The New Business Professional
There are some buzzwords that just get under my skin and “ownership thinking” is one of those. There’s a reason it’s hard to engage in ownership thinking. It’s simple really. The issue is that you don’t OWN it and you aren’t treated as if you do. I cannot advise someone to act as if they OWN it, if I’m not going to give them the authority to actually ACT AS IF THEY OWN it. You cannot do what you would do if you actually “owned” it if you to have justify every action. But that’s not the only issue that surfaces when it comes to ownership thinking. Let me just quick you a few examples to illustrate.
Do what you think is best, just don’t mess up…..
Suppose you sign a three-year (long-term) lease for an apartment. The lessee states that you can do whatever you want to the apartment. Treat it as if you own it. It’s yours. Except, don’t paint the walls too dark of a color because that’s too hard to repaint. And be careful how you hang things on the walls because you don’t want to leave too many holes. And take care not to scruff up the floors; in fact, you may want to place some area rugs in some places, just to be safe. Oh, but remember, this is all yours. Treat it just as if you own it. But no pets and no wild parties. How much ownership do you really have? Businesses do the when they talk about innovation but punish failure. Or when they preach customer service but measure you based on throughput.
Your sacrifice didn’t go unnoticed, unfortunately……
When my boys were younger and playing little league football, there were always a few boys that give their all in football practice every day and then not get to play in the game that weekend. The coach would just say next week. Even when games were clearly won, these kids would not be put into the game. Despite rules requiring each player to get a certain number of minutes playing time, these kids still would not be put into the game. Well, guess what? By mid-season, after not playing at all despite months of practice and weekly promises, their motivation started to wane. Eventually, their interested faded. The really sad part of this whole story is that some of these players were really good. I mean really good. Unfortunately, the coaches didn’t get to see how good they were until they were playing for another team. Is it not the same when employees dedicate themselves to their job on only to:
· Receive the same performance rating and/or pay increase as their peers who loafed AND
· Have the bar raised even higher the next cycle, now that they are on the track to being “high potential”, AND
· Receive additional work and more challenging assignments because they can handle it and its really in their best interest. They need to pay it forward, we say.
Then we seem surprised when they are tired of paying it forward. Exactly how long do you pay it forward when you are NOT the owner and DO NOT benefit from your extended efforts and DO NOT receive any indication that you will ever benefit from it? One year, two years, three years, four years? Even “owners” struggle to stay motivated over multiple years of neutral or negative results. So WHY would we expect more of our employees, then we expect of ourselves?
You’re on a need-to-know basis, and you don’t need to know
Owners know where the companies’ stands financially. They know their main source of revenues and expenses. They know profit margins and what contributes to them. If you want an employee to act as an owner, they need to have the same type of awareness. A bunch of disconnected metrics won’t get you there. Why should they process their work just a bit faster? They’re salaried, so what difference does it really make. Oh, you bill clients hourly. Ok, so what does that have to do with me and how I spend my day? You can’t make informed decisions unless you’re actually informed. So,
- When was the last time you trained your employees on how you make money?
- When was the last time you reviewed the financials with them in detail?
- Do they really understand what it means to have stockholders that want a return?
It’s really easy to point to entitlement as the reason for a lack of “ownership thinking”. But the answer if far more complicated than that. Certainly, entitlement comes into play in some cases. However, there are many highly motivated and talent people that don’t engage in “ownership thinking”. They’re not lazy people. They’re not stupid people. They’re just not willing to take the risk. The cost is too great and the reward too little.
If you’re going to identify truly unmotivated people, you need to understand motivation
Who do you help and who do you terminate? That’s really the question sought to answer when we look at motivation. We looked at the high cost associated with unmotivated employees. We examined the need to put behavior in context by understanding people and their stories. We keyed in the impact poor leadership has on employee motivation. But we haven’t answered the core of the question, at least not yet. Contrary to popular thinking, it is possible to discern motivation. It is possible to sort the wheat from the chaff. But you have to ask the right questions. The questions that really get to the heart of motivation center around passion, contribution, and challenge
1. Passion. Do they believe in your corporate vision and mission?
- The notion that passion drives motivation is not new or groundbreaking. We see it at play when an individual raise millions for cancer though they seem unable to sell your products. When your scratch your head wondering how that person could have the discipline to run a ½ marathon but can’t get to work on time, undoubtedly, passion (or lack thereof) is at work.
- Because passion is so critical to motivation, an employee’s lack of buy-in into your vision and mission is not a factor to ignore. A vision and mission that is clear, well-communicated, and aligned to systems and goals, should address buy-in issues. If, despite these actions, the employee refuses to buy-in, then you do need to question whether they belong at your company.
2. Contribution. Are the professional contributions necessary for your success, contributions they want to deliver AND excel at?
- People want to contribute and they want their contributions to matter. People want to make an impact. Who could argue with these desires?
- The issue happens when the contributions that individuals want to make do not align with what the company needs. Employees can operate outside of their areas of strength for a period of time, but their productivity and engagement will be maximized only when there is alignment. This is the essence of motivation. Being dedicated to doing a good job is not enough for long-term motivation. An individual’s talents must be tapped into if they are going to stay motivated.
- An irreconcilable difference in this area requires you to question whether they belong at your company.
- Motivated people want challenge. They measure success by more than just titles. They want to grow and develop their skills and capabilities. They may not volunteer for new projects or assignments based on their personality traits; however, they embrace new opportunities when made available to them.
- If you have a person that has become complacent; that shuns any opportunity to do anything new or different; then you have to question whether they belong at your company.
Over the years, I found that sticking to these three factors – passion, contribution, and challenge, is the best way to identify motivational issues that require more drastic actions to resolve.
If I look back at every job that I left, regardless of my stated reason for leaving, one or more of these factors was present. However, I recognized the issue and opted-out of that environment. The reality is that far too many choose to stay anyway. As leaders, these are the individuals you have to identify because they are costing you money.
Now, I’d like to hear from you. What’s your most significant motivational challenge?
Internal disengagement has many sources. Getting to know your employees will help you identify those personal factors that could be barriers to performance. But there’s another source that is equally worthy of consideration, and that’s the supervisors and managers.
I have a friend who is completely unhappy in her job and has begun to disengage. Why?
- It’s not the work. She loves what she does.
- It’s not the hours. She feels pretty good about the balance she has in her life.
- It’s not the pay. Her and her husband are pretty good financial stewards and live within their means.
If it’s not about the work, or the hours, or the pay, then what’s the issue?
Several other people have been in the position she currently holds in a short number of years. They either move out of the departement through internal transfers at their first opportunity or, if that falls through the “transfer” themselves externally.
After individuals transfer their productivity levels, engagement ratings, and performance ratings improve; sometimes dramatically.
The department’s external customers intentionally “schedule around” the departmental manager to get their requests processed.
I could go on, but how many clues are necessary before it’s obvious that there is a performance issue with the manager? How many more capable people have to exit before management is willing to look at the real issue? Incentive programs, morale boosters, and other engagement initiatives are useless if you’re not willing to address manager behavior.
People Leave Managers and Cultures.
Surveys differ on exactly how many people disengage and ultimately leave because of poor management and organizational culture issues; but the range is pretty high: 60-85%. Exit surveys will never catch this phenomenon because people don’t want to burn bridges behind them. So, you’re more likely to hear the standard lines – money, title, hours. And it’s often true that they will receive more money or a better title or more hours. But they started looking because of the manager. The offer was made more attractive by the other perks. After all, if you’re going to run away from something why not run toward something better? What I don’t understand is why management seems so surprised that the third or fourth person has left. Perhpas the first person catches you off guard. But a second departure should set-off a warning light in you the triggers you to get closer to the action. By then you should be doing your homework. If you fail to do this, then don’t be surprised if that department becomes a revolver door whose only common performance denominator is the manager.
So, my question to you is this –
Before you write your staff off as “unmotivated”, have you taken the time to evaluate their managers and the cultures they’ve created? Have you examined trends to learn their story?
What you learn may just surprise you. This third blog may not have been what you expected based on my initial posting on motivation. But I promised you that we would look at motivation from an angle not generally covered in employee surveys and indeed we have. As we conclude our look at motivation in the next blog, we will talk about the a better process for identifying slackers. So stay tuned and stay motivated.
I care about my work. Life just threw me a curve ball and I’m trying to process it.
Suppose you have a single mother whose daycare just called to say that her children must be picked up. It looks like they may have pinkeye. She has no family available to pick up her children. She can’t afford to miss the day at work. She’s struggling to pay the bills as it is but what can she do? What are her options? Now suppose you happen to walk in immediately after she received this call. You don’t get the service you expected, so you complain. The supervisor comes down on her pretty hard. He needs to make a point and keep you happy right? You walk out the door complaining about today’s workers and their motivation. What’s wrong with them? Now pause a minute. How would your response change if you knew the whole story?
Sifting the wheat is not as easy it seems.
You see, motivation is a tricky animal. In the last post, I talked about internal motivation and internal disengagement. I mentioned that these are difficult to deal with and indeeed they are. But one of things that makes them so difficult is that we don’t take the time to know people. We don’t know the whole story, so we can’t differentiate between slackers and people going through a hard time. The first type is worthy of discipline, the second type needs support.
Our internal systems are incapable of identifying the truly “unmotivated”.
Think about this, when was the last time an employee survey asked whether the individual’s basic needs where met? Or whether they felt safe in their neighborhood or in their commute to and from work? I can hear the screams on invasion of privacy, discrimination, and lawsuits already. No, I’m not suggesting that companies go out and beginning asking questions that could land them into a hotbed of legal issues. What I am suggesting though is that employee surveys provide little information for discerning the unmotivated from the disadvantaged, distracted, or discouraged.
So get off your butts and connect.
So that is our very first challenge as leaders. If we are going to truly weed out the wheat from the chaff, we have to do a better job of knowing people. We can’t afford to assume that if a person has a job then they have adequate food, safe shelter, appropriate clothes, and working transportation. We can’t assume that everyone lives in safe neighborhoods where safety and security are not issues. We can’t assume that every person has a strong support system that he or she can call upon as situations happen in life. We can’t assume that people are motivated by achievements and recognition, by opportunities to be creative and engage in challegenging assignments, or by autonomy and self-management. Because the reality is, if their basic needs aren’t met, if they have safety issues, if they have social issues, then they have bigger things on their mind. It’s Maslow’s Hiearchy of Needs at it most basic.
Improve lives and improve your bottom line
Should you care, just because it’s right to care? Absolutely. But not only is it right to care, it’s costly not to care. Can you really afford to keep throwing money away? As I noted in the last blog, unmotivated employees cost you real money. Some experts estimate at 15-40% of budgeted costs. Caring cost you little but the rewards are incredible.
So, my question to you is this –
Before you write someone off as “unmotivated”, have you taken the time to learn their story?
What you learn may just surprise you. This second blog may not have been what you expected based on my last posting. But I promised you that we would look at motivation from an angle not generally covered in employee surveys and indeed we have and will continue to do so in the next blog. So stay tuned and stay motivated.
What's wrong with this picture
Would you give me, an outside consultant, 15-40% of your budgeted business costs for doing nothing except giving you an invoice? Would you hire me if I promised to lower your company’s earnings per share by a meaningful amount? Would you promote me into management if I assured you that your turnover rate would increase, morale would decrease, and personnel costs would skyrocket?
Are You Serious
Do those questions seem silly; nonsensical perhaps? Who would answer yes to those questions. So, on paper, these questions seem silly. Yet this is exactly what happens when you tolerate the unmotivated employees in your company. Think about the messages you are sending:
· It’s okay if you just show up and put in your hours. There’s no need for you to put any pride in your work. It’s okay if mistakes are made. We’ll fix them and then, we’ll pay you anyway.
· It’s okay if you don’t support the company’s vision, mission, or goals. We’ll pay you anyway.
· It’s okay if you don’t follow through on your commitments. Let other people pick up the slack and we’ll continue to pay you.
· It’s okay if you bad mouth the company and stir up dissension. We’re desperate for people and we can’t afford to lose you (huh). We need all the warm bodies we can get. So keep expressing yourself and we’ll continue to pay you.
Yes, It Is Really That Bad?
How long before others get those messages and start to wonder if they are working a bit too hard. Why should they continue to pick up the slack? Why should they carry the extra stress of making things right?
You see, tolerating people is worse than throwing money out the window. At least then, your loss is capped. There’s no exponential multiplication of losses occuring as the bad attitude settles into the fiber of your company. A milion surveys have been completed on employee engagement and the cost of disengaged employees. Ok, a million might be a slight exaggeration, but there have been a lot. Unfortunately, these surveys do a poor job of distinguishing between externally-driven and internally-driven disengagement. Externally-driven disengagement caused by organizational and environmental factors, can be addressed. Internally-driven disengagement relates to individual motivation and that is much more difficult. It’s this second category that we are going to talk about over the next few blogs. So stay tuned over the next two weeks as we look at motivation from an angle not generally covered in employee surveys.
Stay Motivated. Stay Tuned.