The Leadership Academy

Inspiring and Developing Exceptional Leaders

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    Research by the Corporate Leadership Council, Washington DC, based on data from 19,000 people in organisations that spanned seven industries and 29 countries clearly demonstrated the links between good employee performance, good leadership and motivation.

    The CLC had remarkably consistent findings across the range of geographic regions, companies, levels of responsibility, types of jobs and demographics. Good employee performance was found to have four important characteristics: good relations between employee and manager; clear communication; meaningful and achievable opportunities and rewards; and strong leadership.

    Quoted in Business Review Weekly 6 – 12 March 2003 Article Money? That vulgar stuff? which argued that “The rewards of a warm, fuzzy workplace can often win more staff loyalty than the lure of a fistful of cash.”

    In our view, strong leadership is analogous to good leadership, and good leaders have always been good motivators by, amongst other essentials, establishing good relations with their employees, ensuring clear communication at all levels, and establishing meaningful and achievable opportunities and rewards.

    The other essentials that leaders need to ensure are carried out, and which in themselves help establish and reinforce motivation, are, through employee involvement, clarifying goals and objectives, planning, organising, coordinating, evaluating, and most importantly, setting the example.

    However, leadership is not easy and leaders must deal with teams that are made up of people of varying ages, personalities and characters with their own goals, dreams and ambitions, and also with the constantly changing environment and circumstances in which individuals and teams must function.

    So how does a leader ensure that motivation is high even when the achievement of success is difficult and elusive? In other words, how do leaders build and maintain motivation of their people in their endeavour to create the environment in which all can be successful.

    Here are some tips on what good leaders DON’T do:

    • DON’T cheese your people off by constantly telling them that they should be motivated. We often see sporting coaches ‘revving up’ players before games and during breaks. What they are trying to do is to keep the players focussed on the game and transfer some of their own concern, enthusiasm and energy to their charges. ‘Revving up’ might work for sports teams, most of which have a limited number of objectives compared with most teams involved in business-type operations. However, it seldom works for any length of time and can appear cheap and false when the goals and the means of achieving them are complex, extensive, and long-term.

    • DON’T focus on your own needs and ignore those of your staff. Making personal contact and developing empathy with your people is vital to the development of trust, and lack of trust will surely destroy motivation.

    • DON’T develop a mundane, dull workplace. It is difficult to become motivated in one. Generate energy and excitement in the workplace. It will be catching!

    • DON’T just give out instructions. People need clearly defined objectives but formal instructions can be dull and uninspiring. Use examples, as doing so assists in understanding and helps create enthusiasm. Involve people in preparing the instructions. They will better accept them by doing so.

    • NEVER criticise in public. This is a no no! Doing so is rude and indicates moral weakness on the part of the criticiser. It generates lack of respect for the criticiser by all who see or hear it occur.

    • NEVER make people who ask questions look stupid. This is similar to criticising in public, but has the added effect of reducing involvement on the part of all team members.

    • DON’T provide working conditions and remuneration that are clearly below the norm. While increases in conditions and remuneration do not result in commensurate increases in motivation and productivity, perceived discrepancies in them certainly influence and detract from high motivation levels.

    While avoiding the DON’Ts is good practice, even better practice is to constantly implement the DOs of successful leadership.

    Very briefly these are:

    • Give people a reason for doing something.

    • Involve them and give them responsibility.

    • Create interest for your people in their work.

    • Ensure that the roles and tasks are realistic.

    • Ensure the goals and tasks are challenging but achievable.

    • Break tasks into stages if necessary and celebrate the success of each stage.

    • Recognise good work by both individuals and the team and encourage achievement.

    • Encourage people to get to know each other to develop mutual understanding and trust.

    • Do your best to ensure good working conditions and adequate remuneration.

    • Foster competition within the team and between other teams.

    • Set the example for your team.

    In summary, individuals and teams seldom respond in any significant long-term way to exhortations or cajoling to become motivated. The best way to ensure your people are motivated is to create the environment in which they will be successful.

    You can do this by being an effective leader and implementing the key leadership functions in such a way that you achieve a balance between the need to complete the task/s, to build and maintain your team, and develop the individuals in it.

    You will also need to develop the interpersonal relationship ‘people’ leadership skills addressed during our programs.

    More information and practical experience on how leaders can motivate their teams is provided on our extensive, holistic, leadership development programs.

    Peter McDougall

    March 2003