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You Work Hard, Do They?

Aug 17, 2007
As leaders and managers, we often may find ourselves frustrated with what we perceive as a lack of motivation on the part of those we manage or supervise. So how would you answer this question:
Can you truly motivate another human being?

My belief is that you CANNOT MOTIVATE ANOTHER PERSON. That may sound rather pessimistic, but let's examine it from another perspective. As managers and leaders within our organizations, we CAN do much to create an environment where people will become self-motivated.

Let's look at the rationale for the belief that we cannot motivate another person. In our work with others over the years, we have discovered that behavior is almost always "needs-driven". What do we mean by that? Think of a newborn child. First the need occurs, then the feeling, then the behavior. The baby has a need for food, which triggers a feeling of intense hunger, which results in the baby crying. Most mothers and fathers can distinguish their newborns' cry for food from other sorts of cries.

As we grow older, other elements factor into our behavior, such as our values, our life experiences and our thoughts and feelings. It has been said we are either motivated by what we "feel" like doing or by what we "think" we should be doing. It is the old "pleasure/fear" motivator. You may be familiar with the "carrot/stick" concept as well.

In order for us to be more effective as leaders, and to create an environment where people are self-motivated, we must understand what lies below the "needs-driven" behavior we are seeing. It is often just the tip of the iceberg. By getting to know our associates, we can better understand what is driving their behavior. This is one of the keys to creating a high performing team.

We use a behavioral-based model called DISC to assist our clients in better understanding these needs. For example, someone with a high Dominance style of behavior has a need for results and achievement. A person with a high Influence style has a need for social recognition and competence. Someone with a high Steadiness style has a need for acceptance and stability. And someone with a high Conscientiousness style has a need for accuracy and correctness.

Obviously, as human beings, we are much more complicated than this, but it can be a start in looking below the surface of the iceberg. Many of us have a combination of at least two of these styles, and sometimes three. The behavior we see is only the tip of the iceberg.

If each of these behavioral styles has different needs and goals, how can we begin to create an environment that works for most everyone? Here are five tips to get us moving in the right direction regardless of individual styles.

** Be clear on expectations up front **
Let people know what is important to you and what you expect from them. Share your own style and needs with your fellow associates and friends.

** Walk the talk and lead by example **
Step in to support your team at every opportunity. Maintain your own sense of personal integrity at all times.

** Get to know your people and what makes them tick **
Be a student of understanding differences, and adapt your style to meet their needs. Provide opportunities for people to operate from their strengths.

** Provide honest feedback, and continuous coaching **
Encourage an environment where team members can learn from one another, including from you, and you from them. Tell the truth.

** Encourage and reward accountability **
Provide reinforcement when people take initiative. Be the poster child for personal accountability. Admit mistakes and learn from them.

I once attended an advanced facilitation skills class, where the facilitator said something that has stayed with me all these years. She said, "you can't take a group any further than you are". Think about that. If I have issues around control, or trust, or rigidity, it will almost certainly surface in our work as a group or a team.

Keeping the above quote in mind, it also begs looking at a very difficult question. Am I possibly a part of the problem? Am I creating the right environment so people want to come to work and want to contribute fully?

If I can begin to work on myself first, things will begin to shift. I have to get honest with myself, and my own needs, to determine what is driving my own behavior. I have to slay my own dragons before I can create an environment where others can do the same. I must assess my own level of motivation and my own attitude, before I can support others in this endeavor. By working on my own self-management, I can create an environment where others are self-motivated, and where as a team we are more likely to achieve our goals. And who knows, we just might have some fun along the way as well.
About the Author
Paula Switzer works with leaders who desire increased sales, improved customer service and enhanced teamwork. Learn more about her work at her websites: Training Resources and Relational Leadership.
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