When it comes to having a successful business, or even a successful career, there is one thing that can not be ignored: the human element. All too often we hear statements like, ‘This is business’ or ‘We have a business to run’ made in a way to let employees know that they either fit in or they do not when it comes to the success of the company. An attitude like this dismisses the human element and in turn limits the potential of your success, both that of your business and your personal career.
We can not deny the importance of the team to our success. If you have any doubt that this is on the mind of every leader, just look at the amount of time and attention dedicated to studies, articles, and posts on how to motivate our teams, as well as ourselves.
Today I am going to challenge you to a new way to motivate your team and would argue that it will be the one thing you need to do to have everyone with you and doing everything they can to ensure your success.
The typical motivators that we target are superficial and easily gone, I call these ‘surface motivators’. These are short term, task-oriented motivators such as money, prizes, or bragging rights, just to name a few. I recently read an article that touted that a study found pizza to be more motivating than money for most employees. Really, pizza? While there may be some truth in this for very short term goals, like all other surface motivators, this will be gone once someone else offers a better pizza.
When we as leaders focus on surface motivators we undermine the value our employees bring to our organizations.
While there can be a place for surface motivators when it comes to creating a little excitement and life in the office, or get everyone to race to get a task done, there is a danger in overusing them or applying them wrong altogether. Coming back to the human element, one of the most basic needs we have as humans is a need to feel that our contribution has meaning and value. When we as leaders focus on surface motivators we undermine the value our employees bring to our organizations. Essentially telling them that you could find anyone to do their job for a door prize. When we offer small prizes for meeting goals, that prize becomes the value our team places on their contribution, and in turn, this reduces the human element of their contribution being meaningful. When we undervalue their contribution, we also undervalue the importance of the work to be done. We could not spend enough money on prizes, pizza or bonuses to meet this need.
So what is the solution? What do we do without breaking the budget, to get our employees all working together to meet our team goals and the goals of our businesses? How do we engage the ‘deep motivators’ of our teams? These are questions that leaders struggle with every day. The good news is that there is only one thing you need to do. The better news is that it will cost you nothing, other than a little time and thought. The bad news is that for some of you, it may not be easy to do.
What is this one thing? Faith. Yes, that is it, faith in the mission is all that your employees need to take your business to levels you have never dreamed possible. When employees have faith in what they are doing, the conversation about the need for motivation fades to the background to an almost non-existent level. When your employees have faith in the mission, your job as leader suddenly becomes much easier.
Faith in the mission. Just think about that for a moment. How hard is it for you to get behind something that you do not believe in. You may do your duty out of obligation, retribution, or for compensation. However, when taking part for any of these reasons, you will move on as soon as you have the slightest reason, or excuse, to do so. Obligations will be met, debts will be repaid, and compensation can be beaten by better offers. To be truly motivated, truly driven to success, you have to believe in what you are doing. You have to believe in the company mission, as well as your individual contribution to its success.
You may be thinking right about now that this is a daunting task. How do I get my employees to have faith in the big picture when they can not even finish the weekly tasks on time? Well, let’s look at that same question from the employee’s perspective: Why bother breaking my back to finish weekly goals when I do not believe in or see the big picture? And so begins the motivation tug of war.
So, how do we as leaders instill faith in our teams? This can be a hard thing to do. Many leaders struggle with getting honest feedback from team members. People may tell you what they think you want to hear in order to gain your favor or not have their loyalty brought into question. Others try to be brutally honest swinging to the far side with gripes that may portray them to be less satisfied then they actually are in their current position, thinking that this will gain more respect for them in your eyes.
For starters, change the conversation. Where you would ask employees, what would make them work harder, now ask them what they feel is important about the company mission. Instead of asking what would be a good prize to meet a goal, ask them what would be a creative solution to streamline a process or solve a problem. To change the motivation, change the conversation.
Have you ever had a boss or leader ask you for your advice as to how to improve something within your organization? How did it make you feel?
This is a powerful sign of faith in you as an employee and extremely motivating. Not only does a question like this show that you are valued as a team member, but it also shows that the boss respects your contribution to the success of the company.
To stir the deep motivators, you have to dig deep into the conversation. This is beyond writing a mission statement and asking everyone if they agree and support it. This goes past posting your mission statement in the conference room with employee signatures all around the edges of the paper. This is about changing the conversation, individually and in groups, to enact the deep motivators within each of us. To help you get started, here are a few probing questions to consider asking:
- What about our company mission are you most proud to support?
- How do you feel you could contribute to meeting this goal?
- Where do you see our team succeeding in supporting the mission?
- Which aspects of the company mission seem out of line from what we do?
- What roadblocks do we create as an organization that get in the way of our own success?
- What other values does our company stand for that may not be reflected in our mission statement?
- What do we as a company or team do the best?
Questions like these will not only start a conversation, they will change your business and your life. If you have any doubt, test them with a friend or close colleague before taking them to your team. Or better yet, have a good hard conversation with yourself first to make sure you have faith in your own mission.
Having conversations like this will change the buzz in the office. Not only will the conversation change, but your focus will change. Instead of spending time focusing on how to get everyone performing, you will spend time improving your business. Instead of discussing missed goals, or underperforming departments, you will be setting new goals. Your role as a leader will change, and your business will grow to new heights. Soon, employees will be bringing you solutions to problems you may not even have on your radar yet. Your team will feel valued and in turn, will value your leadership more than ever. Valued team, valued leader, valued mission. That is what we call a win, win, win!
I would like to thank you for having faith in my mission as we continue on this journey together. I am very grateful to any of those who show their support with any likes and shares you are willing to give and look forward to interacting with you in the comments section below.
What has been your biggest motivator? Please respond in the comments below.