Monday, November 28, 2011

More vs. Less

Recently, I was reading a discussion on one of my LinkedIn groups. The writer wanted to know how they could motivate their warehouse staff apart from basic compensation increases or decreases. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when trying to sort out how to motivate others. Unfortunately we get fixated on the financial aspect of motivation and lose site of our own creativity along with the natural tendencies of our teams.

Our natural reaction is to threaten to take something away from our followers in order to “incent” them to work harder. Our tendency is to treat them like children. “If you don’t pick up your blocks, you can’t have a cookie!” No one wants to lose a part of their job that they find fun, significant, or energizing – and at the same time lose their cookie too! Sadly the art of taking things away does not get you far and creates frustration. It also doesn’t take much skill to take something away from someone. My kids were professionals before their first birthdays, and I bet you were too.

Why are we so afraid to give our people more? The common feeling is that it may make them complacent while costing us control. I don’t know about you, but I love more. My appetite is never satisfied. Succeeding and getting more at the same time helps me see that the sacrifice was worth it. If you threaten those you are entrusted to lead with “less”, then be prepared for negativity and resentment.

Instead, why not find something that your crew loves and figure out how you could give them more. People are likely to focus on more instead of less. My sons LOVE more, and I can guarantee your employees do too. How could they earn more money, responsibility, or something as simple as more casual days, office-paid lunches, etc?

The challenge as a leader is to tap into your team's appetite for more in a fun, creative way that not only rewards them with more, but also lets them know the difference their extra effort and heightened performance makes. Remember, it doesn’t require any effort to take, but takes creativity to give more.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Learning and Catching

I was talking to someone the other day about leadership and teamwork. His issue was that the leader he reports to understands teamwork, knows its importance, and communicates those things concisely to his team, but does it mechanically and without passion. My friend was having a hard time getting motivated and interested when he could see the leader was more focused on the tactics of teamwork instead of his passion for teamwork.

Have you ever been there? Some one has been “taught” something but they never really “caught” it? You know that if it had moved from their head to their heart the world would change for the better. What is true of this leader is also true of you and me. We can just as easily learn something but not have it translate to our core. How does this happen? How do you catch something vs. just learn something?

When I was 16, I had the privilege of being exposed to a well known leader/author and his key staff members over a long weekend. That weekend changed my life forever.  I had always felt that I had some sort of calling but didn’t know what it was. I learned the importance of leadership, and I caught the vision of developing leaders. That vision and passion has followed me throughout my life. No matter what I do or who I work for, I always look to see who I can influence and develop. I have no choice, it’s who I am, and it’s central to my calling, my purpose. You see, that weekend, when I was 16, I caught something and I’ve never been able to let it go.

When I am taught something new, it sits in my brain and I figure out what that thought or idea is made of – what makes it tick? I then choose how I can use it. Basically I get tactical, as if it was one of my movers in a game of chess. Chess is very unemotional as it’s all about strategy, positioning, and anticipating your opponent’s moves. When you learn something it becomes a tool in your toolbox and you use it in the appropriate situation to solve a problem or address an issue.

When I catch an idea, thought or principle, something completely different happens. I can’t stop thinking about it. The new thought, viewpoint, or truth dominates my mind and I don’t think about how or when I can use it. Instead I use it naturally because it has become part of who I am. You see there are certain things that, like a puzzle piece, fit perfectly and enhance who you are, and you are left wondering how you could have ever lived without them. It’s almost like they were meant for you. Ideas or thoughts that fit like a glove match up with your gifting, calling, and innermost purpose. They enhance who you are.

We are all deficient in areas that are not easy to fix. I wholeheartedly agree with Marcus Buckingham that you need to play to your strengths and delegate your weakness, but there are things, as leaders that we cannot delegate. In the example at the beginning, the leader has to embrace teamwork in a way that connects at the heart level with his crew. It cannot be mechanical or sterile.

So how do you catch things that don’t come naturally? That is one of the most common struggles among leaders. You will begin to catch more in your heart than what you learn in your head when the potential impact and focus on others outweighs the possible gain for you. Why did I catch the importance of developing leaders when I was 16?  It had nothing to do with ego, recognition, personal success, or money. I was overwhelmed with the difference I could make in others. I couldn’t stop thinking about the untapped potential in the people I would come in contact with throughout my life. It so infected me that my senior year in high school I spoke to the student body on how they could become a leader and influencer of others. I couldn’t stop thinking about the potential in my school and what might happen if just one person “caught” it and went on to change the world.

I can guarantee you that within your challenging areas you know someone who is a rock star. Become a student and investigate deeper. Instead of learning how they work, ask what happens in them when they talk about teamwork, motivation, pursuing excellence, or whatever your area of focus. How did these things reach their core? Maybe they have a different view point than you do that could help carve a few corners off that puzzle piece and fit better into who you are.  But you must remember that you cannot force yourself to catch something, especially if it is all about you.

Think about those areas where you have caught an idea, or belief. What happens inside of you? Work to understand the difference between what comes naturally and what is in need. If you’ve never caught something, you may want to do some further introspection to better understand yourself. There are some great tools you can use like taking a Myers-Briggs assessment, or a personality profile (Choleric, Melancholy, Sanguine, Phlegmatic). These tools will help you to better identify your natural tendencies in order to increase your “catching ratio”.

The bottom line is that your followers must connect with your heart’s direction for your team (vision) and your passion for how they interact and work together (teamwork). If those things don’t reside at the heart level keep pursuing them, and something you will either hear, read, or experience will click. Finally, understand that you will continue to both learn and catch. The challenge is to figure out how to effectively negotiate the balance between the two.