Stimulus Package: Ten principles of Employee Motivation
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Stimulus Package: Ten principles of Employee Motivation

One of the questions I hear most often from executives is "How do I motivate my employees to do the things I want them to do?"

The answer is: You don't!

We can't motivate people. They are already motivated. But we can determine what motivates them and use this knowledge to channel their energies toward our company goals.

From my 20 years of helping executives solve their people challenges, I've learned a few basic principles about motivation. Let me share them with you:

1. All People Are Motivated.
Some people are like water in a faucet. They have the motivation; all you have to provide is the opportunity. The water is already motivated to flow. But it doesn't have the opportunity until you open the tap.

Others are like mountain streams, which flow swiftly but follow their own channels. People, too, may move energetically, but toward their own goals. We in management should make it worth their while to channel their motivations toward the results management is seeking.

2. People Do Things For Their Reasons; Not For Yours Or Mine
e in management have to show employees what's in it for them when they follow behaviors that benefit the company. We can show them by using rewards and recognition, appealing to their sense of pride and achievement.

3. People Change Because Of Pain.
When the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing, people will change. For example, Americans didn't start buying smaller, fuel-efficient automobiles until the pain of high gasoline prices became greater than the pain of switching to less roomy and less powerful cars.

4. The Key To Effective Communication Is Identification.
When something becomes personal, it becomes important. When our clients or our employees begin to identify with who we are and what we are, good things begin to happen.

Large corporations have discovered that. Prudential, for example, knows that its customers want to buy security. So it doesn't just sell insurance; it markets peace of mind by inviting all of us to buy "a piece of the rock."

Kodak doesn't sell film; it invites its customers to "trust your memories to Kodak."

AT&T doesn't tell us to make long-distance calls. It asks us to "reach out and touch someone."

In dealing with employees, it isn't enough to appeal to them on the basis of loyalty to the company. They need personal reasons for showing this loyalty. Whether we're instituting a new educational program or undergoing a total restructuring, we can get our employees on board more readily if we show them how the change will affect them for the better.

When my company sets out to lead corporate teams in developing their human-relations skills, we don't tell them what we're going to do for the company. We talk about what we're going to do for the individual. For example, in the introduction to one of our manuals, we tell supervisors:

'We've designed this complete educational system to help you master the skills of supervisory management and enjoy the rewards of leadership and career enhancement.

From management's standpoint, the training was designed to increase the effectiveness of the organization. That's what sold the company on the program. But from the employee's standpoint, it was to upgrade the skills of the individual. That's what sold the employees on the program.'

5. The Best Way To Get People To Pay Attention To You Is To Pay Attention To Them.
That means listening to others and not just hearing them. Listening is active; hearing is passive. If you listen to individuals long enough, they'll tell you what their concerns and problems are.

It's very important that executives listen to their staff and associates. We need to take the time to get to know them, not just by name, but also by their interests and aspirations.

We should try not to come across as interrogators, but ask them friendly questions about how they are, what they did over the weekend, and what they're doing on vacation. Then listen. It's amazing what you'll learn.

6. Pride Is A Powerful Motivator.
Everybody is proud of something. If we find out what makes our people proud, we can use that insight to channel their motivation. Pride is tied closely to self-esteem. My friend, Robert W. Darvin, has founded several successful companies, including Scandinavian Design, Inc., and has often used our consulting services and invited me to speak to his people. His observations on self-esteem are worth repeating:

There's only one thing that counts in a business: building the self-esteem of your employees. Nothing else matters, because what they feel about themselves is what they give to your customers. If an employee comes to work not liking his job, not feeling good about himself, you can be sure that your customers will go away not liking or feeling good about your company.

7. You Can't Change People; You Can Only Change Their Behaviors.
To change behavior, you must change feelings and beliefs. This requires more than training. It requires education. When you train people, you just try to teach them a task; when you educate people you deal with them at a deeper level relative to behavior, feelings, and beliefs.

8. The Employee's Perception Becomes The Executive's Reality.
This is a very important point. When we speak to employees, they don't respond to what we say; they respond to what they understand us to say. When employees observe our behavior, they respond to what they perceive us doing, and will try to emulate us.

Suppose you send an employee to a developmental workshop or seminar and she comes back brimming with new ideas and information. But you haven't been exposed to all this stimulating stuff, so your behavior doesn't change. The employee realizes this and concludes that the behavior she observes in you is the behavior you want. This may not be the case at all. You may want the employee to implement all these new ideas, but your employee's perception is the reality you get.

9. You Consistently Get The Behaviors You Consistently Expect And Reinforce.
We should look for ways to reward employees for doing the things we want them to do. The reward may take the form of financial incentives, prizes, or simply public recognition of a job well done. Reinforcement can be positive or negative, as my Roundtable partner, Ken Blanchard, has taught us all. If employees learn that a certain type of behavior results in lower earnings, less favorable hours, or less desirable territories, they'll adjust their behavioral patterns.

10. We All Judge Ourselves By Our Motives; But We Judge Others By Their Actions.
Put another way, we're inclined to excuse in ourselves behavior that we find unacceptable in others. When our employees are late for work, it's because they're irresponsible and have no interest in their jobs. When we're late for work, it's because we were attending to necessary details that had to be taken care of.

When employees engage in undesirable behavior, we shouldn't try to assess motives or change them. Just deal with the behavior. We can't change the motives of our employees, but through positive or negative reinforcement you can affect their actions.

Follow these principles and you'll find yourself surrounded by motivated employees who are channeling their energies toward your corporate goals - goals in which they have personal stakes.

Dr. Nido Qubein is president of High Point University, a professional speaker, and chairman of Great Harvest Bread Company with 220 stores in 43 states.

Published: June 13th, 2012

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