Motivation = Energy
Try driving an automobile without any gasoline, or lighting up a skyscraper with no electricity, or getting your body through the day with zero food or sleep. Anything designed to accomplish something – a vehicle, a structure, a body – needs energy. Science has even proven that solid objects contain massive amounts of energy. An atom, when split into parts under specific circumstances, will release a cosmic amount of energy and force. The energy of any business is its employees, its people, and the energy of its people is summed up in the word motivation.
Your Energy Source: People
The motivation, the drive, each person’s desire to exceed will make or break a business. When that motivation is accompanied by knowledge, competence and teamwork, we have the essentials for lasting success. Positive motivation is by far the preferred method, and in the long run it is the only method. How do you light the fire under employees without burning anyone? How to you instill motivation, passion and ardor within each individual and your team as a whole? Here are some tips:
The Power of Potential
First consider that anyone has a well of motivation and energy within them waiting to be tapped. It may or may not be evident, but it is there. It then becomes your task to unleash it. But you can’t really spend all your time doing that. Thus some companies large and small hire motivational “experts” as part of their productivity efforts. I am sure some of these are effective, but you may not wish to go that route and you may not be able to afford it.
When you approach an individual, assume they have this potential from the get-go. Don’t look on them with an air of negativity. Your expectations go a long way. Many people – far more than you may realize – simply don’t perform because no one expects them to. But the reverse is true. When you expect that someone will do a great job, a lot of the time they’ll do just that. But it is essential that you do not hold any preconceived notions about anyone. Accept them for who they are and expect and assume they have every intention of doing an excellent job.
Sure there will be a handful who are dedicated to covertly or overtly messing up anything they touch, but these are in the vast minority and hopefully you intercepted them in the hiring process. Most people not only want to succeed but want to see others succeed as well. When you talk to people, make it clear what is expected and that you have no doubt they will do a bang-up job.
The next thing you should do is make sure they know how to do it. You may hire people who are previously trained and have experience, or you may do the training yourself so they do it your way – or some combination of both. Regardless of your approach, check to see if someone knows how to do something. A lot of unacceptable results come about from simply not knowing what to do. Ignorance and uncertainty leads to hesitation and inaction. Some people are convinced they know it all when in fact they do not, so it’s OK to challenge people. Have them show you how they’d go about something, and if it is off you can correct them. When you remain positive, even when correcting someone, the vast majority will respond well.
Goals & Planning
Any business should have clear goals and a sound plan for getting there. Not every business makes it, and one reason is a lack of motivation. People get discouraged; they slow down and quit. Primary causes of this are a lack of finite goals and a lack of well-thought-out strategic planning. Owners and managers don’t always keep their employees properly informed as to progress toward company goals. When people know where the team is going and know the plan for getting there, they are often more motivated to act as a team player.
One missing element in many businesses is that individual employees do not equate their small actions with the larger objective. They do not realize that what they do really matters, that the overall plans of the company are entirely composed of what they do on a day-to-day basis. So making sure people really understand this is essential.
Another component that can be lacking is so obvious that it is often overlooked. And that is that individual tasks must be COMPLETED. You’d think that goes without saying, but it needs to be said. When someone starts something, they should know they are supposed to finish it. When people complete things, they feel good about it and are motivated to move onto the next task. When they have a few incomplete projects lying about, their attention gets dispersed and they lose sight of any clear direction. Encourage your people to complete each task they start. Their morale will be higher and they’ll have more energy and motivation.
The Commodity of Fun
Fun is a valuable commodity. What good is anything if it isn’t fun or at least leads to more fun? Make your workplace a fun place to work. You can get very creative in this arena, but the type of business you’re in will have some say in how you go about it. Some of the most successful businesses around make fun an integral part of their operation. Being productive and achieving high levels of quantity and quality make for more fun. Making anything you’re doing into a game leads to more fun. Creativity and the spark of imagination in any sphere leads to more fun. Splurge on fun.
You can motivate people when you are approachable. If people are afraid to knock on your door or talk to you, you are missing something important in your business. I am extremely busy and I travel and meet with a lot of people in order to forward the cause of holistic drug rehabilitation. But when I’m back in the office I keep my door open and people know they can talk to me. For any manager, your staff should be able to come to you and voice their opinions. A lot of things can be sorted out through good two-way communication, but you’ve got to have an open communication channel in the first place. Through communication you can achieve better harmony, motivation and productivity.
A Game of Numbers
There are many modern ways to keep track of statistics, metrics and analytics. We don’t live for numbers, but we can use them to monitor and improve what we’re doing. Any department or employee should be able to measure their actions and equate them with the bigger picture. When they see the final results, they become motivated to do more. When they are duly rewarded, they become even more motivated.
Marketing, for example, can get extremely sophisticated in terms of the monitoring and codification of data. Retail sales outfits make a massive effort to understand who their shoppers are, where they go, why they go there, and what compels them to buy – all the way down to what colors, textures and smells to use. Supermarkets utilize heat sensors so they know which aisles you’ve been frequenting and which you haven’t. They also do things like make the shopping carts bigger so you fill them up more. And that’s just for starters. My point: No matter what business you’re in, the more usable data you have, the better you can use it to motivate and get your team to focus on the right targets.
Segments of Responsibility
Make people responsible for things. Once you are confident they know what to do, trust them with it. Let them run with it. People get motivated when they feel valuable and trusted. And they seek to earn that trust even more. You have the concepts of cause and effect. People like to cause things rather than be the effect of them. You can help your employees be more “causative” by making sure they understand exactly what constitutes their spheres of responsibility and how these integrate with everyone else in the organization.
Example: In a store, a driver gets deliveries from point A to point B, keeps a published schedule and is responsible for the maintenance and repair of a vehicle. The shelf stocker is responsible for keeping the shelves neatly stocked per label and marking the prices. A cashier is responsible for quick and accurate handling of money and the delivery of purchased items into the hands of the consumer. All these people rely on one another to do their jobs and thus achieve the overall aims of the store. They get more motivated when they know their jobs are essential and others cannot do their job unless they do theirs. And so it goes in any business and any group anywhere in the world.
Communication & PR
Strike up a conversation with an employee and get them talking. Ask questions about their job and what they like and what they don’t like. Make sure you get real answers, not perfunctory “what the boss wants to hear” answers. Observe the person’s reactions and attitudes. From this you can get some idea as to what motivates that person. You can also conduct surveys in order to ascertain what makes your people tick and what doesn’t. From these results you formulate a project or campaign.
Any company has (or should have) public relations with its customers, other businesses, entities, etc. But PR also has an internal function. PR is NOT dishonesty. PR correctly done equates to real communication and understanding people – what motivates them and what they consider vital in their lives. Internal PR actions need not be complicated. In a small business, they can be as simple as sorting out schedules, holding weekly staff meetings that are productive and fun, turning work into a game, effective mentorship, fueling creativity, and when things are going well, taking everyone out to dinner on Friday. Remember however that a reward is what someone wants, not necessarily what you think they want. So you have to ask.
Positive reinforcement is exactly what it sounds like. You are positive in your dealings with people and you use positivity to reinforce what is good and valuable. You do not reinforce what is “bad” or not valuable. You deal with the bad, but you don’t make it more influential, i.e. you do not reinforce it. If an employee is messing up, you point that out and make sure he knows how to fix it; then you focus on what he’s doing right and acknowledge that rightness. Using “force” is limited and will backfire eventually. A far more effective policy is positive reinforcement.