, but while talking about building an emotional and psychological balance, one does that with cold, hard cash. Too much money has a downside too, but under-compensation is far more prevalent.

Adequate incentive to do their best. Examine your incentives and make sure they are rewarding the right behavior.

Adequate expectation about the future. Uncertainty breeds fear. Fearful people begin to guard reserves much more carefully. They watch “bank balances” even more closely. Any hint that the job or the business or the organization is in trouble and people begin to divide their interest, energy, and loyalty.

In the next installment I will talk about the how you do these things. See you on Monday.

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