Friday, March 6, 2015

Is Motivation Overrated?

I know what you're thinking (well maybe not really, but I'll guess), "that's a bit of an odd question."

Motivation is something we talk about a lot. And in the world in which I live -- talent management -- motivation is a big deal. We focus on key practices such as performance management or coaching in which motivation is critical.

In fact in my management development series, The Management Intensive, and management training workshops,  I say, "Motivation is a human resource. Many managers unknowingly squander or misuse it."

So, here's my answer to the question, "Is motivation overrated?" My answer is yes!  And here's why.  (By the way, I'm writing this on a Friday, the last day of a work week in which I'm typically the least naturally motivated).

First let's start by considering these 2 questions:

  • What's the point of motivation?  
  • Why is it needed?

Now,  of all the answers you'd come up, one has got to be to get stuff done, to accomplish something -- to get results.

So consider this. If the purpose and use of motivation is to get results, why shouldn't we just focus on the results -- you know focus on the end more than the means.

Here's an example. It's Friday, I don't feel very motivated. I can ask myself, "Ok, what would you like to get done today or what do you need to get done today? Awh, writing a blog post. But I'm not feeling very motivated."

That's ok for the moment. Now, two things can happen at this point -- we're at a fork in the road here.  I can begin to focus on my lack of motivation.  I've been down that road -- it's a bit demotivating.

Or, I can focus on the the blog post (the result) in this way: why it's a result for the day, why it matters, why it's on my to do list in the first place, why I bother writing, how much I want to say and feel that I got it done, what I want to express and why, the value it could bring to others, the thought of not getting anything done today...etc.

All of sudden I feel like writing and thoughts flow out onto the page.

Here's another example related to a team management practice I promote in my management training classes. The practice is conducting SWATs (short - worthwhile - appointed - times).  These are short stand up meetings where team members stand in a circle and communicate what's going on, what's needs to get done, any roadblocks to achieving the targeted goals, along with kudos and praise for accomplishments.

SWATS are conducted as way to create constructive public accountability and team synergy.  Because team members are focused on getting and reporting results at set times throughout the week, motivation rarely is mentioned or needs attention. The very structure of tight, public accountability and results orientation generates the motivation needed.

So there's two examples of how motivation was not so much the focus, but the outcomes or results were. And there in lies what I'd like to suggest. Focusing on results is more important than focusing on motivation. Focusing on the context and conditions to motivate is more useful than focusing on motivation itself.

There is a lot of talk in the HR, management and leadership world surrounding employee motivation. Might I suggest the emphasis is on the wrong thing? How about focusing on building a supportive, collaborative culture of results (context and conditions) rather making motivation itself the focus. Motivation is overrated!

Here's the link to the article on motivation that motivated me to write this post: Killing the 7 Motivation Murderers   (Yes, I wrote it that way on purpose).

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This blog is based on this book. In it are actionable ideas on being a better manager: The 1% Edge - The Workbook - Power Strategies to Increase Your Management Effectiveness

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Humility - The Counterintuitive Behavior in Leadership

Curated Post: Steve Farber | A Radical Approach to Becoming a Great Leader
Each and every one of us has the opportunity to be a leader at different times of our lives, whether it's a leader in our business, our home or our community. The challenge for many of us is that we don't have the fortitude to step up to the plate to become the type of leader that people trust. This true story below is an inspiration to anybody ready to make real changes in their life.
As a regional manager at a major brokerage firm, Michael had been working on his own leadership skills for several years, but despite his efforts, his retail branch region had been consistently ranked last or second to last in his company's employee opinion survey, and in this rare company where surveys are taken seriously - the results are published and ranked - this was bad news for Michael's career. He was losing his credibility as a manager. Then he had the epiphany.
Even though the surveys specifically reflected the views of front-line branch employees whose lives were affected by their immediate supervisors, Michael assumed that he was the problem, not the supervisors. Just allowing himself that realization was a risky endeavor: suddenly, responsibility rested squarely on Michael's already sore shoulders, the Blame Game was no longer an option, and he launched himself irrevocably into do-or-die mode. Then he cranked up the risk factor one more notch.
He gathered his management team together, stood up in front of the conference room and said, "I'm screwing up; the numbers show it, so I want you to tell me what I'm doing wrong and what I need to do to improve."
"I'm going to leave the room," he went on, "and I'd like you to get very specific and write down your ideas on flip-chart paper. When I come back, we'll talk through each item."
And he walked out.
A half-hour later he came back and knocked on the door. "We're not done yet," they said.
Finally, after ninety minutes, they let him in. All the walls were covered in flip-chart paper: list after list of suggestions for his personal improvement as a human being. He kept his balance, took a deep breath and proceeded to:
Accept What You Hear (And Show It)
Michael knew that his reaction in that moment would make or break the whole exercise, as well as his personal credibility. So he took a radical approach and responded authentically.
"I'm really disappointed," he said, "in myself. I had no idea there'd be so much."
He didn't defend, justify, or make excuses. All he did was ask some questions to make sure he fully understood each item, and they talked together for the next couple of hours. Imagine the intestinal fortitude that Michael needed to keep that conversation going for that long. "And another thing, boss..." was said more than once, I'm sure.
And then, at the end of the day, with rolls of flip chart paper tucked under his arms and a pounding sensation behind his eyes, Michael looked at his team and said two words straight from the heart:
"Thank you."
That night and the next couple of days, Michael told me, were the most difficult of his entire career. He was devastated and overwhelmed by the severity of the feedback and the immense challenge to follow through. He recovered from the initial shock, however, and went on to:
Do Something About It!
Nobody expected Michael to start at the top of list one, item one and start fixing them all. But they saw him try. He proved through his own actions that the session hadn't been a consultant-assigned exercise that he had been forced into tolerating.
The next round of surveys ranked Michael's organization second from the top in the entire company, with jumps of eighty to ninety percent in some measures. That's a radical leap no matter how you look at it, but the funny thing is, the improvement had relatively little to do with Michael's follow-up actions. It had everything to do with his team.
Source: Steve Farber is the president of Extreme Leadership, Incorporated - an organization devoted to the cultivation and development of Extreme Leaders in the business community. His book, The Radical Leap: A Personal Lesson in Extreme Leadership is a recipient of Fast Company magazine's Readers' Choice Award. | To find out more about his book go to:

This blog is based on this book. In it are actionable ideas on being a better manager: The 1% Edge - The Workbook - Power Strategies to Increase Your Management Effectiveness

Monday, October 20, 2014

Are You Passive or Purposed With Your Time?

The subject of time management is one that I just can't get enough of not only because doing it expertly is essential to the level of success in my business, but it's also one of those things that is not mastered all in one shot, but the mastery of it is an ever evolving experience.

With that in mind, here's another time management insight for your consideration. Greater success in time management cannot be achieved until you are aware of how you function in situations by answering this question "Are you passive or purposed?"

Here's an observsation I've made related to myself and others and I'll use the context of work for this example. When I'm sitting at my desk or enter into my day, the days when I see clearly that my schedule is packed, I don't have a moment to spare, I tend to act and feel more purposed.

In fact the use of time has been purposed and when that occurs I act, feel, and interact with people differently through-out the day. I tend to be more assertive, time aware with each interaction, and even faster in the execution of certain tasks.

On the other hand, when my schedule is lighter - meaning less fixed items present, I tend to act more casual, work slower, when someone calls I may not screen it as closely,'s what's key, I allow someone else to take the lead in how my time will be used. In essence I am passive in that context.

Now we all need days that are low key, less intense and pressurized, but for many the passive approach is the norm or workstyle by which they function. In order to manage time effectively being passive or non-purposed as a practice will only lead to not getting things done, being over worked, being taken advantage of, critical deadlines being missed, more stressd... and much much more.

A key time management tip therefore is to be clear on the answer to this question, "Am I more purposed or passive in how I conduct my day?" This question can be used at home and at work.
Knowing the answer will give you clarity on your time management approach aka "I may not have one."

On a final note, I do believe there are days where we can and should have a more passive approach; it allows for spontaneity and a bit of refueling while still getting some things done. The key is to be aware enough to make the choice.

If you need a time management tune-up - then you'll want to get this resource: Organizational Strategies for the Overwhelmed - how to manage your time, space, & priorities, to work smart, get results & be happy -  Kindle - The Book - Nook - Audio Book -  The Seminar