Why do we force people to be good? There’s a much better way to motivate them.
A Plethora of Managers
I’ve had several managers in my time. Good ones, bad ones. Sharp ones, clueless ones. Nice ones, mean ones.
But I have also had some interesting ones. These are typically managers that don’t want to be managers. Perhaps they aren’t really doing what they want to do in life. Maybe they are just trying to find a way to make more money. Whatever it is, they jump in and never seem to know how to motivate people.
I had one particular manager like this who stands out. We’ll call him Federico Consuela Manuel Robinson. Or Rob for short.
Life Is a Card Game?
Rob didn’t quite get it. His approach to managing wasn’t about motivating, it was about demotivating. If his boss asked him to jump, he would say, “Sorry, guys. We all have to jump. Life sucks.” (Okay, he wouldn’t say the “life sucks” part out loud, but his voice said it loud and clear. Perhaps he used to work at despair.com.)
If we were required to come in for the weekend to work on something that had broken down, he would throw out one of his invigorating phrases: “it’s just the hand we’re dealt.”
A Better Way
Things can be discouraging. They can be less than ideal. But if we want to get the best out of employees and coworkers, we need to show them the silver lining. People want to be happy no matter how challenging the work may be. If things don’t go the way you want them to, it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.
When we had to come in on the weekend, Rob could have made it positive. He could have checked with his manager to see if he could purchase snacks or stopped by the dollar store and picked up a bag of candy. He could have allowed us to play music since no one else would be there or sold it as a little break from weekend chores.
Or he could have gone to the next level and made it about purpose. This is something Dan Pink has researched a great deal. It seems purpose can be a better motivator than money (providing employees are compensated fairly to begin with).
Instead of telling us how awful working the weekend was, Rob could have shown us how our actions improved our customers lives: “I know the weekends are tough, but this software needs to go in. Our customers that have had an injury, filed a claim, and need to get their money are waiting too long. This will cut their wait time in half. It’s a sacrifice, I know, but one weekend will really make a difference in the lives of people who really need it. And while we do it, who says we can’t have a little fun?”
People are okay with sacrificing their time. They are okay with hard work. What they aren’t okay with is wasting either of those. Their time, effort, and money are precious.
But if they are exercised for the greater good, people are almost always onboard. It simply takes a little time, a positive attitude, some empathy, and highlighting the right things to show people that what they do matters.
If you want to motivate people toward success, don’t simply force them toward what you want and tell them “That’s just the way it is.” Instead, lead them toward what’s best and show them how their contribution matters.
It’s an easy way to motivate people, and it goes a long way toward improving relationships with employees, coworkers, and beyond. With the right attitude, some empathy, and a focus on making a difference, you can make a difference in your world.