Motivation Is Complex: There’s no “7-step system” or magic solution to developing an energized company. Every organization and individual within each is different. Ultimately each organization and person must find out for themselves what works, and then evolve it, because continues to change.
Founders/CEOs Are Special: Founders and CEOs often say “why won’t others work as hard as me? If I can do it, why not them?” Because it’s your baby, not theirs. Your people don’t have the same emotional or financial ownership that you do in the organization. Asked another way, why would or should they work as hard as you? How could you help them feel more ownership? People support what they help create.
“No Surprises”: When was the last time you were happily surprised at work? CEOs and VP Sales hate surprises from salespeople. Salespeople hate surprises from prospects. Prospects hate surprises from salespeople or companies. Employees hate surprises from CEOs and managers. Nobody likes surprises at work! They’re usually bad news, because for some reason, bad things seem to happen instantly, while good things incubate slowly over long periods of time. Leaders fear their people can’t handle the truth, that telling them too much would cause more harm than good. Not if you share the truth wisely, and regularly, just as in a marriage. Could you create a company culture of “no surprises”? Think about what it would mean – it’d be profound. It would create a fantastic culture of communication and trust.
(By the way, yes, people LOVE happy surprises! Perhaps because they are so, so, so rare? If your people get into a habit of making them happen for each other, you will have a very special thing going!)
Piling On Stress Does More Harm Than Good: Doesn’t it make sense that the more a person enjoys their work, the more they will be excited by it and look forward to it each day? And, the more stressful their work and environment is, the more they’ll dread it? Yet executives try to get people to work more by adding more stress! I believe leaders do this because it’s easier to crack a whip that figure out how to help people figure out how to find more enjoyment in their work (which can be done, no matter what job it is). Perhaps also there’s a hidden belief that “enjoying work means taking it easy, not contributing or doing much”) which is not true at all. Your (good) people don’t want to be bored, they want to learn, be interested and contribute. If any desire to be ‘lazy’ for more than a few hours or days, it’s because they’ve been on the hamster wheel too long, the work’s a grind (and no effort’s being made to make it more interesting) or what they’re doing isn’t a good fit for them.
Short Term Solutions:
- Fear (ex: Cracking The Whip, Threats, Exhortations) – adrenaline, like caffeine – can create a short-term burst of energy, but it leaves people off more drained than before (one step forward, two steps back).
- Prizes (ex: Contests, Rewards, Motivational Talks) – like sugar – can be sweet, but aren’t a replacement for “food,” daily fulfilling activities.
Long Term Solutions:
People Need Soil, Water & Sunlight:
1) Trust: If I’m worried about my job or the company, it sucks a lot of energy out of my day. I need to trust in my company, my executives, my manager. If I don’t trust, or feel safe, I’m going to burn out half my mental energy on being stressed and wondering ‘what will happen next’ and I won’t be able to do my best.
2) Care: When other people believe in me and care about me, I have a lot more energy and confidence. If I don’t feel my company or manager cares about me, why should I go the extra mile for them?
3) Communication: If I don’t know what’s going on (from my manager & company), I’m going to be anxious. If I don’t know what’s expected of me, or how to improve, I won’t know what to do differently.
Survival Situations: Sometimes, a company or team ends up in a do-or-die situation, with a complex mix of fear, challenge, exhaustion, excitement and dread. These situations can bring out the best in a person or team, or crush others. The media loves to share survival stories, because they make for good reading – especially the happy ones, in which someone overcomes incredible odds to pull off a magical solution. The more common failures just aren’t as interesting, so they aren’t shared as much. I think because of this, executives have a ‘they can do it bias’ and believe the stupendous saves can be done regularly. I think of them more like chemotherapy – yes, sometimes patients in life-or-death situations have miraculous recoveries, but even if they do (and most don’t), they are worn out from the treatment. I don’t recommend putting your people in survival mode regularly in order to create huge breakthroughs.
People Support What They Help Create: The more people are allowed to make their own decisions, to help create goals and projects, the more dedicated they will be to them.
Trust Is Built In Baby Steps, But Lost In Leaps: People will trust you if you show consistency and honesty. If you’ve made and broken promises in the past, start with a commitment that is small and specific, to make it easy to succeed and rebuild trust. If you have a history of missing goals, lower them or change them. Stop ‘hoping’ and get real, honestly look at what’s gone wrong before.
For the full draft, you can view it in this Google Doc and comment as well (I appreciate all suggestions, requests & feedback): Energize Your People (working draft)