Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Do your employees need you to motivate them? Building for self-motivation

Posted in HR and personnel by Timothy Platt on February 12, 2011

Businesses large and small go to great lengths to motivate their staff and to keep them actively engaged. They offer bonuses and other incentives, and many hold holiday and seasonal office parties. They acknowledge birthdays and many try bringing in third party providers to organize activities such as team building exercises. They even set up in-house competitions and challenges. There are, in fact a seemingly endless number of ways that businesses seek to instill motivation and focused engagement as from the outside for their employees.

I am not writing this as a posting against any of that, but rather to highlight and discuss an alternative that also needs to be considered. And that is an approach that comes from within the individual employee, and that if successful becomes a part of the corporate culture as to how things are done here. That is an approach, I stress, that ultimately can only come in practice from within each employee as an individual. But it is an approach that can be cultivated, developed and encouraged in each and every employee and regardless of their title, area of responsibility or position on the table of organization. This posting is about building a corporate culture of self-motivation and self-directed drive for excellence.

There are three components to this that I want to focus on in this posting:

• Entrepreneurialism.
• Instilling a strong sense of career as opposed to simply working at a here and now job.
• Internalizing a sense of excellence – it is the little details that count and making each and every one of them do so.
• The goal is to develop and instill these approaches and values in your employees while still keeping them all focused as working on a team in pursuit of shared overall goals.

I have written many times in this blog about taking a consultant’s and problem solving approach on the job, and in managing your career. Be an entrepreneur and encourage that in others. This means instilling a sense of ownership in your employees, which can literally involve offering stakes in the business to at least key employees. But however that type of consideration is managed, this is about responsibility and respect, and giving employees a voice that is listened to where they can feel they are more than just a set of remote-controlled hands. Enable your employees to feel a sense of ownership for the areas of responsibility they work in. Reward their excellence and their initiative in finding ways to do their jobs better and in creating new value for the business from doing so.

Your best employees may work in different areas, and have different skills and personalities. They have their own individual long term goals and personal priorities. But they, for the most part, all share at least a few traits in common. One of them, and perhaps an essential trait for this type of success, is in looking longer term. Your best employees are there making a longer term commitment to your business, and they are making a longer term commitment to their careers, as opposed to simply working at their jobs day to day.

This means looking and planning, and thinking about the bigger picture that here and now activities and responsibilities would fit into. This means reaching out to develop skills and experiences that would promote future success, and both for the business and for advancing careers. And this brings me to the third bullet point, above, and internalizing a sense of excellence. I indicated above that this involves making the little details count and doing them right. It also means focusing on the right ones and thinking and executing strategically.

Work to keep your team organized and focused on working together and encouraging a consultant’s approach helps with this, where every employee seeks to offer significant value to each and every one of their clients, in-house or external. Some of the external motivators I cited above can help create a shared understanding of what the overall business goals and priorities are and how different functional areas and services can support that vision. But do this in the context of encouraging each and every one of your employees to be a self-starter and self-motivated. This, organizationally and operationally can be a pathway to creating unique value propositions, and to creating and capturing greater market share. And this creates individual and personal value for your employees too.

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