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February - 2007 - issue > People Manager
Sparking the Fuse – Motivating People
C. Mahalingam
Thursday, February 1, 2007
Ever wondered, as a Manager, how to motivate people you manage? I am often asked to talk on this subject and I have over time built a few clear points of view on this. I often start with a quote that I happened to read attributed to Peter Drucker: “You can only write books about motivation, you cannot motivate people”. Implied in these words of wisdom is that essentially all motivation is internal and as Managers, what we can do is basically create an environment where people motivate themselves.

However, we do come across managers in every organization who find it difficult to create a motivating and invigorating environment where the members of the team feel like owning the work, stretching themselves to complete the tasks and helping each other succeed. In this piece, I would like to focus on some simple truths about motivation and tips for managers to create the right context for people.

Are you one with difficulty in motivating others?
Center for Creative Leadership in USA., has analyzed and listed the following as the characteristics of managers who have difficulty with motivation:
Has no idea what motivates others and how to do it
Not empowering type- not a person people want to work with
Has difficulty with those who are different than himself or herself
Fails to read others correctly; misses cues and needs
Can be judgmental and stereotypical
Demotivates others intentionally or unintentionally

Motivating People is not a one-time event! ?
The key is to remember that motivating people is not a one-time affair, but has to be built into the way we operate. Let me quote Zig Ziglar who said: “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither is bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily!”

?Tips for increasing the ability to motivate the team?
Here are some tips that can help you improve your ability to
motivate the people you work with:

Follow the basic rules of inspiring others: These rules include treating them how you wish to be treated; offering help and asking for it as well; showing an interest; celebrating success

Build Rapport: It is an age-old wisdom that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much care!” Investing a bit more to establish an emotional connection with others at the outset of a conversation will pay huge dividends and will propel the employees to go the extra mile and contribute

Use Goals: Employees are motivated by goals that involve stretching; they are even more motivated by goals they help set; Remember: “People don’t rally around to build ant hills”. They really need something worthwhile to get excited.

Pay attention: Listen and look. What do your people say and perhaps do not say, but communicate! My professor at the business school used to say something very insightful and interesting: “If you are not talking, you are not necessarily listening; you are perhaps waiting to talk! And that is not listening!!

Bring your people into your world even as you dive into theirs. Help them understand the “whys” behind your desires and demands

Motivating is personal: Get to know your employees a bit more than their role and title and job. What are their outside interests? Do they have anything touchy?

Trust your people- in what they say and what they can do. The interesting thing about trust is that over time and experience, it moves in a positive or negative direction – it does not stay neutral! Ask yourself what risks are you willing to take to initiate trust. Real trust is given before it is earned! Stephen Covey said: Trustworthiness precedes Trust!

Encourage conversations about big questions that can never be fully answered. What do we do best? What are we passionate about?

People can’t genuinely say Yes unless they have the ability to say No! Simply put, people can only choose when they have a choice. Discretionary efforts by employees are by definition voluntary.

Communication is more than a Skill: Most companies often train managers on communication skills. It is important to remember that effective communication is more than merely a skill to be mastered. I have my own equation on this which is: Communication is 80 percent sincerity and 20 percent skill. I again wish to quote Stephen Covey here: “You cannot talk yourself out of situations you have behaved yourself into”.

Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics says:
“Imagine that every person is wearing a sign around their neck which says, ‘make me feel important’”. Harvard Professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter puts it beautifully: “Compensation is a right, but recognition is a Gift!”.

Now, there is another key factor that managers must reflect on before becoming good at motivating others. You guessed it right! As a manager, am I myself motivated? If I am not, there is no question of being able to motivate others. Therefore, the journey begins with oneself.

Mirror test will help: As a Manager, stand before the mirror as you do everyday to trim the moustache or to put on the lipstick; and then ask if you are really motivated. If the answer to the mirror test is a resounding yes, you can profit from the tips above. If the answer is a disappointing No, start working on your motivation first. Believe me, it works!

The author is Sr.VP-HR with Symphony Services Corporation.
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