If you walk around a Walt Disney World resort or theme park, you're likely to witness something that, in most other settings, would seem bizarre. It's not the presence of large, animated characters, although you may witness that also. Rather, at any given moment, a person in dress clothes walking from one destination to another will stop, pick up a discarded piece of paper or a cup or another piece of trash and throw it in a trash can. Executives do it, front-line managers do it, hourly employees do it. Everybody does it.
This behavior's not rewarded with special monetary compensation, and there's no point system in which $5 bonuses are given out for every 15 pieces of trash someone picks up. Nor will you find a special monitoring system that watches for people who don't pick up trash and issues penalty points or demerits. Yet people are motivated to do it, anyway.
Picking up trash may not be your top concern, but there are undoubtedly other things that you'd like your employees to do. Have you ever wondered about your ability to motivate your people?
Stop wondering. The key is to deploy the five essential motivation steps, listed here.
Some leaders may find these steps intimidating, particularly first-time managers who were promoted because-of their individual skills. They often are uncomfortable with these ideas. They may feel that people should just do what needs to be done "because that's what they get paid for," or they believe that the only way to motivate people is to give them more money.
Successful motivators don't think that way. They know that by following these five steps, they can motivate people far beyond what they get paid for, and do so far more effectively than when money is the only incentive.
Step #1: Clearly Articulate Goals and Reasons
Often, the problem of getting people to accomplish things is not that they're not motivated; it's that they are uninformed. Leaders discuss goals with their peers and superiors regularly, and are, therefore, intimately familiar with what goals are to be accomplished. Because they know what their goals are, they assume that all of their employees also know them. Usually, this is not the case.
Take time to explain to everyone exactly what is to be accomplished and the reasons for meeting the goals. Don't forget to explain why goals are to be met: Knowing that enables people to make educated choices in their day-to-day decisions. For example, knowing that being able to discuss and recommend wines to accompany the entrees can substantially increase check averages (and tips) encourages waitstaff to become more knowledgeable about your wine list. They're also more likely to suggest ordering wine to your diners.
Goals should always include specific numeric objectives and timelines. A goal expressed this way—"Improve customer service" —is nebulous. People won't know how they are doing in their efforts to achieve that goal. However, when it is clarified—"Decrease customer wait times to 10 minutes by June 1st"—it becomes a goal your people can visualize and work toward achieving.
Step #2: Involve People in Finding Solutions
People are more motivated to succeed at something if they personally choose to attempt it. Managers should involve their people in choosing the goals the group is to accomplish. If this isn't possible, involving people in creating the process to achieve the goals is the next best thing. Their involvement will generate buy-in and will open the opportunity to reach an optimal solution.
Successful athletic coaches use this technique regularly. While it's true that they watch hours of game films, looking for weaknesses in their own team, as well as in their competitors', they also involve their players in finding the best way to win. They do it because no matter how much film they watch or how close they are to the game, they aren't in the game. The perspectives of players or employees who are in the midst of the action necessarily are drastically different from those of a coach or a manager who is only an observer.
If participants' perspectives aren't incorporated into the solution, two things happen. First, those in the midst of the action will feel that no one is listening to them, and will lose motivation. Second, decisions will be made that do not incorporate all relevant data. Both of these circumstances impede progress toward the goals.
Step #3: Explain the Rules of the Game
Have you ever played a new sport or game against experienced players? In the early stages of learning to play, you frequently do something that you think is correct, only to be told that it's against the rules. It's frustrating.
A similar situation occurs in the workplace. Employees are given a task, but are not told all the parameters or rules. Weeks into a project or process, they're informed that they need to change what they're doing because of some aspect of the task about which they weren't told. This is particularly demoralizing, and should be avoided at all costs. People can find solutions to almost any problem, but they need to know the rules of the game.
Step #4: Link People's Personal Goals with the Organization's Goals
There's a reason employees come to work. Successful motivators know what that reason is for every person who works for them and each day, they help their employees fulfill those reasons.
Really successful motivators understand not only the reason, but how the reason ties into the person's bigger life goals. When necessary, they help their people think about and articulate their bigger life goals. For example, when an employee no longer thinks, "I work so that I can make money," and, instead, thinks, "I work so that I can enable my daughter to attend a school that will give her a chance to go do what she wants in life," significant mental and motivational shifts occur.
Understanding that an employee comes to work because he or she thrives on personal interaction, is trying to gain experience so they can run their own corner deli, or address a personal goal enables a manager to speak that person's language. It also enables the manager to assign responsibilities in that person's area of interest, and to remind him or her of how the work is tied to his or her larger goals.
Managers who enable people to fulfill their life goals through work never have to worry about how to motivate them. Fulfilling their life goals is sufficient motivation. All the manager has to do is find the link between those goals and the organization's needs and match them.
Step #5: Move Negative People Off the Team
Nothing halts progress like someone who is discontented simply for the sake of being discontented. It's demoralizing to others and draws energy and time from tasks being attempted.
That doesn't mean you don't want good counterpoint people on your team, people who say, "I know what we're trying to do, and I think there's a better way to do it." They're valuable in keeping the team on the right track. However, a person who is always negative holds everyone back. Move them off the team, and bring in someone who promotes and support the group's efforts.
Anyone can be a great motivator. All it takes is an understanding of the appropriate steps to take and a willingness to do them. You know the steps. The willingness is up to you.
John Strelecky is the author of The Why Are You Here Cafè. He is a nationally recognized speaker. A graduate of Northwestern University's MBA program, he has been a business strategist for numerous Fortune 500 companies and co-founded the Business Philosophy practice at Morningstar Consulting Group LLC. He can be reached at 407-342-4181 or at www.whycafe.com.