This may come as a surprise to some people but employees come to work for their own reasons and they are usually all selfish ones. I am not talking about the minority of the population, those few chosen souls who have career goals and aspirations and are genuinely energized and stimulated to achieving in a work and career context. I am talking about those people that see the four letter word “work” as filling in the gaps between weekends! These are the people who go to work so that they can pay for the weekend lifestyle, pay the bills, raise and educate children, save for a holiday, put money away towards investments and retirement.
They may not be as self motivated as the ones who are blessed with the knowledge that when you enjoy what you do it is not a burden; you know the one’s I mean? The ones who are really emotionally engaged with the outcome so that work is not a chore? Not them – I am talking about the others – the 70 plus percent who hold a different belief.
As Leaders, we can always find more reasons for our employees to come to work over and above the primary and selfish ones. How effective we are at communicating, inspiring and motivating this group of people will determine the levels of engagement that we enjoy. Some people have a natural ability to engage with others; they seem to build rapport and find the words and communication methods to really connect with people. While others constantly struggle to make the connection or when they “try” really hard it is so disingenuous that the audience’s perception is that of insincerity.
I recall a time in my own past, when I was living in rural Western Australia and working as a Motel receptionist. Our local MP would often visit and stay at the Motel. The staff of the Motel knew him as rude, arrogant and demanding. Being in hospitality meant that our smile, greeting and service were consistent and no matter how hard we tried to please this man, it didn’t seem to make a scrap of difference to his demeanour. But all that changed at election time. In the lead-up to polling day, when babies were kissed and hands were shaken – then and only then would he remember our names and enquire about our wellbeing. The fact that he had “pre election recall” about our names signified to us that he knew them all along which only served to reinforce our opinion. I think he was oblivious to the fact that we could see right through his façade and because we were consistent in our service delivery, he was unaware of the affect it had on us. Thankfully, he never rose to the ranks of political leadership and to me it is pretty obvious why not!!
For leadership behaviours to be motivating and inspirational they must come from a place of authenticity. Thankfully, behaviours are changeable; admittedly some are easier than others to change. Our behaviours are deep rooted in the sub-conscious, having been formed from a time that commenced form birth. Having been influenced and shaped by our environment and life experience as a child, teenager and adult, our behaviours become unconsciously competent, playing out like a broken record, responding to impulses and stimulants from our external environment; sometimes in ways that cause us embarrassment or regret. Rest assured, even hard wired ineffective behaviours can be changed and over time become just as unconsciously competent as the old ones.
Influencing change in others is difficult at the best of times and so the focus of change must take place in oneself. As Doctor Phil Donohue says “we teach people how to treat us”, so if people are not responding to you in the way that you want, look in the mirror because they are responding to the way you are behaving and how you have taught them to respond to you – as their leader.
So if you want to increase your ability to inspire and motivate, here are some behaviours to adopt and change in yourself – permanently – in order to get a different result from your followers:
- Be genuinely positive and optimistic about the future; create a positive and enthusiastic work environment for everyone.
- Encourage decision making and problem solving and expect that in the short term, some mistakes will be made.
- Ask people for their opinion and listen to the answers without judgement or ridicule
- Expect resistance to change – it is human nature. Plan communication carefully, there are only 2 forms of communication – information and engagement. If you are challenged in the area of communicating change then get some help on how to deliver your message.
- Acknowledge good work and accomplishments – publicly if needed and with absolute sincerity.
- Encourage people in your sphere of influence to always seek feedback and seek feedback yourself, accepting it graciously.
- Encourage the setting of goals, be they personal or professional and recognise when they are achieved.
- Find reasons to be proud of your associates and express it openly.
- When you are presented with a problem, engage in dialogue that moves the person to a solution before jumping in and giving advice
- Foster a sense of belonging amongst your colleagues, encourage non-traditional alliances and collaborations within teams or on projects.
All of these qualities are amongst the 100+ behaviours that make up the sub-set of Transformational Leadership behaviours known as “Inspirational Motivational Action Steps”. They become one part of your Transformation to become an exceptional Leader of people, whenever you are ready to take the first step.
To know what to change, firstly you need to understand how you are perceived. I like to call it “polishing the mirror” because it is the reflection from your colleagues, managers and subordinates that provides the most profound insights into how we come across. Or if you like, “perception is projection” – that which we project is determined by the perception of others. Sometimes this is very different to that which we intend!
By Shirley Farrell, Shirley Farrell HR Management Services