Is Your Workplace in Drive Mode?

You can’t motivate anyone – you can only create situation to which people will respond because they choose to.
The ingredients of motivation are within everyone. When we’re awake the motor is running and our motivation for action is responsive to three signals – neutral, forward or reverse. With stimulus, both internal and external, everything is believed possible. So what is happening in the workplace?

Staff selection
As one CEO said “beyond the critical factors I look particularly for motivation when I select – other qualities are important but none more so. This is what I want to buy.”
The applicant who wants job knows this and at interview demonstrates keenness and enthusiasm and asks good questions. (This is selling what the customer wants.) The appointee brings motivation to the position and continues to show this during the first days but the motor is now hovering over neutral.
There are two possible scenarios.
l. (The more common.) At the selection interview the qualities and experience of the applicant have been explored in depth, and perhaps tested, but the interviewer hasn’t explained what the firm really does, how it functions or what the appointee will be doing, and the culture and values which influence the activities.
Perhaps what follows on the job isn’t what the appointee expected or is prepared for and unless this changes for the better, the “situations vacant” pages may soon be revisited. Meanwhile routines will be followed but initiative blunted.
2. Here the selection interview was two-way discussion, views and ideas were exchanged and there was frank disclosure of relevant information. This and the introductory process stimulated motivation and the workplace realities reinforced the appropriateness of the selection. The motor is in drive and the appointee stays and grows.
An over-simplification perhaps, but sufficiently true to cause some rethinking of the selection process. How high is turn-over during the first one or two years after appointment? And at what cost (both direct and indirect)? Success depends on keeping and developing talented staff. One defective manager can drain the power from your organisation.

Meanwhile, at the workplace
Organisations are under constant and heavy pressure to accomplish more and better with less. But what returns are employers getting from their salaries and wages account?
? Output not what it could be?
? Meets requirements but not much more?
? We feel it’s good?
? Is this what’s needed for continuing market place success?
If you were to ask “would you work harder if we introduced performance bonus scheme?” what answers might you expect? And, more importantly, what would this tell you about present effort and commitment?
Before throwing money at an apparent but unidentified situation, which we tend to do, the question should be first asked whether the workplace meets the standards which surveys of employees in recent years, here and overseas, have been shown to generate high morale and to stimulate motivation. These include:
? Doing something worthwhile – goal. “My work is interesting and varied. I’m part of team. We understand why the work is important and the standards set are reasonable.”
? Doing one’s share – participation. “Others in my group depend on me. My ideas are listened to. The boss discusses things with us.”
? Counting for something – recognition. “They recognise me as person and for what I can do. I get credit for good work and help when in trouble. I feel part of the group. We’re team.”
? Knowing what’s going on – communication. “I know how I’m doing, where I fit, what’s going on and why. Changes are discussed in advance with us and our ideas are sought.”
? Getting decent living – fair wages. “My pay seems right for the skill, conditions and importance for the job and for the effort I put out in relation to that of others.”
? Preparing for the future – learning. “I’m encouraged to develop new skills and to acquire new knowledge. I can see stepping stones along which I can advance.”
? Doing things together – team work. “We know the target. We know the score. We take pride in being team that achieves results.”
? Being challenged – innovation. “I’m encouraged to explore new ideas and to find improvements to present practices, knowing that initiative will be given due recognition.”
Communication is the common factor that links them all. To get commitment you have to demonstrate commitment. The motivation sought and needed will in part be response to the universal component of negotiation – “you give me some of what I want and I’ll give you some of what you want”.
Major de-motivators will always be frustration and uncertainty. One pre-condition for action is critical and inescapable – willingness and desire by management at all levels to ask, listen and respond. Not to circulate questionnaires, or to involve consultants, but for managers to sit down in meetings and ask things like what could we do to make your job easier and more effective.
To consider the responses – and there will be many – and give hasty feedback to each group. Not to then take action, would be suicidal. Another approach is to ask “at all levels are we sharing information and seeking improvement?” If not, what’s happening and what are the effects?

Teamwork, leadership and relationships
The value of teamwork and the synergy it generates is well proven.
A team is formed and built from people working together over period in reasonably stable conditions, but in time of constant change with no real assurance of sustained full-time employment team building faces problems. It wouldn’t be unusual in any organisation to find mix of teams in various stages of formation, other work groups and some solo workers. For many, team-centred activity is still an objective rather than reality.
Some aspects of team building may need special attention. You can’t always control the team makeup. Some will seek safety and security within it and collective responsibility doesn’t equate with accountability.
Teams require conformity with group norms and the non-conformist, the tall poppy, will be pulled down. The key factor must be the competency of team leaders.
Little, if anything, will be accomplished by changing people’s titles to team leaders or group leaders. manager manages and gets results from planning, control and compliance. leader leads and motivated followers choose to give commitment.
Those in charge of work groups must master and demonstrate appropriately the skills of both – and this certainly won’t happen by executive decree. It will need training and coaching (and the one without the other won’t be effective) and if possible, particularly at more senior levels, mentoring. Accepting that leaders must be developed, they must first be identified and encouraged towards the skills and knowledge required. Signs of talent waiting to be tapped lie within those who can think outside the square. And every organisation needs leavening of intelligent mavericks for the reasonable person is seldom an innovator.
Talent also lies within those who have shown creativity or self-starter ability in difficult or crisis situations, or who have shown skill in small ad hoc project teams set up to analyse and recommend improvement to work situations, or who respond to an invitation to volunteer for training. The highly motivated self-starters who stand out will succeed anyway – but they are few in number. Their drive and determination will ensure this and they will carve their own paths. But they are impatient and will see each appointment only as stepping stone to the next. You probably won’t hold them and the quest for potential leaders must be maintained, looking first among present employees, (which in itself is test of your initial selection skills).
So you

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