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Recipe for Motivation

Rajit Nair

Monday, October 12, 2009

“We have a great plan for you”, this is the common metaphor or the “carrot” we used to hear in the corporate environment nowadays as a motivation statement. Well! How many of such promises are kept is history. Motivating employees is an art. For someone who would act as a motivator should have a clear head, and should be able to be a role model for the team members. Also, the more the team leader is transparent and honest, the more would be the trust.

What is the recipe for motivation? There are many theories about motivation, the top one being the one published in 1959 by the American behavioral scientist, Frederick Herzberg’s Motivation – Hygiene theory - Two-factor Theory.

This theory rightly states that there are certain factors that cause job satisfaction and there are another set of factors that lead to dissatisfaction. The popular belief is that good salaries can motivate employees. Even though all employees would like to have better salaries, salary is not a great motivator in reality. If an employee is highly paid but his/her work is not recognized or his/her growth is not defined in an organization, then definitely the employee will be dissatisfied.

Many employees strive to put an extra mile, if their work or their role in the team is appreciated. They will make every effort to maintain the ‘status quo’ at any cost, since they know that their team leader recognizes their role and contribution. Sometimes, just a “pat on the shoulder” in public would motivate even an under performer.

I know a team leader who used to assign tough jobs to comparatively greenhorns without any specific instruction or without setting a forum for feedback.  The only statement he used to make is ‘go and dig for information’. This is absolutely absurd. A team leader assuming the role of a motivator should be direct and precise when dealing with new or not so skilled employee who is supposed to learn a new skill. I believe that raw recruits need specific direction, space to make mistakes and encouragement in the form of continued support.

Another example for a Team Leader’s failure in motivating a highly skilled employee who lacked self-confidence is interesting to note. The employee always felt down and produced mediocre output. However, the Team Leader did not make any effort to motivate the employee or boost his morale and instead kept on blaming him. Finally, the company lost an employee who was highly skilled just because his performance graph went into a spin. A closed-door talk to boost the employee’s self confidence in his own skills by the Team Leader was the simplest antidote for the problem. Mentoring (please read my article on Mentoring) also would have averted this unpleasant situation.

During the post recession era, many companies suffered business disruption forcing them to downsizing or layoffs. In such difficult times, don’t expect the managers or team leaders to motivate the team as s/he her/himself doesn’t know the fate of the business or not confident about the security of his/her own job. Many companies even now suffer from this ‘legacy’ that led to distrust among the team members and team leaders. Businesses that survived the economic ‘tsunami’ succeeded in insinuating confidence and trust among their employees through initiatives founded on transparency.

Sometimes awards also contribute to motivation. However, the credibility depends on the selection process and who are the adjudicators. Recently in the Indian subcontinent, Corporate or Business awards got a ‘slap’ when previous year’s ‘high-profile winners’ swept away in the recession flood exposing the fallacy of such awards. Also, it is a known fact that some awards are instituted by these “Yes For-Profit” Companies who accept money in the form of sponsorship for the gala ceremony and declare ‘winners who are their ‘patrons’. Motivation thus ‘bought’ is different from what I am trying to depict here.

Delegation also improves the recipe, as through the act of delegation, the manager is showing trust and confidence in his/her subordinate. While delegating, managers should make sure that the most experienced employee is chosen for delegating. If favoritism is a criterion while selecting the employee for delegation, other members may get dissatisfied (“demotivated”).

Communication is also important for motivation in a corporate environment. If there is no proper communication, slowly the employees would get demotivated and quality of work deteriorates.

Anyway, we need good managers who understand the value of motivation and we need employees who would be smart enough to get motivated. My hypothesis is that there is a disparity in the manger: subordinate ratio, as “smarter employees” are more than the “good managers” in the corporate world. Please prove me wrong!

© State of the Art Consulting

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