Leaders: Don’t Let a Little Motivation “Dip” Become a Big Performance Management “Fail”

Portrait of a wistful health club member sitting on floor with exercAfter analyzing four years of check-in data, Gold’s Gym found that February 18th is the date with the steepest drop-off in gym attendance. By looking at the self-reported health club check-in data of Facebook users, a recent Wall Street Journal article found that gym check-ins rise 50% in January but then decline in February as motivation diminishes.

It’s a common pattern anytime people take on new tasks that require time, persistence, and effort.  Initial enthusiasm turns into disillusionment as beginners realize the task is more difficult than they anticipated, progress is slower, and the time required to accomplish the goal looks like it will be greater. Leaders and coaches need to be aware of this natural dip in motivation and take steps to make sure that this little dip doesn’t turn into a big fail with people quitting the task before accomplishing the goal.

In the health club industry, the best gyms keep a close eye on new members, noting attendance patterns and making sure to call, encourage, and check on progress that new members are making.  They know that without this type of support they can lose 30-50 percent of their people.

Managers need to do the same thing when their team members are starting projects that may be new to them or a stretch of existing knowledge and skills.   And while leaders don’t usually have to worry about someone physically quitting a task or goal, there is a very real possibility of a team member quitting it mentally, putting it on the back-burner, and moving on to other things that are easier to accomplish.  This “quit and stay” mentality is well known in business and difficult to root out once it settles in.

Leaders can head off this common occurrence by recognizing that this motivational dip is normal and by taking steps to provide direction and support to help people continue moving forward toward their goals.  For example, in The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Situational Leadership II training program, managers are taught to help Disillusioned Learners by:

  1. Listening and acknowledging concerns
  2. Brainstorming possible solutions
  3. Identifying action steps
  4. Reminding learners of the importance of the task
  5. Providing support, reassurance, praise, and encouragement

Leader as a coach?  By providing direction and support when people need it most, managers can help their people move along a steady path toward progress.

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