Dear Well-Intentioned Manipulator:
Performance assessment tools are designed to gather feedback to evaluate and compare employee performance. Sophisticated performance assessment systems may even identify which behaviors contribute to effective performance, enabling you to develop an ideal profile of top performers. And while these profiles may be used to help select and develop your employees, they are not ideal tools for boosting employee motivation.
If your employees are disinclined to go the extra mile, or their motivation is lower than you would like, then forget about performance assessment tools or nonmonetary incentives. Instead, consider your firm's leadership and its hiring and retention practices.
Sometimes leaders inadvertently do things that hinder motivation. The question is this: What is your leadership team doing—or not doing—that may be lowering motivation? Ask your highest performers and other candid people whose opinions you trust. (If you are unable to locate capable, candid people whom you trust, then keep reading, as we'll cover hiring and retention next.) Ask them the question honestly and directly: What are we doing, or not doing, that may interfere with you being as fired up as possible about your work?
Keep an open mind to what you may hear, keep your ego out of it, and you are likely to learn something important.
Hiring and retention
Were I your executive coach, I would ask you this: What are your firm's standards for hiring and performance when it comes to self-motivation? Are you hiring or hanging on to people who are not self-motivated? As Jim Collins, author of the book Good to Great, discovered: "The right people don't need to be tightly managed or fired up; they will be self-motivated by the inner drive to produce the best results and to be part of creating something great."
His study looked at high correlations among companies that do consistently well over long periods of time. Simply put, those organizations don't spend any time at all thinking about how to motivate employees, because they hire and retain only people who are highly capable and self-motivated in the first place. If that's not your situation, then it's important to incorporate self-motivation as a high standard for the people you hire and choose to keep around. In fact, the three most important standards for choosing people are: capabilities, self-motivation (and whether they are a great fit) and your needs as an organization.
Use this opportunity to take a hard look in the mirror (with the help of your employees). Assess the impact you are having on your people's motivation. Develop or review the standards for the people you choose to include. You'll be glad you did—even if it means changing your ways or making some difficult choices about your people.
SOURCE: David Peck, senior executive coach, Goodstone Group, Palm Springs, California
LEARN MORE: Please read "10 Steps for Motivation."
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