One of your employees doesn’t seem as content with his job as he used to. He is neither as upbeat nor as productive as he was. Public recognition of his job used to motivate him, but now it barely gets a smile.
People’s motivations change over time — what was a goal six months ago may be just a memory today. Supervisors must tailor their motivational feedback to the employee’s individual needs, says Gary S. Topchik, author of The Accidental Manager.
“Today, a team member may be focused on self-worth needs. Tomorrow, she can go out and buy a new house with a big mortgage. Then the need for job security and a higher salary becomes much more important,” Topchik notes.
Topchik also says supervisors should individualize their feedback and motivational strategies because employees are motivated by different things. “One team member may be motivated by public recognition, while another might be motivated by the one-to-one feedback that he gets from his manager.”
The following are some ways to help you change your motivators to fit with your employees’ needs:
- Find out what motivates each employee. Ask him what is most important to him about his job right now. If you would prefer a more indirect approach, observe his behavior and actions. Listen for clues when he talks with you. His concerns will be tied to his goals in some way. For example, if he repeatedly asks for feedback, you know recognition is a priority with him at the moment.
- Avoid making assumptions. Don’t assume you know what motivates a person before asking him or observing his behavior. Leave your values and assumptions out of your assessment.
- Reward, don’t punish, your best performers. “Many managers and organizations punish their best performers each day and usually don’t even know that they are doing it,” Topchik says. Many supervisors “reward” their employee’s good work with more work to do. This can alienate and depress even the most motivated employee.
If you’re like most managers, you spend a lot of time trying to turn your staff into high performers.
Top-performing managers have a set of philosophies in their pockets that keep them focused on achieving results. These managers have a handful of behaviors in common. For example, they usually:
- clarify their roles and responsibilities;
- set non-conflicting short- and long-term priorities;
- use logical, transparent and duplicable decision-making processes;
- create well-thought-out plans of action rather than “winging it”; and
- set realistic time-tables for executing their plans.
Good news: There are several tried-and-true methods that will boost your employees’ morale and performance while turning you into a power player. Here are a few:
- Set high ethical standards. All top-notch management styles are based on daily, demonstrable, non-negotiable standards, values and ethics. Managers who maintain a high level of personal conduct when making decisions or performing tasks reflect the company’s values and standards.
- Focus on vision, strategy and spirit. A good leader understands that workers need a combination of manageable goals, an action plan to accomplish those goals and the morale necessary to want to excel. Best: Leaders must communicate clear decisions for their subordinates that are in sync with corporate goals. They must also develop and execute long-term business plans and encourage individual and team contributions.
- Target tactical, short-term development. You should use proactive behavior to improve your group’s performance. Your goal is to improve workers’ day-to-day behaviors rather than aim for success in six months. Important: Don’t ask employees to bite off more than they can chew. Instead, make sound business decisions that allow your team to excel without added stress or scrambling. This will lead to improved near-term planning, an enhanced daily work environment and a closer relationship between everyone on the team.
- Develop strong team values. Managers are only as good as their teams. You must always keep your team’s best interests top of mind — even if that means putting individual needs on the backburner. Example: One of your employees wants to set up a flexible schedule so that he can be home one day during the week. However, this schedule would require the entire team to change their work habits — making the request a detriment to the team.
- Improve yourself, too. Leaders acknowledge that their employees aren’t the only ones who benefit from continual learning. You must be aware of your flaws and find ways to turn them around. Remember: Your imperfection means that sometimes, you’ll make mistakes. You must take responsibility for your role in all actions and outcomes.
- Communicate and collaborate. No man is an island — including excellent managers. You must hone your communication skills so that your workers hear your message rather than your tone or mood. Similarly, you don’t want the communication to be one-sided. Involve your employees in decisions and discussions so that they feel connected to the outcome and want to see projects do well.
- Nurture employee relationships. A consistent, collaborative coaching process allows managers to help employees feel ownership over their positions and productivity. Try this: Treat your staffers like “major accounts” for development. Coach them on job skills, business maturity and personal adaptability.
Bottom Line: No matter which philosophy you subscribe to, you must create a focused, disciplined, high-energy, consistent approach to leadership if you want your employees to become high performers.
Coaching can help your employees overcome their professional weaknesses and meet performance goals, but it isn’t always the best thing for you to do. Study the following scenarios, from F. John Reh’s article, Employee Coaching: When To Step In, to learn how to take a step back:
- Your employee is still going through the training process.
Coaching at this point is going to waste your time. Your employee needs to finish his training and learn the basics before he needs your guidance. You also don’t want to risk confusion if your training methods differ from the person training him. It’s best to sit back and wait until his training is complete.
- Your employee isn’t sure of what you expect from him.
If you use coaching to help your employee overcome his performance barriers, how can you coach him if he doesn’t even know what level he should perform at? Set clearly defined expectations for him to work for, and then coach him if he has a hard time meeting those expectations.
Coaching is not a fast process. Think of the difference between a fast-food restaurant and a fine-dining restaurant. Food quality increases when the restaurant staff has more time to prepare it. The same goes with coaching. You’ll cheat your employee out of a great learning experience if you try to coach him in a hurry. Offer to help only when you’ve got enough time to give.
Forget it; if you’re not in a good mood, how can you possibly help your employee via coaching? You need to be enthusiastic and friendly to make the coaching process effective. You could also give your employee the impression that you don’t want to help him, making him less apt to ask you in the future.