Getting the best performance from your people and tapping into their talent isn’t complicated.
All business owners need a great return on their investment in people. As a leader of those people, you want to motivate them and make them productive. They are the largest expenditure for most businesses, and with the right management they can generate higher profits and create a fun place to work!
Three key things should be remembered:
- Motivation is not a character trait – it is how a person interacts with and responds to their environment. Anyone can be motivated in an environment that ‘pushes their buttons’.
- Motivation comes from within a person – a person must motivate themselves. The best sports coach in the world cannot motivate someone, but rather creates an environment with the right influences.
- Everyone is different – what gets one person energised doesn’t always work for the next person.
Sounds exhausting? Fortunately, there is a solution.
Dan Pink’s book “Drive” cuts through more than 50 years of complex research by industrial psychologists and social scientists. It gives a clear and practical platform for creating a motivating environment in any workplace. He identifies three common elements in a motivating environment: autonomy, mastery and purpose.
Autonomy is our desire to control our own destiny, which translates to exerting some control over our working day. Individuals should be given the opportunity to ‘have a say’. Productive workers are complex and sophisticated – they go beyond responding to old fashioned ‘command and control’ management.
Some workplaces have to be highly controlled or regulated, but people can still be given an opportunity for input. Actively ask for ideas, without shutting people down, and create some space and time for people to find improvements. No boss can fix all problems.
Mastery is our need to get better at things – the drive behind activities like playing musical instruments and sport. A good boss uses this mindset, actively creating opportunities for learning on the job and more formally. Don’t wait for requests for ‘development’: look for how employees can add value to your business. Invest in their skills (maybe as simply as giving them time and space to improve). This can create new efficiencies and better customer experiences.
Of Dan Pink’s three principles, this can be the most powerful. Purpose is about people’s desire to have meaning and to feel they are doing something worthwhile. Work is important in this context, given how long we spend there.
Businesses exist to improve shareholder wealth, but we need to be more sophisticated, and think about why our business and its activities are valuable.
A client of our Adelaide office, Brunnings, produces garden products for South Australian retailers. Their vision focuses on their products’ impact on end users, even though they don’t interact with retail customers directly: “We want consumers to create a sanctuary in their home”. Everyone from sales reps to those mixing the compost in the warehouse knows this vision, and also knows they are helping someone to create a great environment to live in. Now that’s worth getting out of bed for in the morning!