What would your professional world look like if you were able to see every problem in your company as an opportunity? Rather than losing sleep, drinking too much coffee, or increasing your blood pressure, imagine if you could see every obstacle or annoyance as a way to improve your leadership skills, work environment, your staff, and even your company.
The value in strong leadership comes from the ability to see past the problem and consider the underlying or external factors that led to the breakdown. Only then can you address the real problem. Let’s look at a common professional problem and see how leadership can turn a negative into a win.
The Unmotivated Team
Why won’t Brenda get to work on time? Why is Robert late with his report? Why are you not getting the sales numbers you want from the sales department? What’s wrong with them, it’s not too much to expect them to do their jobs, right? These problems can all be rooted in an unmotivated team.
Dealing with people can be frustrating! Whether customers or employees, people often have an agenda of their own when it comes to what you want. Even though you may be the best in your field at the technical side of your business, the moment you throw in another living, breathing human being, even the simplest of expectations can seem daunting.
Managers can try several avenues to motivate their team. This can be positive motivation in the form of financial incentives; or it can be negative motivation as in a reprimand or threat. Either of these may work in the short term yet rarely have a lasting effect.
How can this be corrected? Let’s look at 3 possible solutions.
Inspire into Action
Think about the most motivating speeches you’ve ever heard. Which were the ones that stirred your soul and challenged your mind to the point that you moved and took action?
Chances are very good that the speaker was a coach or great leader of history whose purpose was to inspire people about a cause greater than themselves. They probably didn’t say, “Get out there and crush the opponent so you can get an end of year bonus!”
More likely, they inspired through purpose.
Now, you may not be competing for a state championship or trying to keep the free world free, but what is it about your company and the products or services you create that benefit your customers? How are other lives made better or enriched because of what your employees do?
Show your team the bigger picture and let them see how what they do contributes to that larger goal. Show them that what they do matters. Recognize their talents and their contribution to the company. No matter how simple or highly skilled the job is, the team can always use motivation!
Ask the Obvious Question
Asking your employee why they are not doing what it is you think they should be doing may be the simplest and most missed way to solve an employee problem. It’s been said that the quality of your life (business) is determined by the quality of the questions you ask.
Ask them why they are not doing “it”!
Rather than assuming anything, start by going to the source of the problem.
You may discover that Brenda can’t get to work on time because she has to take 3 different busses to reach the destination. If the bus is late, so is she. You may also learn this has caused her a lot of frustration and she is constantly afraid of losing her job which she can’t afford to do.
So, rather than get upset about her tardiness, would it be possible for her shift to begin at a different time? Can she work an adjusted schedule where some of the work could be completed through telecommuting so she doesn’t have to be at the office every day?
For Robert’s late reports, you may discover that although he is excellent at managing his department and they continually meet their goals, his is not talented with spreadsheet inputting. He procrastinates, which he knows is bad, and is chronically late with the information as a result. At this point, you can decide if you will reprimand him for failing at a skill that is not paramount to his position, or if the report can be delegated to someone else which frees up his time to build his department.
Never assume that failure of someone to do something is direct assault on you or the company. Once you know “why” something is not being done to expectations, you can work on the best solution.
Tap into their Talents
Lack of motivation could just mean the employee is not in the right position. In the best of all worlds, people would do work they love to do, the work they would do even if they didn’t earn a dime! But instead, many people do what they believe they have to do and eventually discover they are not happy.
This leads to lack of motivation and its counterpart, poor performance.
Know your team and what matters to them both on the job and beyond the company doors. As a leader you have an opportunity to help them discover what really matters to them so they can either stay in their current position and find the inspiration to do their job well, or help them (and you) identify that the relationship is just not a match.
One thing you can do is have the employee write down what they believe their job is. Then, ask them to write down what part of their job they love doing the most or believe they are the most competent at.
This little exercise has the potential to uncover several opportunities.
First, it will show you if what you think their job is and what they think their job is are the same thing! Make sure you’re both on the same highway.
Second, you can find out what part of their job they are most passionate about. Based on that answer, you may decide there is a better place in your company for that person.
And finally, you can decide if you have the right team for the job you want done. In some cases, you may discover that you have been needlessly frustrated because you were trying to accomplish something in-house (which means managing the process and the people for that job), when it would be better for that job to be handled off site.
Being a leader is about more than managing systems…it’s about inspiring people. Whether those people are your customers or your employees, the better you become at looking beyond the problems to see the people that make your systems and business work, the better (and faster) you can handle the most common business problems. Management training and/or Leadership training can also assist your staff in getting motivated to perform their jobs better and at a high level.
“Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.