Stop Driving Yourself Crazy Trying to Hold People Accountable

Reprimand From BossI recently flew to New York City to meet with the head of one of the world’s largest wealth management companies. He told me he’d read my book, Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work… and What Does multiple times and was dedicated to using its ideas to change the culture of his organization.

Pretty heady stuff.

He realized he couldn’t drive people to be more just, client focused, and service oriented. The only way a radically different culture would emerge was through employees working together and making their own decisions to find new approaches for managing people’s wealth.

This powerful executive recognized that only through the power of tapping people’s honest and authentic need for autonomy, relatedness, and competence (ARC) would he be able to achieve the results he was looking for—a high functioning, self-motivated organization.  He realized that any driving for adherence to new policies and procedures would undermine people’s sense of ARC—and his firm’s cultural evolution.

It was a great bit of insight on his part. And it’s something we can all learn from as we endeavor to build highly motivated work environments.

  • When you pressure people to perform, the pressure you create has the opposite result of what you intended. Pressuring people erodes their sense of autonomy.
  • When you focus on metrics as priorities, people fail to find meaning in the metrics for themselves. When people feel used as a means to your end, it diminishes their sense of relatedness.
  • When you drive for results and declare you are holding people accountable for those results, you are also sending the message that you don’t trust people to perform or achieve their goals. You undermine their sense of competence.

Here are four alternatives.

  1. Encourage autonomy by helping people appreciate the freedom they have within boundaries. What is within a person’s control? What options do they have? Identify areas for creativity and innovation.
  1. Deepen relatedness by engaging people in conversations about their values and aligning their values with the company’s goals. For example, help an employee who has a value for service explore how his service might improve through the company’s new approach.
  1. Build competence by providing opportunities for training, clarifying expectations, and illuminating the unknowns. Don’t assume people know how to cope with change. Don’t try to sell change by sharing how the organization will benefit. Focus instead on helping people deal with the personal concerns they have for how the change directly affects them.
  1. Teach leaders the skill of conducting motivational conversations. If leaders don’t know how to facilitate people’s shift to optimal motivation, they will default to what they know: driving for results. Leaders also need to practice optimal motivation for themselves. Leaders with suboptimal motivation tend to drive for results from others.

If you want real, sustainable, high quality results, stop driving yourself crazy trying to hold people accountable for outcomes that are not connected to individual needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence (ARC.)  Instead, help people satisfy those needs. When people experience ARC, they thrive—and you don’t need to drive.

About the Author

Susan FowlerSusan Fowler is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies who heads up Blanchard’s motivation and self leadership practices.  Susan is also the author of the business best-seller, Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work… And What Does.

9 thoughts on “Stop Driving Yourself Crazy Trying to Hold People Accountable

    • Thanks Michal–one of my goals is to be easier to understand and succinct. You know the old adage, forgive me, I don’t have time to be brief. 🙂

  1. This is especially true of millenials who now occupy the largest segment of our working population! Great article.

    • That’s a great point, Jim. I think Millenials are sensitive to and willing to fight for metrics with meaning, social and workplace justice, and linking their own values to the work they do., Leaders need to recognize this as an opportunity–not a loss of power.

  2. This is a great article and it really hits a nerve.

    I once had a manager — definitely NOT a leader — when I sold medical devices and pharmaceuticals whose primary measure of effectiveness was the number of calls I made each day. In doing so, he completely glossed over the fact that I led the company in three of the four products I represented. I preferred to focus on the real buyers; the top 10-20 percent of my market. He was the boss, though, and that was the focus he chose, so I took my sales skills to another company.

    Life’s too short to focus on low-value metrics.

  3. The key for any leader is knowing the team members internal motivators and aligning these with the work needed. The “ARC” explanation is a great example of this. Thanks for the insight.

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