Stop Trying To Motivate Your Teams And Do This Instead
I recently came across a YouTube video of a woman, Mel Robbins, who was calmly explaining why motivation is garbage. Of course, I perked up, expanded the video to full-screen, and gave her my undivided attention. Her logic intrigued me because, for years (and I mean years), HR professionals and leadership coaches have been using motivation as a measurement of success. I listen as she explains: “We all bought into this lie that you've got to feel ready in order to change... that, at some point, you're going to have the courage. At some point, you're going to have the confidence.... And what you think is missing is motivation.” At this point, I’m sold and basically Mel's biggest fan. Because for years, I’ve been encouraging leaders to stop motivating their teams. Motivation is an internal process that drives the needs, desires and wants within individuals. The key word here is "internal." It’s the feeling or decision behind declaring, “I’ll start my workout regimen on Monday.” But the truth is that we as people will only begin to work out as long as it's easy and doesn’t make us feel too uncomfortable.
Stop motivating your teams. Motivation is all about feelings, and this is the reason you should stop trying to motivate your employees. Instead, create a performance system with specific levers that you pull when performance is subpar. Because when leaders ask, “How do I motivate staff?” they’re really asking, “How do I get my staff to do what needs to be done?” There are four stepping blocks to leverage before tapping into your team's, or an individual’s, motives. These building blocks, originally introduced by B.F. Skinner, are key in diagnosing individual performance gaps: the gaps that managers often describe as a lack of motivation or something that they think can be solved with “more training.” To build your performance system, start with these questions.
Do you have the right performance requirements? The first lever is simple. Are the right performance requirements in place? Does your team know the desired output? Do they have a good example of what this looks like? And, do they think the performance requirements are attainable? Clearly defined performance requirements can solve a significant portion of your existing performance gaps.
Does your team have the right tools and resources? Your team will be more likely to complete tasks if there are appropriate tools and resources available. For example, marketing departments need particular equipment and software to produce high-quality images and content for ad campaigns. If they don’t have tools like a high-quality camera, Photoshop, Publisher, Eloqua (an email campaign service) and so on, they won't be motivated (or rather, excited) to dig in and create jaw-dropping ads. Additionally, no one person is an expert in all things marketing. You'll either have a great content specialist, copywriter, graphic designer or product specialist; but it's rare for one person to possess every skill you need and be a jack of all trades. Tools and resources matter. Ask yourself: do we have the resources we need to produce the performance we want? What level of quality can be produced with what we have?
Do you provide feedback on performance? I know the answer is “yes,” but the reality is that feedback is most often tied to an annual performance review or a customer complaint — both of which are lagging performance indicators. Your team should receive timely, relevant, accurate, constructive and specific feedback. Are they? If this is not the case, create an easy-to-use feedback mechanism. And remember that you, as the leader, don’t have to be the only feedback mechanism used. I recommend using a 360-degree feedback approach. By using feedback from clients, peers, suppliers and other departments where processes are cross-functional, the feedback is both performance- and value-based. Make it simple — use an online survey tool that takes five minutes to complete.
Do you provide incentives or rewards for good performance? This is something many organizations don’t give full attention to. How is success celebrated in your organization? Is success celebrated in your organization? How are people (really) promoted? Likability? Tenure? Technical know-how? To continue to get desired performance, you have to feed it. There are multiple ways to do this, but whatever you choose, it must matter to your people and be aligned with your desired performance. I helped a sales department increase sales based on their closed/won ratio. This was the measurement that was tracked. However, the team cared more about the amount of revenue they were bringing into the organization than the single number of deals they won. You see, the team was responsible for selling eight different products, which means they had to tap into different skills and knowledge, as well as varying sales cycle times. They wanted a commission based on revenue generated, not deals closed. Are your incentives meaningful from your team’s perspective?
Now that you have a list of questions, what’s next? Stop thinking you can motivate your staff! What you can do is influence their behavior through creating a performance system that looks at the following. • Performance requirements: What needs to be produced and how many? • Supporting tools and resources: What tools (templates) will help make work easier/faster? What resources (people, tools, information) are needed to get desired performance? • Feedback: How do we know we’re producing good work? • Incentives: Are we celebrating desired performance? Are incentives aligned with the team’s expectations?