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Archive for the ‘Motivation’ Category

Talent is an Asset?

‘Every organisation around the world is dependent on the talent that chooses to join it’

I said that to someone recently and they blinked and paused before we could continue. The reason was that their mindset was one of recruiting talent that met their needs and ‘letting it go’ when it didn’t. This mindset is prevalent around the world despite all the good words that come out in company values statements (I wish I had a $ for every ‘People are our biggest asset’)

A lot of time is spent on recruiting people to do specific roles and trying to match people to jobs that need done. People are selected and promoted base on many different criteria as each company tried out its own methodology to match person to post. We try and pin down the right person to the right role as a set of prioritised facts.

Yet companies change frequently, roles shift and move with the changes in the business environment. Structures change with new leaders and the demands on managers vary by every change in objectives. Ask any change agent and they will tell you that many of the people ‘restructured’ out of a business were once seen as performers or were recruited as ‘top talent’ or even head-hunted for a role.

They still have the skills and experiences that they came with (and should have added more). They still know what they did when you rated them. They can still do what you asked them to do when they arrived. So what has changed?

It’s a truism that we hire on skills and fire on attitude, but what is widely known but rarely talked about is that attitudes can be moulded by the company and the leader someone works for. Bright eyed talent with passion and enthusiasm can leave as jaundiced and jaded run of the mill employees. Sometimes it can be changes in their life outside of work but often it is the organisational environment that does it.

While talent is seen as an something that is bought and used and then thrown away, or as an asset just like those on your balance sheets (and remember you depreciate those) then there will always be ‘churn’ and ‘turnover’ within your business.

Look at it this way. You don’t need an engagement survey to know the level of commitment in your important relationships do you? You don’t need told that you need to invest in them either?

Perhaps considering your ‘talent’ as people that chose you and your business as much as you chose them would lead to a mindset of a mutually beneficial  relationship. It may change who you recruit in the first place and why you recruit them (want to live with someone you fall out with all the time?) And a shift to that paradigm might change everything in your organisation quicker than any restructuring.

Are you right or are you winning?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were convinced that you were right and that the person you were debating with was wrong? Or that someone else’s behaviour was ‘out of order’ and that it up was up to them to ‘apologise’ or ‘make the first move’?

Perhaps you’ve had that situation with someone who worked for you? Or perhaps you’ve been the one on the other side of the argument?

Its really easy to get stuck sometimes, and its happened to most of us at some time or other. Sometimes as a manger you will see the situation occurring between two peers or between of your staff. But what do you do about it if you are the boss or the peer?

This came up in a conversation with a client of mine recently. He was in a situation where he had been given some ‘feedback’ by his manager. Except it wasn’t really feedback. It was a long list of what the manager thought they should and shouldn’t be doing and why the manager thought it was so. In feedback terms this is a ‘slam dunk’ and when we teach feedback to managers we find that a large amount of what is called feedback is really a ‘slam dunk’ (you know the type of feedback; negative and not designed to help someone improve performance; just a way of letting someone know how wrong they were. And if at this point you are thinking, ‘that’s the feedback we do in our business’ then contact my coaching colleagues at before it causes more problems than it already is!).

My client was rather unhappy about this and it had caused a number of sleepless nights and emotional outpourings with trusted friends. In fact it became obvious that my client was one step away from looking for a a new role, anywhere where his boss wasn’t. This, buy the way is the regular result of poor feedback skills. De-motivation!

But the actual feedback had happened a few weeks previously. So I asked why my client hadn’t raised this with his boss and given them some feedback about that conversation, explaining how it had left them feeling and how disempowering so much of it had been. The answer was ‘ why should I?’ and ‘its not up to me to make my boss better at their job!’

At this point I am sure that you have been here before, haven’t you? Whether you were angry at the boss, or hurt or worried about the way they had spoken to you I am sure we’ve all been somewhere like this before. So what do you do?

I know that some of you will have heard me use this maxim before, so it will be no surprise that I told him that one of my favourites is’ Am I right, or am I winning?’

We used this to talk through who was suffering most as a result of ‘the why should I?’ approach, and whether it was his role to help his boss be ‘better at his job’ or not. The answer is probably obvious to you, right?
Who was having the sleepless nights? Who was replaying the scene time and again in conversations with himself (we all do that, don’t we?) And with trusted colleagues? Who was using all that energy and building up the stress? Certainly not their boss!
In a perfect world, everyone would recognise when they have not been at their best, bosses included, and they would do the ‘right thing’. But waiting for that to happen and wasting energy, time, emotion on it is certainly not going to keep you ‘winning’. The answer is to become skilled at giving feedback to the person you need to. Proper non emotive feedback (not a slam dunk)

But lets track back to a question I posed earlier. What do you do if you are the boss and you see it happening between two peers or two of your team?

Lets start with what not to do.

1) Don’t make a judgement. Don’t tell one of them they are right and the other is wrong. You know where that will lead don’t you? No? Who has become the problem now?

2) Don’t ‘bang their heads together and tell them to sort it out or you will!’ either. You know what kind of damage that will cause to your reputation as a manager don’t you? Positional power as a problem solver between people? Good move? (anyone that thinks yes at this point should call me now!)

When I run conflict resolutions, one part of the process is to get people to look at the problem from the other persons point of view. You might want to try that. It takes every ounce of your coaching skills (and if it this point you are getting worried then you do need to go to and talk about their coaching culture programme!), but as a boss or as a peer all you are doing is facilitating enough thinking between two people to get them to talk the problem through for themselves (perhaps with someone like me to make it work well between them if its not a good role for you).

You can of course sit them down (individually), tell them that you know something is not right between the two of them and ask if they want to talk about it. If you can get them to unload with you it might help (especially if you don’t try & solve the problem; see the reasons above!), and then when the moment is right you can ask, ‘what are you going to do about it’.

If you get all the reasons that its not up to them you might want to ask your version of ‘Are you right or are you winning?’.

Matching Motivations

One of the most widely know axioms around motivation is “you cannot motivate people, they motivate themselves”. Most of the times that I have heard that spoken its been followed with a shrug of the shoulders as if to say, “So what can you do?”.

I came upon this once when working with a small business that provided professional services to their clients. Most of the work was delivered on a consulting basis and that generally meant they were paid by the hour. The GM of the business was keenly aware that the business existed around the simple maths that the salary out-goings couldn’t exceed the billable hours. Like most consultancies they recognised that there were non billable situations where the team was working on the business itself or in pitches to get new work. The team completed time-sheets on a weekly basis, allocating their working hours to specific projects or to non-billable time.

I noticed that the GM was routinely frustrated at time-sheet time and it was never a good time to talk to them. One day I asked about that to see what was going on. The GM told me that one member of the team was always late with their time-sheet, made lots of excuses for not doing it and when the time-sheet arrived the non-billable hours was always excessive. The GM knew that this person performed well with clients and built good relationships and really worked hard for the clients whose portfolios she maintained. At the end of the download the GM said, “She doesn’t seem motivated to get what this business is about, she might have to go!”.

So how can that happen? A capable individual that should be an asset to the business and a boss who has begun to think they aren’t motivated and thinking of letting them go! Seems a waste doesn’t it, but how often have you been in that situation? I’ve met it many times.

I volunteered to have a chat with the employee about her job and how she was finding it. What I found was a highly committed woman, who loved her work and loved her clients. She really liked helping them and doing things for them. No lack of motivation at all. But she was beginning to sense an issue with the boss and that was making her wonder if she “was working in the right place” So not only did we have a boss thinking about cutting an employee loose, but the employee was thinking of going. It was just a matter of time to see who acted first. Looked like a self fulfilling prophesy about to come true! In either case reputations would be damaged in the marketplace, and neither was going to enjoy the experience.

I sensed that I was facing a motivational disconnect. I was pretty sure that neither were talking to each other and that it was all being built up their heads as the only conversation was with their self-talk. I asked if I could facilitate a discussion between them and as I wanted them to get a better understanding of themselves as well as each other I used a simple tool that I use in our “your attitude is showing” workshop to give a platform for that discussion. Without it in the middle I would have an “he-said, she said” type conversation.

Sure enough the employee was focused on ‘making the world a better place for other people’ (social) and not that interested in money (utilitarian). In fact when I talked through the information with her so that she understood herself better and why the boss was having difficulty she admitted that she had real difficulty ‘charging’ hours to her clients as it ‘seemed wrong’ to do so when all she was doing was ‘helping them’. What we had was a highly utilitarian motivation (the boss) facing a social motivation (the employee).

She wasn’t ‘not motivated’ just motivated differently. Once the boss understood this the solution became easy. The boss changed her time-sheet so that it recorded hours helping clients and hours helping the boss and made no mention of money, rates, charge-outs and all the other necessary things that the business needed to make money. The boss left that part to her accounts team.

Why did the boss manage the outcome that way? Why didn’t the boss explain to the employee why she had to do it the way the company wanted? The boss understood that she couldn’t motivate the employee but she could provide the environment for the employee to motivate herself. That is the job of a leader after all.

So if you find yourself thinking that someone isn’t motivated and yet they seem to have the capability then it might be that you are not matching your requests to their motivation.