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Talent Dynamics RSS Feed Blog Archive: June 2012

Jans Corner: No size fits all motivation

In my conversations with both executives and business owners we often dialogue about the best way to motivate their employees – to get the best out of them and to sustain their performance.

I am aware of the complexity of the issue as well as the long list of theories and methods that claim to have the found the right key to motivation. An off-the-shelf solutions to this “motivation challenge” is as rare as is a one-size-fits-all pair of jeans.

Research – and common sense – shows that money while important (for survival and the feeling of a fair value exchange) is not the only and neither the major motivating factor.

In any case, when considering motivation it helps to remember that above managers, workers and dare I say consumers, we are all humans – even with our business hats on.

As humans what will motivate us and allows us to sustain performing in the right environment – both tangible and intangible. We need autonomy, acceptance, acknowledgment, belonging, variety, and security as much as suitable space and timing to work at our best. Creating and maintaining an environment that allows for these needs to be met at the workplace makes both human and business sense. This is no big news.

Many companies, including Google, General Mills, Zappos and Disney have gone the extra mile to come up with creative solutions to make coming to work and working fulfilling and fun and thus easier to innovate, more natural to collaborate and more sustainable to perform at a high standard.

Obviously different people put different weight on each of these aspects. So it makes sense to know who is in your company and in your team and what makes them tick.

In my practice apart from profiling what I found useful is to explore these 2 simple questions:

  1. When, where and with whom do you enjoy working most?
  2. How do you know you have done a really good job?

You can explore these questions with everyone in your team as well as ask the questions yourself. I found that with a bit of curiosity and respect you can get under the surface of what makes people around you tick and click – what excites and rewards them – in a short time and without a big budget. Then all you need is a little willingness to make (often minor) adjustment in where, when and how we work and interact.

And just one more thing. Motivating conditions are great but inspiring context is magical. Unlike motivation, inspiration comes from inside out and is typically liked with our human need to grow and to contribute to others.

When we create and maintain an environment where people can grow and develop and where they find opportunities to meaningfully contribute to something larger that they care about concerns about motivation will often disappear or become secondary. People will be much more occupied by questions such as “What are we really up for?” and “How can we play our best game?”.


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Una’s spotlight: Are You Operating in the Emotional Economy?

I was fascinated by this article from Jim Clifton of Gallup, ‘Good to Great? Or Lousy to Good?’

What Clifton is really talking about here is adding value to your customers. He’s calling this moving from ‘price to advice’, a nice snappy catchphrase to encompass the idea of choosing to build relationships over being a commodity. I think the article has some great examples of this, particularly with the author’s own organisation and why it’s choosing to stay with its current telephone supplier. Basically they have become a true partner.

We all have heard the wonderful examples of customer service that are worth talking about. I wonder though if they seem to you like those stories of families where the children are well behaved and they all get along, sounds amazing yet unrealistic?

The fact is that it doesn’t have to be that way. We talk a lot about value too, however we don’t just mean at the front line, as employees need to receive that great value from within the organisation itself.

The company needs to be clear about the value it delivers to its customers and focus on growing that value and leveraging it effectively. ‘Price to advice’ is one approach yet it’s not the only way to add value. It’s simple, there’s two ways to add value: innovation and timing and there’s two ways to leverage that value: through people and systems.

Employees must be connected to the Spirit energy of the company. No I’m not going woo woo on you, I’m talking about the organisation’s purpose, what it exists to do. Employees have got to be connected to who they truly are, how they each add value and how they can best leverage that value within and between teams, departments and divisions in ways that truly make a difference to the customer.

Clarity and alignment at all levels are absolutely vital. From what’s really important to achieve as an organisation in the next few months, to what to focus on in the next few days. When employees know if they are a Star profile that excels when shining their light on a product, project or team or an Accumulator that shines by making things happen on time, it helps everybody to have clear expectations and ramp up their performance.

All this helps for:

  • Employees to figure out the best career paths for success
  • Managers to understand the best roles and accountabilities for team members for employee engagement peak performance
  • Senior executives to know who’s best to lead on critical projects and how to support them
  • Teams to work together on organisational priorities instead of competing for resources
  • Every single person in a company to understand what their role is in adding value to the customer

This is what encourages customer to have a positive emotional relationship with your organisation, to be truly engaged. When this happens then you’re operating in the ‘emotional economy’ – think of the almost fanatically loyal customers that Apple and Southwest Airlines attract and keep. We’d all like more of those!

Increasing value and leverage throughout your organisation allows you to be sustain success and to scale that success and still keep your customers engaged.

How true is this for your organisation? What could you do to increase your value and leverage so you too operate in the emotional economy?


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