Some tips on getting your employees to do what you want, the way you want.

When I do my workshops, I ask attendees to give me their top five management frustrations. One of the most frequent answers I get is, “My employees lack motivation.”

The reason owners and managers think their staff lacks motivation is really a direct result of their own inability to delegate. They don't take the time to learn how to effectively communicate to their staff what exactly they want them to be doing and how it is they want it done.

Most of the owners and managers I meet are just hoping they'll find a worker who is also a mind reader to magically know what they, the boss, wants done. They're too busy to spend the time delegating properly, so they dump a project or assignment on some poor unsuspecting soul and then get frustrated when it's not magically done the way they would have done it.

Here's the sad truth. You can't motivate anybody to do anything! What you can do is give them compelling reasons why it's in their best interest (“What's in it for me?” or WIIFM) to do what you want them to. Sometimes it's a reward and sometimes it's a consequence.

With compelling rewards or necessary consequences, I think you'll find your employees will find their own motivation. So, stop screaming at them, stop using sarcasm or expressing your angry or frustrated feelings with your facial expressions and body language. It doesn't work in the long run.

It's not really difficult to motivate people. We all have things that motivate us. It's just different for all of us. For instance, you don't have to motivate me to play golf. And, you don't have to motivate me to do workshops or work with clients. But, you do have to give me a giant incentive to do number-crunching and look at financial reports that, by nature, put me in a coma.

Based on my lack of desire to work on financials, if I was your employee, you'd have three choices. One would be to give me some great WIIFMs as to why I should do the financial stuff. Another would be to use me to do the work I do best - like manuals, training, sales and planning - and find someone else in the organization to do the financial work. Lastly, three, help me go work for someone else!

What's In It For Me?

If you think you can bully people into doing what you want them to do, you're absolutely right - but only for a short time. They'll finally reach their limit on abuse and leave you, or they'll stay and learn to ignore you. You can't keep “motivating” this way. Even if you did get your employees to do what you want sometimes, it won't be long before they're back to their old habits.

So what does work? It's clear rewards and consequences, and ongoing coaching. That's how you motivate people!

You need an agreed-upon, written set of guidelines for each of the most common tasks your company does and to know what everyone is responsible for. Everyone needs to know the rules they're playing by; why they need to do it; what they get if they do it well; and what they get if they don't.

This replaces your need to motivate and leads to consistency in the way things get done. And the guidelines are just that - guidelines. They're not meant to be so rigid that there is no room for creative problem-solving as unique situations arise. They're meant to allow people to understand, in a more formal way, what you expect from them.

You'll find that your need to motivate diminishes with effective training and delegating, which makes thing happen faster, easier, and the positive results more lasting.

You'll also find yourself spending less time feeling like you're the only one who can do anything. And your staff will look forward to taking on more jobs and tasks.

Part Of The Solution

Remember, you actually play a very large part in creating what you perceive as a lack of motivation. This is because, naturally, most owners have a large part of their identity wrapped up in their business. There are three types of owner identities that can hinder your ability to effectively delegate and, therefore, undermine your employees' motivation. Do you identify with any of these profiles?

1. The Guru - “I'm the only one here who really knows the ins and outs of this business. I cringe to think what their work would look like if they didn't check with me first.”

2. The Rescuer - “I feel like I have to help every employee with every simple task. I don't know how these people manage to get up in the morning without me!”

3. The Fireman - “This place would fall apart without me. I can't even take my family on vacation for a few days for fear that the place would burn down without me there to put out the fire.”

Try this the next time you need to delegate something:

  • Put in writing what you want done.
  • Agree on how you'll measure success.
  • Set a frequent meeting schedule so obstacles are identified early.
  • Pick a reward and a consequence.
Here are seven more tips for effectively delegating instructions from “31 Secrets for Career Success,” by Mike Murdock:
    1. Communicate clearly the importance of the instruction.

    2. Give the instruction to one person only.

    3. Document the date you gave the instruction.

    4. Require a continuous progress report.

    5. Agree upon the expected deadline for the completion of the task.

    6. Never give an instruction to someone incapable of completing it.

    7. Never assume your instructions have been completed - follow through.

Try this and see if you won't need to motivate your staff.