Motivation tips to make your employees tick

Economy February 27, 2012 00:00

By Pichaya Changsorn
The Nation

6,434 Viewed

People usually live up to others' expectations and respond to the level of confidence shown in them



What makes your staff tick? It’s something that every manager has to know, says Jean-Francois Cousin, a leading executive coach.

Jean-Francois Cousin, formerly the managing director of French construction materials giant Lafarge in Thailand, and now an executive coach with 1-2Win, said many companies spend a fortune to raise employees’ motivation through “awfully complex systems”.

However, what really make a difference to staff engagement and morale is the managers. When his 1-2-WIN executive coach company conducts “engagement surveys”, it always find that departments where managers motivate their employees properly have much higher engagement levels than departments where managers don’t motivate their subordinates well.

-Thus he came up with these 10+1 easy tips for managers to motivate their subordinates:

1 Care (and show it!).

2 Listen really.

3 Let go (empower).

4 (Help to) go for a “dream”.

5 Create a learning environment.

6 Support and stretch.

7 Offer choices.

8 Acknowledge significance.

9 Nurture togetherness.

10 Love.

11 Build pride in what is achieved.

During a recent breakfast talk held by the Franco-Thai Chamber of Commerce, Cousin said managers have to know what motivates their subordinates, in other words, what make them tick. Citing Maslow’s famous “hierarchy of needs”, Cousin said people’s energy is driven by “self-esteem” rather than money or security. Many people are attracted to the “visibility” provided by a job, which is so important, and many people will be looking up to him or her and watching his or her performance. Beyond “self-esteem” though, is the opportunity to learn that allows people to realise their own potential.

There is a retaining power of asking regularly, “What have you learned here?”

“Ask your subordinates regularly. Sit down and recap your learning. Tell me what you’ve learnt,” he said.

And as Peter Drucker, a management guru, has said, “People don’t care how much you know … until they know how much you care”, it is very important for managers to be able to let their subordinates know that they do care for them and thus they will go the extra mile and help managers achieve their companies’ targets. This is especially true in Thailand where personal relationships very much matter.

“Care and show it all the time,” said Cousin.

“How often do you tell someone how important they are to you?”

“Just let go” or empowerment is another trick that managers can use to motivate their staff. Like when a father teaches his child to ride a bicycle, despite knowing there is a 50-per-cent chance that the kid could fall down, managers must learn to take some “calculated risks” in allowing their subordinates to do some certain jobs which they would feel “we did it by ourselves”. On the other hand, “micro-management” will not motivate staff.

Cousin told a story of world-renowned orchestra conductor Herbert von Karajan who, having learnt to “let go” from horse-jumping training, had changed from a directive conducting style at the beginning to free-reign conducting and became very famous.

When a journalist once questioned Karajan, “Maestro, why don’t you give precise indications to your orchestras?” he politely shed light on his empowerment magic. “Because that’s the worst damage I could do to them. Then musicians would not listen to each other.”

A testimony to Karajan’s exceptional leadership is his last concert, when he was extremely weak already. He died a few months later. Although his body could hardly move, the orchestra played music that all critics deemed “came from heaven”.

Cousin’s “try your dream” motivation tip is a takeoff from Marshall Goldsmith’s bestseller “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”, specifically the part about the three pieces of advice given by very wise old people when they can look back in time and tell young people of how to have a great career and a great life, which are, “Be happy now. Stay with those you love and try your dream”. Managers should help their subordinates to go to a dream.

--Listening is a very powerful driver of people. When people feel you really listen to them, they will tell you more and more. Managers should practise facilitative listening skills, which include:

-Keep silent (3 seconds minimum) after the speaker finishes her sentence.

-Never interrupt.

-Focus totally (on eyes, tone, words, body language, emotions) and match/mirror.

-Stay neutral. Don’t express your own view.

-Paraphrase. Repeat what was said with your own words, to prove you listen.

-Ask clarifying, open-ended questions, such as, “Tell me more…”.

-Summarise to ensure your understanding.

On support and stretch, managers should learn the power of telling someone “I believe in you”. He told an oft-quoted story about a US psychologist who conducted an experiment in California. Certain students were told they had scored high on a test and that it meant they had considerable potential and were likely to be very successful at learning in the near future, irrespective of their classroom performance to date.

At the end of the school year, the school district found that nearly all of those students had improved their academic performance, and many of their IQ scores had risen. But in fact there had been no test. The students had been simply selected at random.

This experiment holds some important lessons for leaders. It suggests that people live up to others’ expectations of their performance. In other words, people respond to the level of confidence shown in them.

“Imagine that at work … you have a caring boss, you are learning a lot, you and your colleagues are like a second family, you can take some initiatives,” concluded Cousin.

pichaya@nationgroup.com