Want to Motivate? Provide Clarity and Remove Obstacles.

Continuing on the topic of alignment and 2010 business plans, a couple of people I respect had some interesting insights recently. Blogger, author and coach Jason Seiden made these observations about motivation and retention in his predictions for 2010:
“As the economy begins to recover and employment mobility returns, organizations that have been practicing cram-down HR—forcing people to conform to corporate’s plans rather than leveraging corporate to support people—as well as organizations that have ignored talent development, created opaque decision-making processes, or allowed their legal departments to write HR’s notices will watch their best talent stream out the door.

“Meanwhile, organizations who have been treating their people like grown-ups—that is, organizations that realize that the way in which something is said often has a significantly greater impact than what gets said, and put energy and focus into getting the communications/human element aspect of their business right—will see their futures brighten even in the face of a tough economic climate.”

And Roy Vallee, CEO of Avnet, noted about his role in motivating employees:
“I do think that the vast majority of employees want to do a good job. I think people want to come in and do what's right for their companies. I think that as long as they are being appropriately recognized and rewarded and have opportunities for career growth -- the opportunity to achieve what it is they want out of their career -- they will be motivated over a long period of time.

“What I figured out was that it wasn't my job to install a fire in their belly, so to speak. In fact, most of them already had that fire in the belly. What they needed from me was two things: one, clarity of the work that I wanted them to do, or what it is I wanted them to accomplish; and two, they wanted me to remove the obstacles that were beyond their personal control.”

I think both Jason and Roy highlight a common fallacy of motivation pundits – the belief that employees have to be motivated to do the right thing, as if the majority are just slackers who want to laze around at your expense. In fact, as Jason and Roy point out, employees want to do the right thing. Too often management, however, either beats that desire out them by ignoring them and their needs or by not creating an environment in which they can succeed to their highest ability. Such an environment – one in which employees want to engage – is itself motivating.

What are you doing in 2010 to remove obstacles to high performance, to eliminate barriers to success, to create an environment in which employees can and will deliver what you need?

6 comment(s):

At January 13, 2010 1:14 PM, Chris said...

Totally agree with your post. Employees are inherently living more hectic lives and in-order to perform all of your job/life tasks. It takes a knowledgeable manger who understands what it takes to compete in todays society. If Employees are willing to work deep into the night on smartphones, they should be afforded the flexibly they need to improve other facets of their lives when issues arise. Employees are expected to compete at a high level 24/7 and this detracts from other areas of their lives. Smart companies will find ways to give back and help out these people. Otherwise, these employees will move on to companies who understand how to streamline a work schedule in todays global, mobile business climate.

At January 13, 2010 1:20 PM, Derek Irvine said...

Indeed, Chris. Well stated.

At January 17, 2010 1:20 AM, Jim Haynes said...

This is so very true. Even "little things" (which are not so little) like making email work, making email searchable, providing computers (i.e. updated hardware and software) to allow employees to work quickly are all very important and is in line with removing obstacles. It is always interesting to see how employers want you to be efficient and work effectively but when you cannot check email and run an Excel macro simultaneously, obviously there will be bottlenecks and frustration. What is worse is when people above you, who can push to get things changed are not bothered, obviously the associate is going to try and leave the company faster or move onto another department even if they like their job.

At January 17, 2010 4:02 PM, Derek Irvine said...

Jim, agreed. I recently saw a study in which people expressed the desire to see PROGRESS as critical to their engagement. But achieving progress is quickly stymied when the basic tools for doing your job limit you. At the very least, companies must make sure that not only are the tools employees need for their jobs functioning properly, but also solicit ideas from employees on what additional tools or processes they need to further eliminate obstacles and achieve progress.

At January 24, 2010 9:48 AM, Jim Haynes said...

It is interesting Derek that you said so because it is one thing for companies to solicit ideas from employees but they also have to take action to put those ideas into play and solve the problems. However, I find companies either do not ask employees for help or they instead go and hire consultants, who obviously ask the same employees what problems they have and then the companies listen to the consultants and brag about how well spent that money was. On the other hand, in my opinion, it would make sense instead of paying $10,000 to a consultant for example, give the employees a $5,000 or $6,000 bonus, and you are still cutting costs (since you are not paying for the consultants anymore), you are obtaining ideas from your employees directly and you hold onto the employees longer because they have the reward system in place. But for whatever reason, management doesn’t seem to understand these things it seems.

At January 25, 2010 12:08 PM, Derek Irvine said...

Jim, while I agree with you in part (on the need to solicit and then implement ideas from employees) I would disagree with your point on bonuses. First, employees should be encouraged to share their ideas on areas needing improvements and ways to do that, and then be recognized and rewarded appropriately for each instance. But cash bonuses are not the way to go. Cash=compensation. I've written often on why bonuses are not effective means for recognizing desired employee actions and behaviors. One recent post on the topic is here: http://globoforce.blogspot.com/2009/11/soul-crushing-bonus-structure-what.html