Motivating Beyond Money

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I’ve often had the opportunity to meet with individuals who are out of work and networking for their next opportunity. It’s usually not long into our conversation that we’ve covered the basics and they reveal something deeper. They begin to talk with more passion about work and the significance it plays in their life beyond the money. Certainly, everyone needs income to meet their obligations, but it’s clear through my conversations that there’s much more to the job than money. Work has enormous intrinsic value and leaders who recognize that can strategically leverage this to impact the culture of their organization and thereby its performance.

Conventional wisdom makes the assumption that time spent outside of work gives us pleasure and that we work only out of necessity to earn money, which we use in order to achieve the happiness we seek outside of work. To the contrary, studies have shown that the happiest people are not those who don’t have to work, but rather those who enjoy satisfying work. The unhappy among us tend to be those with little sense of contribution to something larger than themselves or those who have nothing to look forward to on Monday morning.

Victor Frankl, an Austrian trained psychiatrist and Nazi concentration-camp survivor, wrote in his 1946 memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning of the role work played in determining who would or wouldn’t survive the concentration camp experience. He maintained that a search for purpose motivates our entire life and has a profound impact on our mental health and even our will to live.

As Frankl illustrated, workers need to labor for something meaningful. Belief in the value of their job is foundational to job satisfaction. Extrinsic rewards must also not crowd out the intrinsic reward of the work itself; that is, pay and benefits must not replace the satisfaction out of a job well done.

Alfie Kohn in his 1993 book, Punished By Rewards, shows that while manipulating people with incentives seems to work in the short run, it is a strategy that ultimately fails and even does lasting harm. Many financial rewards produce short-term boosts of performance and behavioral change which can have unintended conditioning consequences. Motivation strategies that favor pay and benefits, the “extrinsic rewards” for working, can also have a negative effect on job satisfaction by devaluing the “intrinsic rewards” that people care so much about. The reason for this is that people stop seeing a task for its intrinsic value and instead see it as a Pavlovian reward for the task performed.

Companies throughout Wisconsin have had to cut back on their financial compensation and incentive programs in response to tough economic conditions. This has created a great opportunity for leadership to reevaluate their financial and non-financial incentive programs to determine the best combination to lead their company into the future. But not everyone has taken advantage of the opportunity. For some, the old notion that money is what motivates is still a strong influence. For others, developing and implementing systems based on intrinsic job satisfaction requires more time and commitment from senior leaders than they’re willing or able to commit. It’s a case of the cure being worse than the disease.

There are however several simple things companies can do to have a positive impact on intrinsic motivation and job satisfaction. They involve matching the employee to the job, providing leadership attention, and creating opportunities for employees to engage in a way that allows them to have an impact on their environment and the way their work is performed. These simple tasks can help make employees feel that their companies value them and take their well-being seriously.

1. For an employee to feel satisfaction in their work they have to be challenged but the challenge of the work must be matched with her ability. A job with little challenge generates minimal energy or meaningful satisfaction. On the other hand, one that’s seen as beyond their ability to master will result in avoidant behavior and poor results. The consequence to both these situations is low job satisfaction and little intrinsic value in the work itself. The right balance of challenging opportunity and individual efficacy will depend on the individual.

2. One-on-one meetings or other regular conversations focused on the growth and wellbeing of employees can be highly motivational. It says to the employee, “I care about you and am invested in your success.” This makes people feel valued. While large-scale events such as department or company meetings are an important part of a organization’s communication system, they are much less effective and should never be substituted for dedicated one-on-one conversation.

3. A significant contributor to motivation and job satisfaction is a sense of control or influence over the work itself. A chance to lead or be a part of projects is a particularly powerful way of engaging employees in their work. These opportunities also develop leadership skills, which in the long-run, can have positive benefits for the company as well. It makes people feel like they’re part of the solution and part of the company’s future.

Many companies facing high employee turnover have come to accept “leaving for a better opportunity” as a statement reflecting on pay and benefits. Indeed, this can have something to do with it, but people who are not satisfied with their jobs, who lack a sense of purpose, are much more likely to leave even when pay and benefits are satisfactory. Companies who recognize this and intentionality seek ways to build purpose and meaning into their culture will reap the benefit of a more engaged and motivated workforce.

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The Importance of 360 Degree Feedback

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Most people understand that the need to grow as a leader is never ending. Understanding what they need to focus on is a little more difficult. There are many ways in which to do this, but I believe the best way is through a 360 Degree Feedback process.

What does 360 degree feedback mean?
In a 360 degree feedback process, an employee receives feedback from his immediate work circle. It includes direct feedback from subordinates, peers and superiors, and in some cases even from the external sources like the customers, suppliers or other important stakeholders.

Why is 360 degree feedback important?
1. It provides an employee an opportunity to receive performance feedback from his team, supervisor, reporting staff and his customers.
2. It allows an individual to understand her effectiveness as an employee and as a team member.
3. It helps employees recognize their strengths and areas where they can improve.
4. It helps employees in developing a proper plan of work.
5. Focuses on personal and career development.
6. Helps create personalized action plans.
7. Gets the employees together on the goal and work better as a team.
8. It acts as a great motivator for change.
9. It helps an employee to develop professionally and be effective at work.

If this makes sense to you, please contact me or hit the Contact Us tab.

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Leading Successful Change in a Financial Turnaround

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In Aesop’s Fables is the story of a fox that tried in vain to reach a cluster of grapes dangling from a vine just out of reach above its head. The fox lept high with all his might but after several unsuccessful attempts gave up and said to himself, ‘‘These grapes are sour, and if I had reached them I couldn’t have eaten them anyway.” It’s the source of the phrase ‘‘sour grapes.” It also illustrates the distressing mental state of conflict or anxiety when people’s actions are inconsistent with what they believe. The fox’s willingness to stop trying clashed with his knowledge that the grapes were tasty. By changing his attitude toward the grapes he rationalized his behavior. The tension individuals feel in the financial recovery of a business motivates them to either change their behavior or change their belief to avoid the distressing feeling. The implication of this in situations from post-recession recovery to life-saving turnarounds is that, to be successful, it’s critical that the organization go beyond behavioral compliance with recovery actions to commitment, through genuine belief, to a new way of doing business.

There is a direct link between management’s ability to gain that commitment and the underlying culture of the organization. Corporate culture is the belief system of a company revealed through the collective actions, behaviors, and rituals of the individuals within it. It is not enough to have the right product, operations or qualified management to succeed in a recovery. Every company going through radical change must have the right culture and it’s the responsibility of management to bring the culture into alignment with the new vision and priorities of the company. If the workforce believes in the overall purpose and direction of the change, they will be willing to modify their individual behavior to serve that purpose. If they don’t, they will resolve the conflict between what’s being asked of them and what they truly believe by rationalizing their old behavior, slowing or possibly dooming the change. The key then is to enable the workforce to see that the pain and inconvenience of change is far more attractive than to rationalize and remain in the current operational state.

To feel comfortable about change and to carry it out with enthusiasm, people must understand their role in the unfolding drama of the turnaround and believe that it’s worthwhile and in their best interest to play a part. It isn’t enough to tell employees that they’ll have to do things differently. Anyone leading a major change program must take the time to think through the “story” behind the change, what makes it worthwhile and explain it in such a way that it creates an attraction more compelling than the status quo. For everyone involved, their contributions must make sense to them at an individual level.

Support for the changes must not only come from management but also from leaders in the informal groups with which people identify. The support of informal organizational leaders, those people who exercise influence without positional authority, and the groups that surround them must be earned if the desired change is to have a deep and permanent influence. If influential individuals complain that “we’ve heard this a thousand times before and nothing happened,” others will be inclined to rationalize the current behavior and avoid the needed change. Change must be understood and made meaningful to groups at every level of the organization to achieve sustainable traction. 

Many change programs make the error of exhorting employees to behave differently without teaching them how to adapt general concepts to their individual situation. The company may urge them to be more “customer-focused” but if little attention was paid to customers in the past, they will have no idea how to act now or what successful “customer focused” actions looks like. Likewise, new reporting structures, management and operational processes, measurement procedures and financial and non-financial reward systems must be consistent with the behavior that people are asked to embrace. When a company’s goals for new behavior are not reinforced, employees are less likely to consistently adopt them.


Financial distress is not just about wrongdoing at the top. Rather it’s about failed performance at all levels of the organization. Therefore, changing the culture and thereby the minds and belief systems of individuals must be at the core of any turnaround effort. When companies are unable to change their cultures, they cannot expect to be successful in responding to the radically changing business conditions associated with a financial recovery. Company management needs to proactively engage in a deliberate culture building process and not let it evolve on its own. It is critical that the desired values, behaviors, performance standards and leadership requirements for a successful recovery be communicated clearly and often. To change behavior throughout an organization, it isn’t enough to ensure that people at the top are in line with the new ways of working; role models at every level in the company must consistently “walk the talk.” In any recovery situation, culture transformation is a necessary prerequisite to sustainable change. Management must realize that changing corporate culture is not one thing they do in revitalizing a company, it is everything they do.

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Getting Focused

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A client said to me “I’m working in the business instead of on the business”. Sound familiar? This is all too common for most business owners. The intention is to work on the business, but because you’re so lean, you are needed to put out any and all fires. There isn’t enough time in the day to get things completed let alone plan for the future. So that begs the question,

“Is strategic planning missing from your business? Sometimes you have so many things going on in your business that you can overlook many important things. You could lose your focus and end up mismanaging your business, projects or career. Sometimes in your business and career you may feel like something is missing and/ or not going right. The very thing that you could be missing in your business is strategic planning and strategic management. These 2 are the dynamic duo that can lead your business and career to success. They are the missing pieces to your puzzle. These 2 are the processes and tools that you need to help you keep your business operations running smoothly and in top shape. They help you to sort through your issues, develop sound plans, solutions and action steps for improvements.”

From CEO Business Management Solutions

If this sounds like a challenge you are facing and would like help, just let me know by responding to this post or contacting me using the Contact Us tab.

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Unleashing the Power of “Impossible” Goals

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Michelangelo said “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our goal is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” Such is the case with many strategic planning processes. During the annual planning process, goals, strategies, action plans and budgets are developed. It’s a neat and organized process but the implication is that when the goal is set, a plan or at least a fairly solid idea exists for how to deliver the results. Sales organizations know all to well that after they provide a sales forecast they’ll need to answer the question “What’s your plan to get it?”

The problem with this model is that the goals are based largely on what is known today. It satisfies our mind’s need for structure and certainty and enables us to complete the plan. Making matters worse is that compensation and rewards are often tied to the goal. This is certain to result in plans that are safe and achievable, but low in potential results.

High-performance individuals and organizations though, have found that break-through performance is not achieved by an attitude of determination and grit, but rather an attitude of confidence and optimism. They take on opportunities and face challenges larger than they’ve ever seen before, not with the knowledge for how they’ll accomplish it, but with the internal confidence that they’ll grow into it. They’re not intimidated by what might stop other organizations. They hear the same news, live in the same economy and face the same problems, but they do so with a calm resolve and belief that they’ll find the answer. It’s not risky when they know they can do it.

Goals and Motivation
One of the wonderful characteristics of human beings is that we are goal oriented. We are able to achieve great results when we’re motivated. The more attractive and exciting the goals, the more energy and creativity we have to solve them. Goals set in the context of what we “believe” we can accomplish are not motivating goals. In an effort to make goals achievable, we often remove the catalyst to motivation and energy. When the internal self-efficacy of an organization is low, it’ll expect little of itself. For our own sanity and to avoid disappointment, we won’t let ourselves expect something we don’t believe we can create. Therein lies the big problem with large, seemingly impossible goals. If the expectations and confidence of the organization are low, so will be its reach and results. The goals of the organization will be limited and the creativity and energy of the organization will match what, in its collective mind, it believes it can cause to happen.

Creating Disruption
Setting large goals throws our system out of order. They challenge what we “know” and push us beyond the boundaries of our comfort zone. They send us on a journey where the path and outcome are unknown. It creates a problem for us, a gap between what we believe we can accomplish and the picture of a challenging but potentially beneficial future. It’s a gap that our minds are programmed to close. If we’re drawn to the challenge we’ll move forward into uncharted territory seeing solutions and possibilities beyond the tried and true. But if the goal is too intimidating or unattractive, we’ll move backward to the old performance level, fully able to rationalize the decision. We get either drive and ideas to move toward what we want in the future, or ideas and drive to stay where we are.

The Role of Coaching and Leadership
The solution is to build an organization of individuals with high self-confidence and a strong belief and expectation in their ability to achieve great outcomes. This is arguably the most important coaching responsibility leadership has. It’s a concept with tremendous potential for improving individual and organizational results but one that’s overlooked in most organizations.

Leaders should keep asking themselves, not “where do we think we will be?”, but rather “where do we want to be?” They need to keep creating gaps between where they are and where they want to be. They need to awaken the potential capability of the organization with goals that challenge the organization to go where it’s never gone before. Then, with an energized workforce, inspired by a compelling new future and encouraged by leadership, let the human creativity and energy that’s unleashed invent how it will be accomplished. With the right leadership I’ve seen organizations “surprise” themselves by accomplishing things they once thought unachievable.

Sea World doesn’t select the smartest dolphins in the ocean for its attractions. It selects dolphins and then through inspired coaching and training is able to accomplish incredible feats of performance. Likewise, truly great organizations don’t have fewer problems than other organizations. They don’t start out with the most brainpower, better employees or more money. In fact, sometimes they face incredible odds. But they have a way of looking at things, a way of seeing big challenges as exciting opportunities, and a way of hanging in there that almost guarantees success. They live by an attitude of optimism and, when challenged with an almost impossible goal, have an expectation that what they don’t know, they can figure out. It’s all a matter of attitude.

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