Posts Tagged Attitude
Two new articles by motivation expert Susan Fowler point to some of the challenges leaders face in trying to create an engaging and motivating work environment for team members. The two big challenges? Weaning yourself and others off suboptimal motivators—which Fowler labels as “junk food” motivation—and focusing instead on six best practices that support autonomy, relatedness and competence.
In The Science Behind Why You Don’t Feel Motivated, Fowler shares that people bring different motivational outlooks to the projects they face at work. Three of these outlooks are suboptimal—disinterested, imposed, and external. Fowler asks readers to consider a couple of questions to identify if they might be exhibiting signs of one of these three outlooks. Ask yourself, Am I…
- Unable to find value or meaning in the project?
- Feeling imposed? Is there someone pressuring me to get this done? Am I pressuring myself?
- Feeling resentful?
- Fearful of what might happen if I don’t do it? Am I concerned about disappointing someone else—or myself?
- Doing the work in an effort to avoid guilt or shame?
- Doing the work for the money?
- Doing the work with hopes of gaining favor, power or status in the eyes of others?
- Am I taking this on to impress someone else?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your motivation is suboptimal explains Fowler.
“Suboptimal motivation is like junk food. Think about what happens when you are low on energy and go for the quick fix—a candy bar, an order of fries, a caffeinated drink. Your blood sugar spikes and then you crash. That doughnut tasted really good going down, but it didn’t do your body any good—especially in the long term. When your motivation is based on disinterest, external rewards (tangible and intangible), or feeling imposed, you will simply not have the energy, vitality or sense of well-being required to achieve your goals.”
To move in a better direction Fowler suggests a different approach. In an article on What to Do When Rewards and Incentives Don’t Work Fowler recommends looking at three basic human needs and three ways to rediscover your own personal motivation.
As she explains, “The best motivation comes from three basic psychological needs: autonomy, relatedness and competence, or ARC. When psychological needs are satisfied, people flourish. When these needs are undermined, people languish.”
You can wean yourself—and others—off carrots and sticks by adopting six motivation best practices that support autonomy, relatedness and competence. Here are Fowler’s recommendations:
Encourage autonomy. Frame deadlines as useful information critical for achieving important goals rather than sticks for applying pressure.
Deepen relatedness. Reframe metrics that have no emotional meaning. Conduct motivational outlook conversations with employees to help them attribute their own sense of meaning to critical organizational goals and outcomes. You cannot impose your values or feelings on others, but you can guide their exploration of values and sense of purpose they find compelling.
Develop people’s competence. Focus on setting learning goals, not just output goals. Shift your focus from accomplishment to building competence. Instead of just asking, “What did you get done today?” try asking, “What did you learn today?”
Promote mindfulness. Prompt awareness of options a person may not have considered. Ask questions such as “Why is this important to you (or not)?” and “Why are you finding this goal so challenging (or rewarding)?” These simple yet powerful, open-ended questions help individuals rise above patterns of behavior that often sabotage their best intentions.
Align with values. Conduct a values conversation with individuals you lead. They may have succumbed to suboptimal motivation based on money, rewards, incentives, power, status, fear, pressure, guilt or shame because they have not consciously or deliberately aligned their work to meaningful values that generate sustained positive energy, vitality and sense of well-being.
Connect to purpose. Your organization has probably spent enormous resources crafting and socializing its vision, purpose and mission. Now help individuals do the same. Encourage the people you lead to develop their own workplace purpose statements. There are few things in life more powerful than acting from a noble purpose.
As Fowler encourages, “The more mindful you are, the more opportunity you have to shift to an optimal motivational outlook. Motivation is a skill. You can learn to experience high-quality motivation any time and any place you choose.”
You can read more on Susan Fowler’s approach to motivation at SUCCESS online.
Because front-line people deliver on the agency mission every day, they inevitably encounter opportunities for improvement. However, if your leadership style does not promote the free exchange of candid feedback, you’re probably doing your agency and the public a disservice by not receiving and acting on potentially valuable information.
Setting the tone for feedback is a leadership skill that deserves attention and practice to ensure you do not miss opportunities for individual, team, and agency improvement. So what gets in the way of a free flow of information? Here are some common pitfalls.
- Lack of candor. When a leader establishes a work environment where candor is not valued, people have a tendency to tell the leader what they believe the leader wants to hear. This creates a “yes boss” mentality where the leader’s perspective and ideas are valued and reinforced above alternative points of view. As a result, there is a loss of diversity of thinking and input.
- Fear of retribution. “Why would I risk angering my manager with a potentially controversial observation?” If people feel they will be chastised, bullied, or ridiculed for speaking their mind, they will keep potentially useful ideas to themselves.
- Talking instead of listening. Does your team practice good listening habits? Or do people listen just long enough to reinforce their own opinions? If teams are not attentive and don’t explicitly convey a desire to receive feedback, information flow is restricted.
- Lack of action. Does your team make changes based on new input and suggestions? Or do team members take more of a “my way or the highway” approach that leads to disagreement? If you really value honest, candid feedback, you have to demonstrate that it is desired, valued, and acted on.
Open communication is a key to the successful fulfillment of the agency mission. What changes do you need to make in your leadership style and behavior to allow more candid feedback to come your way? These four starting points can serve as a road map as you begin to examine your own agency’s culture.
It’s people and their associated behaviors—not just spreadsheets and action plans—that drive successful projects. An effective manager-employee connection is vital: everyone has times when they need support, direction, and encouragement to stay energized and committed. Still, the notion of managers establishing and sustaining relationships with their people is often overshadowed by the day-to-day work of managing projects.
Here are four relationship building practices managers can use to help employees stay focused, stay energized, and COPE with workplace demands.
- Career planning. When employees believe there are options for advancement, they are more likely to have a high level of commitment. But it is important to remember that career advancement means different things to different people. One person might have a desire to lead others while another is content to be a specialist without supervisory responsibility. Successful leaders open a dialogue about specific options that are important to each employee, review potential paths to achieving goals, and maintain an ongoing conversation.
- Open door approach. Next, employees need to see the manager as easily accessible. An open door approach is a relationship building tool that enables a trusting, two-way dialogue. This can be achieved through MBWA (management by walking around—somewhat of a lost art); one-on-one meetings that create a safe harbor for exchange; reserving time in the office for employees to visit as desired; and using 360-degree feedback. Reserved office hours might take many of us back to university days when professors welcomed a visit to discuss a class assignment or clarify a topic. In addition to gathering needed information, these hours were conducive to relationship building—students knew they would be welcome without appointment or concern about interrupting workflow.
- Problem solving. The open door approach not only creates an environment and opportunity for exchange, it also provides a forum for problem solving. Problem solving often requires the support of others—and its success can depend upon the extent and effectiveness of the manager-employee relationship. If a solution calls for a change in policy, an allocation of resources, or something else requiring a manager’s involvement, the presence of a quality manager-employee relationship will smooth the process.
- Engaged Innovation. Innovation can move the agency needle on breakthroughs related to delivering the best public service. Often the answer to recurring and persistent issues can be found at the point of delivery: customer-facing employees will likely have ideas on how to remove obstacles to success. Bringing these innovative ideas forward requires engagement on the part of the manager and the employee—and the level of engagement is based on the success of their relationship.
Every agency should explore the degree to which leaders acknowledge, understand, and participate in relationship building. This is not a “nice-to-have” task; effective manager-employee relationships should be an important component of every workplace.
People don’t show up to work as robots—they are human beings with hearts, minds, and feelings. Today’s leaders must be adept at recognizing and embracing psychological needs, especially as they relate to performance and engagement.
How do leaders accomplish this? The answer can be found in the latest research on employee work passion and the factors that contribute to it.
It is a given that employees are motivated in some way. Their motivation might not always align with desired behavior and outcomes, but it is there. To channel employee energy toward larger agency goals, leaders have to embrace tools and techniques that address common needs that people bring to any work environment, including desires for collaboration, connectedness, and an opportunity to influence decisions that impact their work.
Here are three ways to get started:
- Include employees in the planning process. Seek employee perspectives on how to execute agency mission. For instance, how can administrators include front line personnel in developing customer care strategies?
- Ask people for their opinion. Doing so in a genuine way is an easy, no cost way to create passion and a sense of ownership toward the success of any initiative.
- Share information. Sharing senior leaders’ viewpoints as well as progress toward objectives is another low cost method that promotes inclusion.
Individuals are more committed when they know and have some say in the direction of the agency. Think of it this way: would you like to be told where you will spend your vacation, or would you prefer to be given options, information on each option, and a chance to participate in the decision process?
Information and a corresponding participatory process create more commitment, engagement, and passion than a directive decision process. By considering ways to increase inclusiveness, collaboration, and connectedness, leaders can take their first steps toward creating a more passionate and engaging work environment for their people.
For more information (and access to research) on how The Ken Blanchard Companies helps agency leaders develop motivational strategies that directly support employee work passion, please visit www.kenblanchard.com/