Motivating the Unmotivated

unmotivated-employees-in-meeting_pop_18933Working with a team anxious for success is great. You can lead in a very direct and bold way, knowing that everyone will be ready to tackle your challenges. But have you ever managed a person or team that was seemingly impossible to motivate? You tried every traditional method you could think of: giving raises, time off, complimenting work, etc., but nothing worked.

Before you throw in the towel, take the time to really know this person(s) on a personal level. Try to find out what that person cares most about- their family, hobbies, goals, etc. And use this newfound information to connect with them in a whole different way. If you do your probing properly, you will find that the person can be motivated in the following ways:

  1. Improved Esteem. Many times, complementing the person’s work is not enough to drive them. They expect to perform at a high level, but they are looking for the acceptance of their total being versus just their work persona. The person tends to like the acknowledgment for soft skills. Phrases like “That was really nice of you to…” or “Thank you for helping out…” go much further than “Beautiful report” or “Nice Presentation”.
  2. Improved Work Life Balance. Time is our most precious resource. People feel time starved and free time deprived. Their commute time and “extra” hours in the office give them the impression that they have no time to themselves. Maybe Home Office Fridays is the perfect solution or 4 10 hour days or whatever is seen as being flexible to their plight.
  3. Clearer Standing in Company. Nothing demotivates an employee more than being promised things that you cannot deliver.   Make sure that you only tell an employee the truth. If you cannot give them a 10% bonus, don’t tell them it is possible. If you cannot promote them every 18 months, don’t put that they are promotion ready in their annual review every year.
  4. Getting the Little Things Right. Some of the best motivation tactics do not cost very much. Free Pizza Thursday, Casual Friday, Happy Hour, half days before holidays, and handwritten thank you notes are all ways to show that you appreciate your team. It is especially important for people who work in a department where it is hard to quantify their results. They know that their efforts are being recognized.

As managers, many times you only look at how you would want to be treated. You forget that everyone is unique and that you need to treat each team member as an individual if you want to get maximum results. The more you put that in practice, they more of a leader you will become.

Leaders need to be Fair and Balanced

balanced-livingMy daughter is starting to look at colleges.  As we visit the campuses, we hear some reoccurring themes:  “We Build Leaders”, “We Celebrate Diversity”, and “We Open Opportunities”.  It got me thinking about some key qualities that leaders need to have to effectively relate to their teams.  And with that, the Fox News slogan came to mind- a strong leader must be fair and balanced.

According to, fair means free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice.  To be a respected leader, you need to make unbiased decisions.  You need to be honest with your team and yourself when making evaluations on projects, personnel, and behavior.  Your decisions need to be just and forthright, ulterior motives need to be removed.  Your actions must be ethically and morally right.

Keep in mind that fair does not mean equal.  You need to treat each team member with respect and you must treat them justly.  But you cannot treat them all equally.  Each individual needs to be led differently based on their personality, goals, and career arc.  High functioning employees need to be rewarded and lower functioning ones coached to better results.

I take balanced to mean impartial and without prejudice.  As a leader, you must look at every situation with your eyes wide open.  Having preconceived notions about a situation based on the types of people involved is a dangerous way to make decisions.  An example of this would be making a hiring decision because “they seem like a good guy” instead of doing your due diligence in checking references, previous work places, and social media.

As a leader, you need to celebrate the diversity of your team and use their collective experiences to move your team and its projects forward.  Ask for input and do not make fast judgements because their answers do not meet your initial ideas.  Every person has gotten to their place differently, letting them express their views, and putting their paths in step with yours may make your journey easier.

New and experienced managers alike both struggle with the concept of fair and balanced.  Too often, they rush their decisions to show people “who is the boss” and allow their personal prejudices to run their decision making.  To distinguish yourself from the pack, make sure that keep your eyes, ears and heart open before making a key decision.

Leading- Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

tiredThis week yields a natural low energy period as the clocks changed. It is dark again as you leave work and your body clock starts to settle in for the winter.   If you are like most, you are dragging a little bit and your work energy level is a little depleted. You want to take a nap, not listen to another team member drone on about an issue, project, or personal problem.  You want to get YOUR work done and go home.  You know that this can’t last, but…  So what can you do when you just don’t want to be a leader?

In my experience, I would suggest that you should:

  1. Review Your Quarterly and Annual Goals.  In most companies, your team has less than three weeks of practical work time to achieve your goals.  Now is not the time to sleepwalk through your day!  Rally yourself and your troops and push.  There is nothing like the rush of trying to make numbers.
  2. Schedule Team Building.  If you are in the midst of a “work slowdown”, guess what?  Your team probably is as well.  Time for a team outing- climbing wall, Trampolines, bowling, something physical and fun.  Your team and you will be refreshed and rejuvenated.
  3. Look in the Mirror.  Remember that in order to be a great leader, you need character and conviction.  Reaffirm your commitment to your team.   You don’t want to let them down because you are in a low energy period.
  4. Start Exercising.  People who exercise have more energy.  People who are energetic are better leaders.  Get off your butt and hit the gym.
  5. Drink more water and less coffee/soda.  Drinking water reduces the crashes that come with caffeinated drinks.  Being fully hydrated will make you feel better and give you more energy.

The key to jumping starting your work clock is to change whatever is bringing you down.  You need to break your routine, focus on the short term goals that your team needs to hit, and force yourself to be the leader that your team has come to expect.  Anything less is a letdown.