In a recent webinar on A Closer Look at the New Science of Motivation, best-selling business author Susan Fowler opened with an interesting question for attendees, “Why are you here?” And it wasn’t just a rhetorical question. Fowler wanted attendees to take a minute and assess what their motivation was for attending. Here’s what she identified as possible answers.
- I am not really here. (Well, maybe my body is, but my mind is elsewhere.)
- I am being paid to be here. (And if I wasn’t being paid—or receiving some other type of reward—I wouldn’t be here.)
- I have to be here; I’d be afraid of what might happen if I wasn’t.
- Being here aligns with my values and will help me and my organization reach important goals.
- Being here resonates with me; I feel it could make an important difference to others in my organization and/or help me fulfill a meaningful purpose.
- I am inherently interested in being here; it is fun for me.
A quick survey found that people were attending for a variety of reasons including all six of the possible choices above. Fowler went on to explain that the first three choices were all “Sub Optimal” motivational outlooks that generated poor results. She also shared that outlooks 4, 5 and 6 were the “Optimal” motivational outlooks that most closely correlated with intentions to perform at a high level, apply discretionary effort, and be a good corporate citizen.
What motivates you?
What’s motivating you on your tasks at work? Is it a “carrot” (External #2) or a “stick” (Imposed #3) approach? If so, what’s the impact been on your motivation and performance? Chances are that you’re not performing at your best. Even worse, you could find yourself feeling somewhat manipulated and controlled, which rarely brings out the best in people.
For better results, think about what it might mean to employ a more Aligned, Integrated, or Inherent approach. Find ways to connect the dots for yourself to create a more intrinsically satisfying strategy.
3 ways to enhance motivation
Fowler suggests beginning by evaluating the quality of A-R-C in your life. Looking back at over 40 years of motivation research, Fowler shared that the answer to creating a more motivating environment is a combination of increased Autonomy (control of your experiences), Relatedness (working together with others), and Competence (developing and refining new skills). The good news is that anyone can change their motivational outlook with some self-awareness and self-regulation.
Could you use a little more motivation in your life? Most of us could. To find out more about Fowler’s thinking on motivation and bringing out the best in yourself and others, be sure to check out Fowler’s free, on-demand webinar recording, A Closer Look at the New Science of Motivation. You’ll discover some of the common mistakes people make when it comes to motivation and what you can do to improve your outlook. Recorded on October 3 for an audience of 700 participants, the download is free, courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.
When I was 16 years old, my first job was serving ice cream at a Baskin-Robbins store. Not only did I love ice cream, but I was very social and felt that this job suited me very well since I loved talking to people. Unfortunately, I think I’m still trying to lose those extra ice cream pounds I put on!
Now, let me be clear that the job of taking ice cream orders really is pretty easy. But imagine being new at the task of scooping rock-hard ice cream into cones without breaking them, or remembering the difference between a shake and a malt—let alone knowing where the heck to find all 31 flavors in the case. It took a bit of time to memorize all of this information. Then imagine the store full of people on a hot day or after a sporting event, and you have mayhem!
One night during that learning period stands out in particular—not necessarily because of the reasons stated above, but more because of how my manager made me feel during one of those crazy, busy times.
A man came into the store with his daughter, a girl I had met before who went to a rival high school. She and I said “hi” as I began to help her dad with his order. He was a very direct sort of guy and started rambling off his order, getting frustrated if I asked him to repeat things along the way. The last item on his list was a quart of French vanilla ice cream.
After making sure he had everything he needed, I went to the cash register to ring up his order. Just as I totaled it up, I realized I had charged him for a quart of regular vanilla ice cream instead of French vanilla, which was more expensive. I immediately called over the manager on duty to help me, since I didn’t know how to delete an order and start over. As she came over, the man started yelling at me and calling me names because I had made a mistake and was taking too long. As I was apologizing to him and doing my best not to cry (although my eyes were not cooperating), my manager did the most amazing thing. She turned to the man and very politely told him that this was my first week on the job, I was still in training, and there is a lot to learn when first starting. She went on to say it was a very innocent mistake and would be taken care of quickly, but there was no need for him to yell at me.
Even though her words didn’t stop my tears from coming, it was so reassuring to hear her stick up for me. I actually felt sorry for his daughter—she was so embarrassed by his obnoxious behavior that she put her head down halfway through his order. As they were leaving, she just walked away with a glance at me as if to say, “I am so sorry!”
A lesson for leaders
What my manager did for me that night, and throughout the rest of my training period there, is a great lesson for all leaders. Without realizing it then, I learned three valuable tips to help leaders build the skills, as well as the confidence, of an employee in training:
1. Never reprimand a learner.
2. Let the employee know it’s okay to make mistakes—that you “have their back.”
3. Praise progress.
My manager showed me she believed in me when she stood up for me at a moment when I really needed it. She knew the importance of both the external customer and the internal customer. Her belief in me and willingness to work with me through that interaction with a difficult customer really strengthened our relationship and made me want to work harder for her.
Maybe the customer isn’t always right, but they still are your customer. My manager was a great role model that night for how to treat both external and internal customers with respect.
About the author:
Kathy Cuff is one of the principal authors—together with Vicki Halsey—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Legendary Service training program. Their customer service focused posts appear on the first and third Thursday of each month.
A new Towers Watson research paper is shedding some light on what attracts employees to an organization (and what keeps them there after they’ve joined.) The 2012 Global Workforce Study includes responses from 32,000 employees in 29 markets around the world.
Here’s what people said attracts them to an organization and what would cause them to leave.
|1||Base pay / Salary||Base pay / Salary|
|2||Job security||Career advancement opportunities|
|3||Career advancement opportunities||Relationship with supervisor / manager|
|4||Convenient work location||Trust / confidence in senior leadership|
|5||Learning and development opportunities||Manage / limit work-related stress|
Adapted from Top Five Global Drivers of Attraction, Retention and Sustainable Engagement Towers Watson 2012 Global Workforce Study At A Glance
The study also looks at the factors that create an engaging work environment. It’s interesting to note that Towers Watson has expanded their definition of employee engagement—which they are calling “sustainable engagement”—to include enablement (having the tools, resources and support to do their job effectively), as well as energy (which means a work environment that actively supports employees’ well-being.)
Overall, the study showed that:
- Only 35% of workers rate high in all three areas and are engaged, energized and enabled.
- 22% are classified as unsupported, meaning they display traditional engagement, but lack the enablement and/or energy required for sustainable engagement.
- 17% are detached, meaning they feel enabled and/or energized, but are not willing to go the extra mile.
- 26% are completely disengaged, with less favorable scores for all three aspects of sustainable engagement.
Wondering where to get started in addressing some of these factors in your organization?
Abhishek Mittal, a senior consultant with Towers Watson in Singapore shares some possibilities for specifically addressing the enablement aspect of sustainable engagement in a separate, but related article, Building a Sustainable Engagement Strategy.
In the article, published late last year, he describes a Towers Watson study with a large Asian bank that identified:
“The analysis of over 300 branches found that the direct manager has a large impact on ‘enabling’ employees. When we look at branches where employees are more satisfied with their managers on a range of parameters, the employees tend to feel much more well-supported or enabled to deliver in their roles. Their perceptions about work resources, tools, condition and work organisation are much stronger than other branches. In turn, branches with more “enabled” employees clearly have a higher percentage of engaged customers. And, we saw clear links between engaged customers and higher target achievement on branch-level operating profits.”
Ask employers why people quit a company and 9 out of 10 will tell you it’s about the money. Ask employees the same question and you’ll get a whole different story. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) discovered this when they asked 19,000+ people their reasons for leaving as a part of exit interviews they conducted for clients. The top 10 reasons why employees quit? Check out the responses below.
As reported in (2005) The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave by Leigh Branham, page 21, Figure 3.1
Yes, compensation was a factor in 12% of the cases, but look at some of the other issues that drove people away—growth, meaningful work, supervisor skills, workload balance, fairness, and recognition—to name a few.
What type of environment are you providing for your people?
Author, speaker, and consultant Leigh Branham, who partnered with PwC to analyze the results of the study identifies that trust, hope, worth, and competence are at the core of most voluntary separations. When employees are not getting their needs met in these key areas, they begin to look elsewhere.
Wondering how your company would stack up in these areas? Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself. How would your people respond if they were asked to rate their work environment in each of the following areas?
- I am able to grow and develop my skills on the job and through training.
- I have opportunities for advancement or career progress leading to higher earnings.
- My job makes good use of my talents and is challenging.
- I receive the necessary training to perform my job capably.
- I can see the end results of my work.
- I receive regular feedback on my performance.
- I’m confident that if I work hard, do my best, demonstrate commitment, and make meaningful contributions, I will be recognized and rewarded accordingly.
Don’t wait until it’s too late
Better compensation is only a part of the reason why people leave an organization. In most cases it is a symptom of a more complex need that people have to work for an organization that is fair, trustworthy, and deserving of an individual’s best efforts. Don’t take your people for granted. While you may not be able to provide the pay increases you were able to in the past, there is nothing stopping you from showing that you care for your people, are interested in their long term development, and are committed to their careers.
My wife has started a new job recently. Like many people, it involves working in a cubicle interacting with customers primarily by telephone or email. Even though she works in a large office setting, she is by herself for the most part and doesn’t see her boss in person very often except for a short weekly meeting. Most of their conversation between those times is via email only.
A recent customer issue she was working on was something new she hadn’t done before. She did her best to figure it out but couldn’t come up with a solution that satisfied the customer. In the end, the customer spoke those dreaded words, “Can I speak with your manager?” Maybe that was best, my wife thought to herself, and so she transferred the call to her manager’s voice mail. She also sent her boss an email documenting some of the supporting information. Maybe her boss would have some additional resources or ideas on how to handle the situation.
The next morning my wife had an email waiting for her from her manager. Her manager had sent the customer issue back to my wife with the reply, “Didn’t you see the recent company memo regarding the procedure for escalating customer service calls?”
A pretty standard (if slightly cryptic) type of response that goes out from bosses thousands of times each work day. A simple reminder to review some earlier policy memo detailing the steps for handling situations like this.
Off to the races
“What did this mean?” my wife thought to herself. “What was her manager trying to say?” She had seen the memo and it described how to evaluate and escalate calls to supervisors when necessary. She felt she had followed the procedure. She reread the memo, looking for details she might have missed.
By the time she talked to me about it that evening after work, the issue had escalated in her mind. “Why do they make this so hard?” she asked me. “Can’t they see I’m just trying to help the customer?”
“Maybe I’m not a good fit for this company,” she finally told me. “This just isn’t the way that I work.”
“Have you talked to your manager?” I asked.
“I sent her a second email, but I haven’t heard back yet.”
“Okay, let’s wait and see what she says before we get too far ahead of ourselves,” I responded. “Give me a call when you find out.”
I never did get that call, so at dinner that night I asked how it was going.
“Oh, that’s all set,” my wife replied. “My manager stopped by and we talked about it.”
Managing By Wandering Around
Time is a precious commodity at work these days. Everyone has a lot on their plate. Still, managers can do a lot of good for their organizations by occasionally getting out of their offices for a little stroll. In addition to regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings, check in with the people who report to you at least one other time each week by stopping by their desk, checking in with them via telephone, or just making yourself accessible.
Don’t let small things blow up into big things. Nip them in the bud and make it easy for people to get back to work. It will make your company more productive and it will increase your connection with your people too!
She’s been struggling to learn all of the different components of the new role and she hit a low point this past Wednesday. With the training coming to an end, she felt she had only mastered 40% of the required skills. As a result, she was thinking of turning down the advancement and asking to remain in her previous role. Even worse, she was reconsidering her decision to take the job in the first place. Maybe it wasn’t a good fit for her, she told me.
I was surprised at her reaction. I knew my wife had been struggling to pick up the new skills, but I also knew that she was a bright, capable, woman who had mastered much tougher content in the past. I did my best to offer a word of encouragement as I left for a 2-day business trip, but it didn’t seem to help much. I could see the concern on her face as I kissed her goodbye.
Normal, but still painful
I thought about what she was experiencing as I travelled. I knew that her reaction was normal and something that all people experienced when they were learning a new skill. At Blanchard, our Situational Leadership II model called this Development Level 2: Disillusioned Learner. It’s when people go from being enthusiastic about a task when they first start, to disillusioned when the task is more difficult than they anticipated. However, with encouragement, and as they begin to apply their new skills and gain confidence, they finally move on to mastery. It all sounds so neat in theory, but as my wife demonstrated, it doesn’t make it any easier for the person going through the process. Still, reconsidering whether to stay with the company seemed an especially strong reaction.
That’s why I was so surprised when I returned home and she told me that she was moving forward with the new role and was even looking forward to the next position beyond that.
“What happened,” I asked, amazed at the complete change in her attitude in less than 48 hours.
What she told me next were two important actions that all managers need to add to their skill set when asking employees to stretch and try something new.
- She received some positive feedback. After two weeks of practicing her new skills (badly, in her mind) she received some outside feedback on how she was doing. She was surprised to find out that she had received a 97 and a 98 rating on her two recent evaluations. These scores were consistent with the scores she had been receiving in her previous role. She was shocked that her work was so good. She was sure that she was going to receive bad scores. The lack of feedback up to this point had caused her mind to imagine the worst. A little bit of positive feedback provided a different perspective and dispelled that fear.
- She talked to her manager about her concerns. She shared with her manager that she felt that she had only mastered about 40% of the material. She also expressed her concern that maybe she wasn’t a good fit for the role. Her manager reassured her that she was right on track and even shared a personal story that she remembered only being 20% confident of the material when she had completed the class years before. The manager also shared that my wife was doing great, was one of the best people on the team, and that she had a bright future with the company. A little bit of encouragement and my wife’s confidence was restored. In fact, she now had a “just watch me grow” attitude I hadn’t seen since she first started.
Is it time to check in with your people?
How are your people doing? Are they knee deep in learning new skills? Have you checked in with them lately? It never hurts to ask.
Disillusionment is a normal stage of development. By responding appropriately with encouragement and support, managers can help their people get through this difficult stage and move on to confident performance. Don’t risk losing any of your best people to an extended period of disillusionment. Don’t let a drop in confidence and perceived skill keep your people from moving forward. Check in and see how they are doing. Offer a word of encouragement if appropriate. It can work wonders!
A new white paper from The Ken Blanchard Companies shows that poor leadership is costing the average company an amount equal to 7% of their annual revenue. That’s over a million dollars a year for any organization with $15 million dollars or more in annual sales.
The three big culprits?
- Employee turnover. Poor leadership is responsible for up to 30% of the reasons why people leave their organizations according to exit interviews conducted by The Saratoga Institute.
- Customer turnover. Poor leadership negatively impacts employee satisfaction, which in turn negatively impacts customer satisfaction and retention. Research published in Harvard Business Review calculated that every 5 point change in employee satisfaction scores caused a 1.3 point change in customer satisfaction scores.
- Employee productivity. Poor leadership leads to poor employee productivity. Research from Blanchard shows that direct report productivity can be improved 5-12% through better management practices.
Most senior executives instinctively know that leadership impacts the bottom line, but quantifying that impact has been a challenge in the past. This new white paper (and the free online calculator that the information is drawn from) is a great way for leaders to put some facts behind their suspicions.
You can download a copy of this new white paper, Making the Business Case for Leadership Development: The 7% Differential here. If you are interested in calculating what poor leadership practices might be costing your organization, also check out Blanchard’s free online Cost of Doing Nothing Calculator. This is the same free online calculator used by survey respondents in the white paper.
There’s a good reason why more people don’t run and jog to improve their cardiovascular health. It hurts—especially when you’re just starting out. For me it occurs at about the 3:00 minute mark. That’s when the early burst of excitement (and caffeine) burns off and now my heart and lungs are laboring to catch-up with the demands my legs are putting on my body.
It’s a time each morning when I really want to quit—and in a lot of cases I did, because it seems like it was getting worse and worse with no improvement in sight. But an interesting thing happens if I just stay with it a little while longer. At about the 6:00 minute mark, my heart and lungs do catch up, my breathing is heavy but measured, and I realize that the worst is over. I can do this!
The same thing happens at work when people face a new difficult task or role. There is a moment, after the excitement of trying something new wears off, when we realize that this is going to be more difficult than we thought.
Seth Godin writes about this phenomenon is his book, “The Dip” and it has important insight for any manager looking to improve growth and retention in their organization. That’s because “the dip” is a prime time when many employees quit a task or a role because it seems too hard with no improvement in sight.
Do you have any employees who are at or near their “dipping point” on a task or role? What are you, as a manager, doing to help them get through it? Here are three tips that can help.
- Identify where each employee is at with a specific task or role. Are they an enthusiastic beginner, or has disillusionment set in?
- If they are an enthusiastic beginner, channel that excitement by having them work on the right tasks, in the right order, to get the job done.
- If disillusionment has set in, add a strong coaching component into the mix. In addition to clear direction, you are going to have to provide them with a lot of support while they work through “the dip.” Encourage them on progress (even when they can’t see it), remind them of the goal, and make time to be there with training and other resources.
Don’t let “the dip” scuttle your plans. With a little bit of help, people can power through to success.
“Hoping all your consequences are happy ones.” That was Bob Barker’s signature sign-off phrase when he hosted the 1960’s TV game show Truth or Consequences. The premise of the show was that contestants were presented with a question of “truth” (trivia or a bad joke), that if they didn’t answer correctly, would lead to a consequence that was usually some sort of zany or embarrassing stunt.
As I reviewed Deloitte’s recent Trust in the Workplace – 2010 Ethics & Workplace Survey, I was reminded of the dire consequences faced by organizational leaders who don’t get the right answer when it comes to understanding and appreciating the critical importance of trust in today’s workplace. Read more…
Most executives instinctively know that strong leadership is essential for overall organizational success. However, in most organizations, there is a lack of urgency to improve leadership skills driven by a belief that an organization’s current leadership capacity—and subsequent performance—is good enough.
But is it?
A new white paper entitled The High Cost of Doing Nothing: Quantifying the Impact of Leadership, shows that this is a misguided assumption. According to Blanchard research, most organizations are operating with a million dollar drag on performance that better leadership can resolve. As organizations look for ways to improve engagement, productivity, and satisfaction, it is important to remember the pivotal role that day-to-day leadership plays.
Here are the three areas that the paper looks at along with some initial ideas on what managers can do to improve the situation. Think about your own organization as you review the three areas identified in the new white paper.
Employee Productivity—Consistently identified as the largest financial drain in most organizations, poor leadership costs the average company 5-10% of potential performance. When employees do not receive the direction and support they need to accomplish their key tasks successfully, the result is wasted time, substandard results, and costly rework.
Leaders can make the situation better by asking questions. Does the employee understand the goal and have a clear plan for accomplishing it? Do they have the knowledge and skill set to be able to perform this task without a lot of supervision or direction? What is their motivation to work on this? If managers ask the right questions up front, they can find out very quickly what a direct report needs.
Customer Satisfaction—Even with all of the recent emphasis on having a customer focus, most organizations still only achieve a 75% satisfaction rating according to national customer service indexes. This translates into hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue growth for the typical company. How does leadership impact customer service? By making sure that everyone in the organization is focused in the right direction—towards the customer. In too many organizations, employees are looking up the organizational chart instead of in the direction of the customer. Leaders can redirect this attention toward the customer by asking, “What can I do to help you in your job so that you, in turn, can better serve our customers?”
Employee Retention—A third area where organizations typically see a drain on performance is through the loss of high potential employees. While today’s economic slowdown has dramatically reduced voluntary turnover in most organizations, it’s important that organizations not become complacent. Just because people can’t switch jobs right now doesn’t mean you can neglect people—especially high performers. Good people are always in demand, and you want your best people to know that you value them and want them to work for you. Leaders can reduce unwanted turnover by 10-30% by checking in with high performers on a regular basis, expressing appreciation, and providing growth opportunities.
Leadership makes a difference. In the average organization, this translates into over $1 million dollars of bottom-line impact on an annual basis. As you look for ways to improve performance in your own company, don’t underestimate the impact that day-to-day leadership has on productivity, customer satisfaction, and retention.
If you’d like to try the calculator that the paper is based on, it is also available online at www.costofdoingnothing.com It’s free, it only takes a few minutes to complete, and you get access to a complete personalized report immediately.