10 Ways to Improve Morale and Motivation

10 Ways to Improve Morale and Motivation

Take back your company’s chunk of almost $400 Billion dollar lost in the U.S. Economy each year – or – 10 ways to improve morale & motivation and why you should try them

by Jonathan Seitz

I began my career as a manager within a volunteer organization. Later (after I entered the business world), I was having a discussion with another manager and was recounting how my years of managing volunteers was excellent training for managing in business.  I was grateful for my years learning how to motivate based on things other than more money and the threat of unemployment.  My peer looked at me with that look that said he knew all the answers to all management issues ever raised and said, “Not me, I can’t manage anyone that I cannot fire.”

I guess there ARE different ways to motivate. Are some ways more effective than others? How much does it matter - how important IS motivation in the work place?

“A motivated and qualified workforce is essential for any company that wants to increase productivity and customer satisfaction…. The challenge for any manager is to find the means to create and sustain employee motivation. Motivation and performance of the employees are essential tools for the success of any organization … there is a positive relationship between employee motivation and organizational effectiveness, reflected in numerous studies.” - Review of Applied Socio-Economic Research

The recent Gallop research cited in the 2017 ,“State of the American Workplace” report , based on a study of over 31 million employees (an adequate sampling I would think) concluded that only 33% of U.S. employees are engaged at work. For those of us without a calculator handy, this means that 67% of our workforce is NOT engaged at work – in fact, close to 16% actually hate their jobs. So we look to our managers for help. Unfortunately the research shows that 51% of MANAGERS are not engaged and 14% are actively disengaged - only slightly better statistics than for non-managers.

So What?

Gallop estimates that employee disengagement costs the U.S. economy $319,000.000 to $398,000,000 annually.  How much of that loss (or lack of gain) is part of your bottom line?  OK, so employees are not motivated and engaged, costing us billions, but whose responsibility is it anyway?

Quite often when we discuss motivation or we have unmotivated team members (or entire teams) we often ask “Are people motivated or can they be motivated?” This is a question we all need to ask ourselves as Managers, but not because we assume the first part of the question is correct – leaving us off the hook.  If we believe the answer is that a person is “motivated” and there is nothing we can do to motivate them, then how is it we see initially motivated team members become demotivated over time?  The environment and our influence affect motivation.  If we take responsibility for the motivation level among our individual team members, we step up to the role of a manager.

After all, what is it that MANAGERS do? What is the nature of the job?

Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933), the American social worker, management consultant and pioneer in the fields of organizational theory and organizational behavior stated simply that “Management is the art of getting things done through people”.

Later on, Harold Koontz (1909-1984) the American organizational theorist, professor of business management at the University of California, Los Angeles and a consultant for many of America's largest business organizations – said that “Management is the art of getting things done through others and with formally organized groups”.

I like the more basic definition from Mary Parker Follett as it is simple, easy to understand, easier for me to remember, plus she said it first.  Becoming a manager is about leaving the security of what got us recognized and promoted – our individual performance – and getting much more done through others.  A great manager or leader then also cultivates these abilities in others.  This is the difference between addition and multiplication.

One of the most important skills of any manager is motivating individuals on their team.  A highly motivated individual is more productive, eager to learn, and contagious (in a positive way).  It is this important skill that was the subject of one of the segments of our Bullet Proof Manager Training in August.  To this end, Mark Sanborn (our facility member) admonishes us: “We've got to do the hard work of finding out what motivates the people that we lead.”  It is work, but it is a primary function of the manager and one that pays significant dividends.

But wait, shouldn’t individuals comply with their job descriptions and turn out expected work like machines…or else?  (my colleague at my first company would agree)

“Motivation is about getting people to do what needs to be done because they want to do it” Mr. Sanborn says.  It is the difference between compliance and commitment.  People comply when you are around, when you are watching.  Committed individuals are motivated to do because they want to, not because they feel they have to.

So how can we make an impact on Motivation and Moral?

To begin, it is important to understand some common reasons people do not do what they are supposed to – and where we may have fallen short.  Read the 5 reasons people don't do what we ask them to do in the article we published last month.

Article: 5 reasons people don't perform at work

10 ways to increase moral and motivation

1.  Personalize the motivation to the individual

What motivates them?  Motivation is not a policy – or a resulting activity based on a survey.  Each individual is motivated by different things.  Therefore a starting place is to individually, and in a secure setting, ask the individual.  Find out: what are their hopes, what are their fears, what would they like to learn?  It is amazing what people will tell you if you take the time to ask.

1.  Define the outcomes

Explain what, why, how, how well, and by when. I am motivated if I have a deadline – almost all people are. Foggy instructions and expectations create frustration and a sense of confusion – neither of which is motivating. If we know the path, but more importantly, the destination, we are much more likely to strive to reach it. One of my favorite sayings is: “Aim at nothing, you are bound to hit it”. We are all motivated when we can have a legitimate sense of accomplishment.

2.  Clarify expectations

Communicate your expectations in three levels. Give me a ladder and I will see how high I can climb, just let me know where the first rung is.

Minimum expectations – required to keep position?

Desired expectations – the level of performance they are capable of now?

Potential expectations – how good could you be?

Give me a ladder and I will see how high I can climb, just let me know where the first rung is.

3.  Explain the motivational why

 It must make sense to the team member.   I once had the president and vice president of a company for which I worked show their new Harleys to the sales team at our national sales meeting, explaining this is what we were all working for, to help them pay for their new motorcycles. I can’t remember one sales person making an extra call, learning a new closing technique, or closing a difficult sale to help them pay for their toys! I do know of sales people that were driven by competition, pride, recognition, paying for their child’s college…

The last resort used by a frustrated parent – “because I said so” (or as translated to the workplace: “because I am the boss I get paid more than you to tell you what to do”) is not motivational to any of us.

4.  Create a motivational environment where people:

  • Trust who they work for.  YOU must be trustworthy. Every day we have another opportunity to build or destroy trust. Everything we say or do will impact our “trustworthy account” with our team members. If we are courageous and willing to say and do the right thing, especially when it is difficult, we make a deposit in the “trustworthy account”. If we take responsibility for things when they don’t go well, we make a deposit in the “trustworthy account”.  On the other hand, if our team members hear us saying something they know is not true, we talk trash about others, we don’t take responsibility for our actions, or they know we cheat in our relationships or on our taxes… we wipe out any deposits in the “trustworthy account” and it will take lots of deposits over a period of time to build the “trustworthy account” back up to its minimum level.
  • Enjoy who they work with. There are 168 hours in a week and if they sleep 8 hours a night (I am not sure when I got 8 hours of sleep but people tell me they do it) that leaves 112 hours per week an individual is awake. People spend a minimum of 40 hours per week working or 36% of their waking hours. No one wants to spend 1/3 or their waking hours with people they don’t like.

5.  Have pride in what they do

Show your team members the results of their work.   Does what they do matter? What effect does what they do have: On the client? On other teams? On the business? In the community? In your industry?

6.  Use reward (tangible) and recognition (people desire to be noticed and known)

Whenever motivation is discussed, there is usually a consideration of money.  Mary Kay Ash (founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics) said this: “There are two things people want more than sex and money … recognition and praise.” (I was not sure I could work the word “sex” into a business blog but it turns out not to be that difficult!) Mary Kay Cosmetics is a business with 3 million consultants and over $3 billion in sales today. Have you met a Mary Kay Representative? They are committed and motivated! Now, do the math with the figures I just gave and you will find out it is not big money that motivates 3 million individuals! Studies show that money is seldom the most significant motivator. “Look at me, notice me, tell me that what I do is recognized and it matters. Help me see I have significance.”

My dad was an insurance agent. He worked tirelessly. Although we lived in a rural area, out of 15,000 agents in his company, he was consistently among the top 50 agents nationally. You did not need to be a management guru to understand what motivated him, all you had to do was walk in his office. There was no wall space s as every square inch was taken up with a recognition plaque for one thing or another. “Most sales in a month.” “Highest volume in a quarter.” “Most new policies written in a week.” “Least amount of call to the home office.” I’m not sure that last one was really on a plaque, but if there was a way to get recognized, he would strive for it. Make a practice of recognizing individuals on your team – even if it is as simple as: “Bob, I wanted you to know I really appreciated your contribution to today’s meeting, I think it was helpful for the team and showed a good grasp on what we are trying to accomplish. I really appreciate your contributions. Thank you. ”

7.  Remove barriers

Find out from your team members; “What keeps you from doing better work?” Be a barrier buster for your team, you will be their champion.

8.  Model the behavior you expect

All we do as managers promotes or pollutes. You are climate control – you are the thermostat.  Lee Iacoca said it this way: “The speed of the boss is the speed of the team”.  No matter what you say to motivate, your team is watching more than they are listening.

9.  Mentor the individual

Very little is as motivating as knowing someone believes enough in an individual they are willing to spend their time investing in them. Be a leader builder.

10.  Be motivated yourself

Remember the Gallop research - 70% of the issues associated with employees not being engaged stems from their managers, contributing directly to the $319 billion to $398 billion loss to our business bottom line in the U.S.. How can you model and mentor if you yourself are not motivated?   Feed your motivation. Refill the tank. Are you are you doing what you enjoy? Are you working with people you respect and enjoy? Do whatever it takes. Your team’s motivation and productivity is depending on it.

As Mark Sanborn began his segment, I will end the blog: “We've got to do the hard work of finding out what motivates the people that we lead.”

“Many people tell me what I ought to do and just how I ought to do it but FEW have made me want to do something” Mary Parker Follett

It is work, but it is a primary function of a manager, one that pays significant dividends. As a manager, be one of the FEW.