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  • Ian Gregory


In a word, no. But, before despair sets in, there are many other things you can do to create an atmosphere at your workplace that encourages an individual to self-motivate, which is the only motivation that works.

Why is motivation even a thing that we should pay attention to? According to Forbes and Gallup, disengaged and under engaged employees cost the American workplace between 450-550 billion dollars per year. That’s billions, people. An enormous amount of money that is being wasted and yet doesn’t need to be. Let’s take a look at things from an employee’s perspective and see if we can figure out some better ways to interrupt this disengagement.

When an employee is hired and first reports to the workplace, there has to be some nervousness, wouldn’t you agree? Even if they come to that workplace with some, or a lot of experience, they don’t know the workplace rules, the people, the leaders or even the mission statement of the organization. So, what would they need at this point? How about someone directly assigned to them, a mentor if you will, and it can be anyone from their direct supervisor to a trusted member of the employee’s new team.

Just make sure that someone will go over the rules and regs, the workplace itself, the culture and most importantly, exactly what is expected of that employee and exactly what will happen if they don’t meet those expectations. If you don’t formalize that process, it will be the loudest voices in your organization that more than likely will be the influence in your new employee’s daily life at work. So, if your loudest voices are only spouting positives and always encouraging others, you’ll be fine. But, if they are always bringing up the negatives, habitually telling everyone how things could and should be better, then you should seriously rethink the way you train your workforce.

As a part of the motivation process, you should be holding one-on-one sessions with all your employees on a regular basis. These meeting are designed to find out your employee’s strengths and weaknesses, to see if they are well placed in the organization, helping them see what the future holds, and feedback on how the employee is working out for the organization. If you know what questions to ask, these meetings don’t need to be anymore than 15 minutes tops.

It is amazing how much you can learn from an individual, in a short period of time, if you are focused and intentional. We do one-on-ones all the time in our classes and it’s amazing how quickly the participants catch on to what questions are good questions that will help leadership to grow their employees and their teams.

Let’s say the employee is now comfortable with the workplace, seems to have fit in and is becoming a real asset to the team and the organization. This is a good time to remember that what employees want most are three things: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. It is leadership’s responsibility to make sure the employee earns all three.

To that end, it is time for leadership to give the employee some space, let them know that you are proud of the progress that has been made and that they have earned some autonomy. The tone should change in your one-on-ones as well. In addition to explaining what is meant by mastery, you need to help them with purpose at the organization with questions about whether they can help best through improving relationships, processes, problem solving or whatever it is that they think their strengths lie within. You are growing them through getting them to see their future and how they fit best in that future.

As time goes on, you notice that the employee is showing confidence in what they do and people are going to that employee to either get their questions answered or problems solved. Once again, a shift in strategy is required for leadership. You should let the employee know that they have earned more autonomy, that you’re proud of them, that they have shown mastery in what they do, evidenced by the other employee’s behavior toward them and that now, the purpose part of the equation should be addressed.

Your one-on-ones now turn toward utilizing the employee’s talents so they can fulfill their purpose. By now you should have a pretty good understanding of this employee’s talents so the questions would revolve around are they good fits for teaching at your organization, would mentorship be something they would like to pursue, and with the proper training, would they be a candidate for leadership?

All too often, organizations take the best employee at their job and stick them in leadership without proper instruction or practice and the result is that not only did they lose their best employee, but the teams are under engaged or disengaged because they are being led by someone who not only doesn’t know what they are doing, they really never wanted to be a leader in the first place. This part organizations have to get right because these decisions are costing American businesses upwards of 450-550 billion dollars.

The reality of the workplace is an employee usually only hears from leadership in one of two ways. The first is whenever they do something wrong and the second is when they have to sit through their yearly evaluation, that awkward process where nobody cares about outcomes or relationships, and they work toward completion because they’re expected to, but rarely because they want to. That evaluation should be a culmination of many meetings, there should be no surprises and it should be a meeting revolving around the growth of an individual and what can leadership do to make sure that growth continues.

We have to do better in how we assist the motivation process, there is a lot at stake and we can’t afford to let employees under engage or disengage while they wait for you to get it right!


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