Motivation Sins: Get Off Of The Naughty Boss List

Who do you look to for motivation? For many of us, it’s our leaders we go to when we need that push to get things done. If you’re the leader, how motivated (or not) your team is, can come down to how you lead.

Motivation Sins

So ask yourself: are you guilty of these motivational sins?

1. Supervising by merely giving orders, especially in the form of emails

Remember: Positive personal and human contact raises morale. Lack of personal communication with employees will put you out of touch with the good ideas and creativity of your staff.

2. Using expressions such as “I do it this way.”

Remember: The jobs of team members are all different. And each requires a different type of person. As a result, you should encourage employees to stand on their own two feet and develop their approaches to doing things.

3. Falling into or encouraging office politics

Remember: Politics can destroy people’s spirit and enthusiasm. It leads to low morale and will lessen your ability to achieve your objectives. Making frequent personal contact is the most effective way to prevent jealousies and office politics from thriving.

4. Giving answers rather than problems to solve

Remember: Encouraging, even forcing, employees to make decisions is a great way to help develop the team.

In my conversations about leadership, I continually run into an interesting theme. People are frustrated in their role as a volunteer. Or conversely, people can’t figure out how to engage volunteers. Oddly, the frustrated volunteers are precisely the type of people the other group tends to look for.

After spending a significant amount of time in the non-profit sector as well as working with military reservists and cadets, I see several comprehensive programs designed and put in place to lead volunteers effectively. Quite frankly, those efforts kept those who didn’t know how to lead employed and gave consultants a decent revenue stream.

Another tool for being a great leader? Curiosity! Here’s how it can help you survive as a leader.

Volunteers vs. employees

In my opinion, the only difference between leading volunteers and leading employees is compensated.

At a staff meeting, a manager was describing the performance problems she was having with volunteers. An employee had delegated some work to a volunteer and, after some months, discovered the work was not done satisfactorily.

I spoke up and asked the manager, “What would you do if one of your paid supervisors left another employee for months with poorly defined tasks and then got angry when it wasn’t done right?”

The response? “I would discipline them!”

So, I thought to myself, “Really?” As the person assigning the work to these volunteers, is she the pot or the kettle?

A terrific friend of mine, who is a very accomplished businessperson and a community leader of the highest order, relayed to me she had been asked to take part in a membership drive.

A consultant sat everyone down and lectured the volunteers about proper protocol at the inaugural committee meeting. These volunteers are all very accomplished in their own right, so to be treated like five-year-olds would be very off-putting.

How would you respond if this were your boss talking down to you? Now, how might you respond as a volunteer?

I have served with volunteers who—when given authority and responsibility and held to account—led the responses to some of the most complex disasters of our time. I saw reservists who, if treated like the professional soldiers they are, can accomplish superhuman tasks.

Motivation and Money

I know first-hand money isn’t the most critical motivator!

Whether paid or unpaid, people want to:

  • Have honourable and engaging work to do
  • Receive clear expectations
  • Feel they are part of something bigger than they are
  • Be employed at or above their current capacity.
  • Be shown respect and appreciation.

What Is Motivation?

The long-studied art and science of human motivation are complicated. It’s often the subject of debate by academics and business practitioners alike. One thing is sure: the ability to inspire others to perform is a crucial element in ineffective leadership and a key concern of organizations dedicated to quality and achieving results.

To motivate means to inspire action. What can managers do to encourage their employees?

To answer that question, we must know what our people seek from their jobs.

Many managers assume that all people want from a job is money. If this were true, then all we would have to do to motivate people is to give them more money to produce more, or better, work.

This rarely works.

It seldom has any long-term impact on motivation or performance.

Not sure what kind of leader you are? Take our quiz to find out.

What People Want from Their Jobs

If you want to get the best results from your people, you should know what rings their bell. To do so, you must know people’s goals and how they look at their jobs.

Do you understand the aspirations, ambitions, and competitive spirit of those you lead? How do their personal lives affect their work?

Managers need to treat team members according to their personalities. People are different, and no two people respond precisely to the same situation or circumstances.

So, managers need to get close to their people, understand them, and inspire them under varied circumstances.

If you’re on the other end of this and need to find a way to better partner with your boss, don’t miss this post.

Light That Fuse

In your efforts to inspire team members to achieve great results, remember that motives incite people to action.

This means, in effect, that all motivation is self-motivation. So, it’s your job to help your employees find a cause that compels them to act while achieving the organization’s goals. It’s also your job, as their manager, to get your people to want to do what needs to be done.

8 Actions to Get off the Naughty Boss List

Here are some ways to fire up people’s motivation:

  1. Set clear, well-defined, and high (but attainable) goals. Be sure they understand and accept them.
  2. When discussing goals with your people, get their ideas and suggestions. Don’t forget to review the problems they may encounter. People who are involved in producing plans and goals will usually work harder to achieve them.
  3. Assure your people that you rely on them and have confidence in them. They need to know that the boss believes in them.
  4. Back up, your people and fight for them when necessary. Public support, when appropriate, gives people confidence that they have the authority they need and shows that they have your trust. Show an interest in your people and listen to their triumphs, their problems, their ideas, and their grievances.
  5. Demonstrate that purposeful, dedicated, and consistent effort leads to meaningful results.
  6. Demonstrate how their work relates to their future and the advancement of the team.
  7. Give deserved praise and recognition.
  8. Get rid of “deadwood.” Workers are more productive when every one person contributes to the team effort.

What are you going to do today to stay out of purgatory?

Two things you can do if you need help?

Click here to have a conversation with Steve.

If you’re interested in going even deeper or moving your career to the next level, you’ll also want to have a look at my 1-on-1 coaching services.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check these out, too:

A Curated List of Crisis Leadership Articles
9 Stupid Management Practices (and what to do instead)
The 6T’s To Know What To Delegate

This article was originally published on December 8, 2018, and has been updated.