Category Archives: Motivation

Are we addicted to mediocrity?

I wish I had written this, or something like this:

The one possible weakness of this otherwise terrific little volume (The Dip, by Seth Godin) is that it is aimed solely at people who are creative, intelligent and want to succeed. Those who are mediocre, unmotivated or just coasting through life will probably not get much from Godin. He is not an elitist, but his message is squarely aimed at those who want to succeed or at least achieve excellence. ~Know a Dip from a Dead End.

I’ve read most of Seth Godin’s output: books, magazine articles, blog posts, etc. I’ve often thought there was a disconnect between the new generation of forward-thinking consumers Seth writes about, and the people I encounter day-to-day.

I was watching television a couple of weeks ago and this commercial came on that made no sense whatsoever. (I don’t remember the product.) I complained about the stupidity of it and the three others watching with me spent ten or a dozen minutes explaining what they felt the advertiser was trying to say. They did not see anything incongruous about having to take ten minutes to explain a 30–second ad spot.

There are at least three reasons why most people accept mediocrity:

  1. We have become inured to bad customer interaction in all its forms. There’s a sense that bad marketing and desultory customer service is the normal cost of doing business. We may be entertained by creative advertising at Super Bowl time, but we expect something that shouts the latest no-interest, no-payment “deal” at our local furniture outlet.
  2. Most people will sacrifice quality for convenience. It doesn’t matter that WestJet has great customer service if the Air Canada flight gets me there 30 minutes earlier. We’ll eat tasteless produce from Safeway rather than spend an extra hour and five more dollars at the farmer’s market.
  3. People find it hard to break with tradition. My grandfather drove a GM product, my father drove a GM product, I’m going to drive a GM product. So what if the bank adds to its already obscene profits by raising my fees, I’ve banked there all my life and I don’t want to change.

These are my quick and dirty thoughts, with lots of room for discussion and debate. I agree with Richard Pachter that there are those that seek constant improvement. But I also think they are in the minority.

How about you? What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Schedule Time for Self-Reflection

Self-esteem problems don’t develop instantly. They grow over time, sometimes so slowly that we don’t notice change taking place. We run into a major roadblock in our lives and suddenly, we lack the emotional strength to bounce back.

It’s important to make self-reflection a routine. Whether daily or weekly, we need to make a concrete appointment on our calendars. Put effort and intention into your self-reflection. See how you can enhance all areas of your life to improve your emotional, mental and spiritual balance.

Take an honest look at these searching questions:

  • How do I feel about me today?
  • What have I achieved?
  • What have I enjoyed?
  • What have I done to look after me?
  • Have I done anything I will regret?
  • Have I held true to my values?
  • Have I been myself?

Solving Workplace Problems – The Slacker

Scott Adams has given us the classic workplace slacker in Wally. Wally not only excels at dodging work, he flaunts it. Of course, we laugh at Wally’s “skill-set” because we all know and have worked with a slacker.

There are two types of slackers in most organisations, those who are in over their heads when it comes to getting the job done and those who are just plain lazy. Both types are difficult to deal with and both create morale problems in the workplace.

Regardless of type, slackers have common behaviours:

  • They consistently fail to do what they’re expected to do.
  • They excel at “busy work”.
  • They’re the last to arrive, but the first to leave.
  • They try to pass off tasks to other staff members.
  • They often claim to be “too busy” to help out.
  • They spend lots of time visiting around the office; often interfering with the work of others.
  • They lots of time surfing the web, on personal phone calls or personal e-mail/messaging.

Here are some techniques for dealing with slackers:

  • Talk with them in private about their behaviour, not in the middle of a team meeting.
  • Don’t get angry. Remain calm and objective.
  • Focus on measurable productivity. Don’t blame or accuse.
  • Focus on the behaviour not the personality.
  • Describe the behaviour’s negative impact on the team.
  • Set clear expectations and set up an accountability system to track the expectations. Document the expectations in writing.
  • Get a commitment to changing.

Some questions for consideration. Post your answers in the comments below.

  • Have you dealt with slackers? How?
  • Have you been a slacker?
  • What were the consequences?
  • What made you change your behaviour?
  • Why is it important to avoid being confrontational?
  • What kinds of skills do slackers need to work on? (E.g.: time management.)

How to Empower Your Employees

Empowerment as a term is widely used and often misinterpreted; as a genuine action, it is difficult to put into practice. Empowerment is really about offering and receiving commitment so it is important to recognize that there are two kinds of commitment: external and internal.

External commitment

External commitment occurs when employees have little control over their destinies and are accustomed to working under the command-and-control model.

Examples of external commitment:

  • Tasks and the behavior to perform tasks are defined by others.
  • Performance goals are defined by management.
  • Goal importance is defined by others.
Internal commitment

Internal commitment occurs when employees are committed to a particular project, person, or program for their own reasons or motivations. Internal commitment is very closely allied with empowerment.

Examples of internal commitment:

  • Individuals define tasks and the behavior required to perform tasks.
  • Management and individuals jointly define challenging performance goals.
  • Individuals define the importance of the goal.

Consider ways that you can support your employees in developing an internal commitment to the work that you do. And, the ways you can also enhance your own commitment.

How to Motivate and Inspire Others

The Green Bay Packers were a lacklustre team prior to the arrival of Vince Lombardi. The now legendary coach turned the Packers into the dominant NFL team of the 1960s. Why such a turnaround? Frank Gifford says it wasn’t Lombardi’s knowledge that made the difference, it was his ability to motivate the players. “He could get that extra ten percent out of an individual,” Gifford says. “Multiply ten percent times forty men on the team times fourteen games a season—and you’re going to win.”

We have all known those people who bring out the best in others—coaches, teachers, parents, bosses. They seem to possess a knack for inspiring people. How do they do it? How do they inspire and motivate people?

Here are four actions that will help motivate and inspire others:
  1. Identify with people. Don’t say, “Look at the challenge you face,” but rather, “look at the challenge we face.” If you want people to look at a problem from your point of view, don’t stand across from them and yell. Go to their side and identify with them and guide them to your side.
  2. Acknowledge the seriousness of the situation. Don’t hide things from those you’re working with or try to sugarcoat the problem. Face the facts.
  3. Have a call to action. Challenge others to specific action. You can think, discuss, investigate and plan all you want. Until you get people to take action things are not going to move forward.
  4. Assign tasks. Once you have a response to action, lay out the plan. An effective leader can cut the problem down to size. Assign each person a task that they can manage.

The people who make an impact on the world don’t have to be geniuses or the best looking or the most talented. They are those who can inspire others to action.

Free or Low-Cost ways to reward employees

Everyone likes to be appreciated!

This sounds like it should be common sense, but it doesn’t always translate to common action. This is especially true in non-profit organizations. There is an assumption that using rewards to show employee appreciation costs money; and money is generally in short supply in a non-profit. There are however, many ways to show appreciation and reward employees that cost little or nothing.

Bob Nelson, co-founder of the National Association for Employee Recognition, is passionate about recognizing and rewarding employees, and, more importantly, doesn’t believe it needs to cost much (or anything!) to do it effectively. His doctoral research focused on why managers do or don’t use praise or recognition with employees, and he has done research with employees to determine what has the most impact on them.

His book, 1001 Ways to Reward Employees: 100’s of New Ways to Praise! Revised & Updated 2nd Edition (aff), is full of simple, time-tested ways (1001) for rewarding employees, ways any manager in any organization can add to their arsenal.

Nelson lists three key principles for employee recognition:

  • Match the reward to the person
  • Match the reward to the achievement
  • Be timely and specific

If you are looking for free or inexpensive ways to reward and recognize your employees, this book is a great resource.

By-the-way: it’s also works for volunteer appreciation.