If you have ever been in a leadership position of any type of organization, then it is a safe bet that at some point you have been frustrated or disappointed in the commitment of people whom you are trying to lead. Depending on the circumstances, your immediate reaction may have varied. Perhaps you were sympathetic, or perhaps you were offended. Maybe you were anticipating their lack of performance, or maybe you were blindsided. No matter what your reaction was, however, you were left with the same challenge: figure out how to get them to want to do their job better. No problem… right?
If you were to survey most employers about what motivates their employees, the number one motivator mentioned would almost definitely be money. In fact, that isn’t really a hypothetical question. Those surveys have been done countless times and money is almost always the number one answer. Interestingly enough, however, when those being surveyed are asked to answer the same question about themselves, the answers become far more varied, and money rarely shows up at the top. This means that most employers are managing their people as if money is the only thing that could motivate them, despite the fact that most of them would tell you that other things personally motivate them far more. Try asking yourself this question: “When are the times in my life that I have been most motivated to work hard and/or to do a good job?” It is possible that some of those times have corresponded with when you were trying to earn a large bonus or raise, or even because you felt obligated by the large salary that you were receiving. However, if you are like most people, then at least some of those times have come when you had little or no financial stake in the outcome. At times perhaps you have been motivated by the desire to earn praise or accolades, and other times perhaps you have simply wanted the satisfaction of doing a good job or of knowing that you succeeded at a challenge. As powerful as those motivations can be, however, even they tend be overshadowed by an even more powerful motivation: a mission.
Do your employees believe in your mission, or even understand what it is? I am not asking whether or not they have memorized the mission statement and can recite it on command, but rather whether or not they could communicate to someone else the impact that your organization is trying to have. If they can communicate it, how much does it really mean to them? Think about the things in your life to which you give your time and money. Whether those things are your church, your family, a charitable organization, or any other cause, you are willing to invest in those things because you believe in them. In fact, you are likely willing to make contributions to those things without even being pressured to do so. Is there any reason why your company can’t be one of those causes for your employees?
The most polished and organized strategic plan in the world will have little effect if it isn’t tied to your employees’ values. If you don’t know what matters most to your employees, spend the time as soon as possible to find out. There is a very good chance that you’ll be surprised by what you find, and furthermore, there are likely a number of things that you all share in common. If you can figure out how to connect those shared values to your mission, then you have the potential to get more out of your employees than you ever dreamed possible. Good companies manage their employees well with performance objectives and rewards. Great companies also give their people something in which to believe. If you’re only shooting for the former, then you may be selling your company and your people short.