Being the very best leader you can

You probably understand very well what motivates you personally as a leader. But do you understand what motivates your staff and why it is important that you do?

As a leader you are most likely very intrinsically motivated. You do a good job because it feels good to do so. However, some of your staff are likely to be more extrinsically motivated, meaning they take direction from a line manager on what needs to be done.

And that, says Sean Thomas, the CEO at Tima Consulting, is what his company sets out to change. They want more people on the factory floor intrinsically motivated and doing a good job because they feel good about it; because they get social recognition for doing so and they are praised for their efforts and the results that effort brings.

As the Tima website notes, the acquisition of knowledge alone does not deliver value to the organisation. “Improvement in performance requires behaviour change. Value is realised when people do things differently. Human-social factors influence behaviour and ultimately the contribution that an individual makes to the organisation.

“An individual’s contribution is not only influenced by their capability but by their motivation, focus of attention and disposition towards both co-workers and the organisation.”

 Thomas told Management that a key test Tima looks for in a factory is the degree and spread of extrinsical and intrinsical motivation. When they go in to an organisation they want to understand current behaviours and what changes are needed. They look at what they can provide to get the staff intrinsically motivated.

Thomas, who founded the company 25 years ago, says the first thing is to get leaders to understand is that the social currency on the factory floor is effort, not the result. 

If managers praise the effort that shows in the results, this means it is not just about a lucky day for that person, but the effort that worker put in, whether things go right or wrong the next day.

Tima Consulting grew out of Thomas’s mechanical engineering background, and a deep interest in human psychology. The firm is very research orientated and over many years has drawn its expertise from an academic perspective on how organisations get things done. Clients have included Fonterra, Hansells Food Group, Tasti Products, Colgate-Palmolive, Gallaghers and Masterfoods. 

Thomas says a simple summary of Tima’s approach is that the most effective thing to get people to focus on is behaviour.

“If people do not change what they do, you haven’t changed anything. Things don’t change based on wishes, beliefs or desires. If that does not translate into behaviour change, you haven’t got anything.”

He believes that changing behaviour changes attitudes and this is what really changes the game for an organisation.

“The path we put people on is looking at the behaviours that are occurring today and what behaviours could lead to better results tomorrow.”

If the CEO doesn’t know the behaviours that give that result today how can he/she know what improved behaviour will give better results tomorrow. 

An example might be a problem with production errors on the production line – wrong labelling or wrong best-before dates. The line manager might assume the workers are not paying attention, need to increase their focus and pull up attention levels. The assumption being that if they are not performing well, they are not making the effort.

But Thomas says when you spend time on the production line you may find that nobody knew the checks and balances for bringing in new labels and a suggestion that the line manager clued the workers up early and offered to check the labels with them, might eliminate the mistake.

“It’s a real magic moment. The workers understand events which need increased cognitive attention.”

Behind this is the idea that when something does not go right, find out what drove that error.

He sees this as a very practical way of driving change, looking at the way things are done and looking at a way to improve the process. 

While we tend to believe people are motivated by what they know and what needs to be done, in fact we are all motivated by the way we feel and overwhelmingly our behaviour is a product of our social environment.

Thomas says in a performance learning organisation there is one thing they get right – they ask questions in a manner that gets people thinking ‘my manager and I work together on this’. They are encouraging people to think differently about what they are trying to achieve. It’s building that relationship and is working in a less directive way with more of a team approach.

The company’s esCollate software offers real-time productivity feedback, giving people feedback on their performance. Thomas says imagine golf or any other sport without any scoring, few are likely to want to play and it’s the scoring that can be hugely motivational.

esCollate provides sophisticated factory modelling that includes analysis by machine, line, line area, route and factory area. Support for varying shift patterns and product details specific to each product-route combination allow complex operational activity to be accurately logged and reported.

He cites an example from some years ago in a food manufacturing business in Australia where real-time feedback on the production line, showing workers the maximum “fill” that could be achieved every 30 minutes led to intense competition between different shifts to reach this maximum ideal. After a two week trial period that had been achieved and over time the teams were achieving  70 percent higher output than previously.

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