Motivation, the Key to Empower

Date:   Wednesday , November 05, 2008

Over the past years, organizations have begun to recognize that the area of motivation has become incredibly successful. Organizations have worked to understand the critical elements of the motivation programs, to capture this experience and replicate it in other areas of business.

The attention of various organizations has turned to leadership and motivation in the larger sense and for defining the corporate culture which has been critical to success of large organizations.

In the process of studying motivation and leadership, many organizations have benchmarked a number of companies that were held up as examples of the best places to work, or as organizations with cutting edge approaches for motivating and compensating employees. In reviewing articles that were written as recently as a year ago, we see that many of these 'ideal' organizations have failed or are in the middle of a huge crisis.

It is evident that motivation must be in the context of a business model that is achievable. The most highly motivated individuals can some times happen to be in an enterprise that fails.

The challenge of organizational leadership is to design a business with a compelling vision and to align the organization to the company's vision through motivation. Leaders must have a constantly evolving vision and genuine sense of what the company can be. The CEO is responsible to design a viable business model, a business that can succeed.

Company leadership at every level is responsible for motivating the organization toward that vision. Motivating individual behavior to be in alignment with the company's vision begins with an understanding that people want to be part of something. They are looking for real meaning; to be engaged in a vision that they can be proud of.

Leadership is about developing ambition. It's about inspiring people to achieve at another level. More than just motivating people, it's about identifying people who are capable of impacting the company's vision and creating an environment where all the stakeholders can win.

Success is measured by milestones along the way of touching the lives of people.

Large organizations have a chance to touch people's lives. People must see the significance of what they are doing, within the context of a code of ethics and engage themselves in the process of defining the culture in which they work.

Smart companies recognize that people are the only true source of competitive advantage in the dynamic business environment today. If organizations recognize that people are the most valuable fundamental asset in any business, then they must also recognize that 'motivation' is the most critical activity for organizational success.

Motivation begins with strong leadership and a fundamental belief in the value of the individual. The company leadership must have a clear view of the vision of the organization, an understanding of key areas of the business that most significantly impact that vision, and the positive belief that we can motivate behavior of individuals to achieve desired goals.

Motivation programs must be designed to encourage and recognize behavior that moves the organization toward its vision.

It is imperative to create an environment in which each stakeholder in the business feels valued and understands how their role impacts the vision of the company. Every function in the organization should have motivational programs that respect the individual, reward targeted behavior, and are in harmony with the organizational vision.
Motivation begins with a keen insight into the role of a 'leader' in an organizational context. Each leader in the organization should view himself as a coach, with the responsibility to guide their team toward success. An important part of being an effective coach means focusing on creating learning opportunities for individuals, rather than on training them. It means empowering individuals and teams to leverage the best of their skills, and giving them the opportunity to fail and try again. Many of the most powerful learning experiences come from failure.

The way in which organizations communicate their vision and their future is critical. Shared information is powerful. Open and honest communication, in itself, can be a motivator. Employees feel engaged when they are trusted with information about the direction of the organization. Leaders that are the most open and insightful with their team create the highest level of loyalty with team members because they feel part of a valued inner circle.

Designing a Motivation Program
A fundamental starting point in developing a motivation program is to clearly state the doctrine that defines your organization. The doctrine will be a set of clearly stated principles that will act as the Ď10 Commandments' for the organization. They should be timeless concepts that will not change, regardless of external business forces. These principles should define the ideal business environment where teams and individuals thrive. Like the 10 Commandments, they will act as a reference point for behavior, and will guide you as you design and evolve the specifics of your program and as you look to resolve conflicts or questions in the programís lifetime.

In order to be effective, motivation programs must be designed to motivate behavior toward a specific objective. Motivation programs should not be undertaken to create good feelings about the company or within the organization. The company must have a positive work environment where individuals feel that the company leadership wants them to enjoy and be proud of working for the company. Without a positive environment as a backdrop, any motivation program will fail to realize its potential. All behavior is controlled by consequences, with positive consequences having the biggest impact on changing behavior. Communicate positively, focusing on catching people doing things right. In communication to the participants, focus on the positive outcomes in the initiative.

Modeling and holding up 'good behavior' is the surest path to engraining new doctrines into company culture. Recognize that every individual is unique and will respond differently to the same motivation program. Some people will not be able to evolve with the organization, and will naturally move on to other opportunities as the organizational philosophy outgrows them.

To be successful, the initiative must have a champion, or a core group of committed individuals who take responsibility for nurturing the program to success. These champions should constantly review progress of the initiative with critical insight and work to evolve the program.

In setting direction, focus on measurable results and constantly challenge the motivation programs to keep them fresh, challenging, agile, and to reach the broadest range of participants.

In designing a motivation program, it is vital to create an environment that challenges individuals and teams to achieve significant goals.

*Objectives should be defined in a context that is meaningful to the individual and to the team.
*Rewards and recognition should be timely and frequent. The more closely a reward is tied to accomplishment, the more meaningful it is to the recipient.
*In a positive environment, competition is healthy. Recognition and celebration are fundamental to the success of motivational programs. As a complement to defined incentives and awards, recognition and celebration communicate:
*This is what is important in this company.
*This is the behavior that gets rewarded.
*This is what a hero looks like in our organization.

The author is Chairman and CEO of Barry-Wehmiller Group.