Friday, October 31, 2008

Personality Assumptions

I recently went back in time (1960) to read an article by Douglas McGregor. In The Human Side of Enterprise Douglas describes two interesting concepts of human nature, Theory X and Theory Y. As I read his two lists of assumptions I realized that I have known and worked with supervisors and managers that actually buy in to Theory X a lot more than Theory Y.

Assumptions of employees falling into Theory X goes like this:
  • Work is inherently distasteful.
  • The average person is lazy and unambitious.
  • People prefer close supervision.
  • Typical workers avoid responsibility.
  • The principal worker incentive is money.
  • Workers must be coerced or bribed to achieve the organization's goals.
If you subscribe to the Theory X concept, I think you have some soul searching to do. Now don't get me wrong, there are people who fall into portions of this concept but research over the past few years has proven a number of these points wrong.

Check out Theory Y:
  • People enjoy work.
  • Work is as natural as play.
  • Recognition and self-fulfillment are as important as money.
  • Employees are committed to their work.
  • Employees exercise self-direction and seek responsibility.
  • Workers at all levels will exhibit creativity and ingenuity when given the chance.
As research and surveys have been showing, I think Douglas was way ahead of his time. Compare employee attitude and management styles of the '60's to today and you'll see just what I'm talking about.

These two theories determine just how you interact with your employee's. It determines what motivation (or unmotivational) tactics you use. It determines your overall relationship with your employee's.

Human nature causes us to act on our assumptions, opinions, etc. Take a step back and look at the true attitudes of your employee's and compare that to your assumptions - and act on it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What Motivates You?

A lot of supervisors think that what motivates them motivates everyone else. That's simply not true. Everyone is different. If you're going to hold a public presentation of an award for one of your staff, you may just be DE-motivating them. If they don't like public attention, they may just fall back and punt, not wanting it to happen again.

With respect to awards and motivation, The Walt Disney Company does something that more organizations should think about doing (one of many). When a new castmember is hired they're given a survey which asks them how they like, and don't like, to be rewarded and what motivates them. By doing this, their supervisor can tailor, to the particular castmember, the way they're rewarded.

It's commonly believed that money is the biggest motivator for employee's. Nope. A number of research papers over the last few years have proven this wrong. Sure people like money, but they also like recognition, career development, and influence.

Two of the best types of recognition are peer and customer. It's very easy and cheap to start a peer recognition program where co-workers can nominate others for going above and beyond. A certificate and maybe a gift card is all you'd need. It goes a long way.

Customer recognition is another biggie. If you have ANY means of receiving customer feedback in which employee's or teams are named, SHARE IT with them. They can then see that what they do really matters to someone other than the boss.

Whatever you end up doing, make sure that your motivation techniques and rewards always revolve around organizational goals. Employee's often attribute their success to how they're able to contribute to the organization.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Leading by Example

Almost nothing can create as much credibility as leading by example. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "What you do thunders above your head so loudly I cannot hear the words you speak". In other words - actions speak louder than words.

One of the jobs of a supervisor is to be a role model. You were put in that position because you "fit the mold". You are a "model" employee. Just because you are now a supervisor/manager doesn't mean it's time to sit back and take it easy. You are expected to be setting an example in keeping with the standards of the organization. That may mean MBWA (see 08/22/08 blog) or rolling up your sleeves and giving a hand.

There are a few things that I think may guide you down this road to better leadership:
  • Don't be afraid to get out there and see what's going on and be the first to give praise - sincere praise - not just a painted smile and "good job".
  • Infuse inspiration into your talk, your body language, your memo's, etc. Let people know that you're excited about your job and your organization - 'this is a great place to work!'.
  • Share in your rewards and at-a-boys. Chances are, you didn't do it all yourself. Let your staff know how much they're appreciated. A small gift may be in order, or a pizza lunch.
  • Along with sharing in rewards comes taking responsibility. If you mess something up, take the hit. Never play the blame card. This will encourage others to do the same. And you know - you'll spend alot less time trying to figure out 'what happened?'.
  • Be honest. Anything less than that and you can kiss everything else you've done good-bye. No honesty - no trust.
Doing anything less than these five things will surely produce an unmotivated team for you - if you have a "team" at all.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Don't Get Even

Getting even. One of the easiest ways for supervisors to lose their integrity. With getting even comes a focus on something that has absolutely no purpose or good. It's unproductive and just causes a wedge to be pounded in between you and your staff.

You'd be much better off trying to resolve issues with staff - or bosses. Getting even or carrying a grudge causes phyiscal, emotional, and mental draining. All of which is unhealthy. Why should you put yourself in such a position? Is it all worth it to "show you who's boss" if you're also the one that's getting hurt? I bet you had no idea that scientists from the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah suggest that this type of stress may induce cancer at an earlier stage. Wow. I don't know about you, but I see no benefit here.

It pays, not only personally but physically, to stay upbeat and positive around your staff. Anyone who's had any kind of communication training should know that whatever attitude you send out, you're going to get back. Getting even with someone just starts a vicious circle in which that time could be better used in improving your relationships and increasing productivity. The need to get even underscores every personal weakness. All you do is magnify them.

There are a handful of things that really separate winners and losers. One of those things is the ability and speed that we drive out our grudges and desires to get even. Remember, most employees don't quit their jobs, they quit their bosses.