Cattle Prods and Other Management Tools

A recent Facebook interaction around the role of gratitude and compassion in motivation led me down multiple wormholes around intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation, mindfulness and gratitude and the role of empathy and compassion in the workplace. If you fancy a bit of overwhelm I have the links!

Portrait of a man roaring loudly into megaphone over white backgroundIn the process I was also reflecting over the many conversations I have had within organisations around motivation, mostly  in the context of “how to motivate”,  requests from frustrated  managers trying to get increased energy and performance out of an ever increasingly disengaged staff.  The tone of the questions reflects the belief that it’s the  manager’s job  to motivate staff,  to find ways to encourage them  to be productive and effective. The assumption being  that left to their own devices most people would not be motivated, would not want to be effective and productive,  and its the role of the manager to jump start this energy and enthusiasm. I often get the impression that the possible use of  a set of jumper cables and some electricity would not be out of the question either!


And I wonder if that mindset is not the actual cause of many of the problems faced by managers. It might be more useful to turn the question around and ask “What should I do to stop de-motivating people?”

Now here I do have some ideas.

Six things that managers, and the organisations they work in, might consider:

Don’t think  that being compassionate and empathetic  and holding people accountable are mutually exclusive – clear boundaries are vital and reflect respect and trust. (There is a whole other conversation around responsibility accountability)

Don’t believe the myth that regularly  saying thank you to employees  will immediately make them ask for more money – appreciation and acknowledgment is a massive motivator.

Don’t set meaningless tasks as a way of thinking you have control –  making people complete checklists and  reports that  no one reads or responds to is a sure fire way to de-motivate.

Don’t micro manage – it drives both you and everyone else mad! And it really is more about you than them. If you don’t trust staff to perform it’s worth considering that micro managing massively increases the chances they won’t perform.

Don’t overload those you think are competent (often meaning they do things my way) to avoid dealing with (holding accountable)  those you think are not – perceptions of fairness are massively important in motivation.

Don’t believe  that money is the be all and end all of motivation – even though this is often  the most visible issue in complaints and  negotiations, like an ice berg there is a lot more going on beneath the surface.

If you are keen to have a conversation about what to do instead leave a nice comment and I’ll feel motivated enough to respond.

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