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Motivating Your People: Your Drawerful of $100 Bills
By Marcia Zidle   Printer Friendly Version

The office holiday party was a huge success. Was it just a way to thank your workers for a job well done this past year? Or do you expect it to have the lasting power to motivate your workers for the next twelve months?

I'm not trying to be a scrooge or put a damper on the holiday spirit. Rather I'm inquiring how do you obtain consistent, high performance from the people you manage, coach, lead, or supervise? So I asked the experts---not the management or academic gurus---but the people who lead, supervise, or coach on a daily basis. Here's what was said:

"It's the small things on a day by day basis that bring down performance--and-it's the small things every day that can raise performance. One or two large events a year probably won't do it. They may be funů.but if morale is down, I bet you'll find a bunch of people griping about the other stuff that goes on in the workplace.

Rather, a supervisor's sincere recognition of a job well done will usually do more for getting people to do their best work than a holiday party or picnic.

"What I've observed is that people need to feel respected and appreciated on a day-to-day basis for what they contribute to the group or organization. Recognition and appreciation do not have to be in the form of awards or even bonuses. A lot can be gained by a manager doing simple things."

Did you realize that as a manager, coach, supervisor, or team leader you have the equivalent of a drawerful of $100 bills available to you at all times?

Respect, acknowledgment and genuine praise cost you nothing. But they can pay off substantially in terms of employee commitment and discretionary effort---the difference between what employees must do to keep their jobs and what they are fully capable of contributing.

As a consultant working, for the past fifteen years in many kinds of industries and in companies that had 10 people to companies that had 10,000+, here's what I've observed of "good" managers----those who consistently get top performance from their team, staff, or project group. Here is a sampling of their $100 bills:

Asking employees for their opinion---and actually listening respectfully. And then acting on employee's input or at least letting them know what you have done in response to their input.

Providing more appreciative feedback---with the good stuff coming a lot more often than the bad stuff! Giving direct, honest feedback about their contributions on a regular basis and emphasizing the consequences of what they have done.

Example: "I noticed you put in a lot of extra work to finish your part of this project. As a result, we were able to finish ahead of schedule and the main office was really impressed. Thank you for going the extra mile."

Letting others know of staff or team's contributions. This is known as third party acknow-ledgment or praise.

Example: "I told the director what a great job you did on the PC installation project. She asked me to let you know how much that helped us out." In the above example praise directly from the director would be even more motivating.

Taking a sincere interest in what people do well. Wanting to understand someone's success is one of the highest forms of recognition and praise.

Example: Sit down with an achiever and asking how she accomplished the praise-worthy task. Examine the nuts and bolts together.

Even when it's difficult to find something to praise, it's worth searching. When you start noticing what people do right, they tend to do more of it (psychology 101!.) When you focus on the negative you may gain compliance (when you're around, at least) but you breed hostility and undermine morale.

Therefore, a staff or team that has received appropriate praise will tend to be more involved, more creative and more willing to achieve the team's or department's goals. In the end, isn't that what you want as manager or leader?

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