Motivation is not about a pat on the back | Sunday Observer

Motivation is not about a pat on the back

7 March, 2021

Contrary to the popular belief that motivating people is all about appreciating people and pulling up people for weaknesses and negligence, de-motivate people, the fact remains that you cannot change bad people to be good unless you are direct and openly offer your feedback. Without differentiating performance of people – say good for good and bad for bad – you will not be able to achieve business results.

The general notion of motivating people is to pat the back is a bygone theory and it does not work that way. Most Sri Lankan leaders try to be popular by only appreciating people and ignoring bad performance and performers. The loss of business value due to this typical Sri Lankan leadership attitude is enormous. 

The world is full of uncertainties. A leader’s role is to bring about certainty out of uncertainty. Given the erratic nature of the economy, which on a daily basis dictates and significantly changes the operating environment for business organisations, both employers and employees are faced with the challenge of having to constantly adapt to meet challenges head-on, and to figure out new ways of working.

Sustaining performance

The work environment for employees is fast-paced, dynamic and challenging one making your strategies and value propositions short-lived, so you need constant creativity, analytical thinking, continuous improvements and correct speed of execution to improve or sustain performance.

To succeed as a manager you need to grow yourself and when you become a manager, success depends on how you grow your team members. Challenging employees to reach their best potential is one good way of growing them. Employees have the potential to do more than they think and it is not until they enter the working world that many slowly begin to discover that.

An employee who recognises the value of a challenge, and experiences the personal and professional growth through overcoming the challenge, is an employee who will develop a positive and realistic self-worth, as well as an understanding that personal achievement and business achievement are inextricably linked. 

Managers have widely divergent ideas about what really motivates the team mates, with some managers ending up in avoidance mode. Most performance problems aren’t dealt with directly.

More often, instead of taking action, the manager will transfer the person somewhere else or match the work to his capacity. Most leaders are trying to combine a mix of challenge and support to get the best out of their teams.

Achieving this balance is never easy, and is specific to each individual. But in the end, growing others is a worthwhile effort for both noble and self-interested reasons. It’s personally rewarding to help others accomplish more than they’d thought possible. 

Raise the bar

Raise the bar, create a sense of internal competition, differentiate and pay for performance and reward excellence. Performance differentiation is the best way to motivate the high performers.

When an organisation creates such a performance culture, employees at the bottom end will have to either catch up to match up or give up the competition and look elsewhere. Managers should distinguish those who would like to stay in the game from people who are unwilling to compete and deal with the two categories appropriately.

Challenging employees can also provide the benefit of increasing their level of job satisfaction. There are a number of ways to challenge an employee; whichever method you use, make sure the employees feel like the process is intended to help them and not to penalise anyone.

Job rotation is a good way to build capacity in employees and it prevents the boredom and stagnation that can occur from repeatedly performing the same tasks. Job rotation challenges and stimulates workers by offering them the opportunity to learn new job functions and develop their skills, which also makes them more valuable assets to your organisation. Workers who seek advancement opportunities may view job rotation as a way to become more attractive managerial candidates, as they will develop a broader perspective of how the organisation functions.

Performance feedback

Encouraging innovation and creativity can lead to ideas that can help your business grow. Challenge your employees to become innovators by starting an idea generation program where employees are rewarded for ideas that are eventually adopted and implemented by your company.

Rewards can take the form of monetary compensation or public recognition, or the opportunity for the creator to lead a team charged with bringing the idea to fruition. Increase employee engagement by involving them in the decision-making process.

For instance, have a trusted employee sit in on a job interview to provide input about the candidate’s suitability for the position, as well as how he might fit in with the team. By increasing your employees’ engagement level, they will feel they have a greater stake in the direction of the company, which can challenge and motivate them. Managers have tremendous power simply by being in a position of authority, and can use their words to influence how others view themselves. The act of expressing belief in your employees and focusing on setting high, but achievable standards for them has real repercussions. When we communicate to an employee, we too often leave out the potential we see in them to be successful. We may challenge them but not say why we’re sure they can do it. Instead, consider the idea that if you see something praiseworthy, innovative, or potential-enhancing from your team members, call it out.