All Employees Are the Same; All Are Different


Eric’s manager said to me, “Eric will not take initiative. He knows his job but does only what I tell him to do.”

“What have you tried?” I asked.

“I’ve told him to do what he thinks needs to be done and don’t wait around for me to give him an assignment. He wasn’t responsive, so I started giving him detailed checklists.”

“How did that work?”

“Not so well.  Eric made a half-hearted effort to do a few things but mostly he just conjured up excuses.”

Effective leaders are attentive to each employees’ uniqueness.  Some like detailed instructions, some like broad guidance.   Some like public praise but public attention embarrasses others.  Pressure motivates some people to rise to the occasion, others buckle.

If your current way of dealing with an employee is not producing the desired results, then change your methods.

Since micromanaging did not work with Eric, maybe the leader could try giving him specific outcomes with deadlines and a lot of freedom in performing his tasks.

Of course, if a leader tries several ways to motivate an employee and none seem to work, it is likely that the employee just does not have the talent or commitment to perform.

There is No Substitute for Face-to-Face


“Some of my team members work in the office and some are in the field,” explained Tillford.  “People in the field seem to have difficulty understanding my expectations.  I often have to send documents back for corrections and updates.”

Tillford further explained that the office and field members were well-trained and, thanks to robust electronic media, he used the same format for communicating to both groups.

I asked, “Do field staff every come to the office?  Do you visit them in the field?”

“Field people come in every quarter for our all-hands meetings but I don’t get much one-on-one time with them.”

I said to Tillford that perhaps he should make time for more face-to-face contact, either by periodically visiting field offices or by asking field staff to travel to his office.  Because of the cost and inconvenience, Tillford had resisted doing this in the past.  However, because he was so frustrated with current performances, he agreed to try it.

Six months later, Tillford reported, “I can’t believe how much our communication has improved.  After just a few field visits, our understanding improved dramatically and field team members are performing just as well, maybe even better, than their office counterparts.”

The Fish Rots from the Head Down


“I’m having trouble with my team,” a manager explained. “We make too many mistakes.  Quality is a concern.  We have too many accidents.  People miss too much work.  Today’s employees just don’t seem to take pride in their work.”

I asked if he would be OK if I visited with his team and he said, “Sure, if you think that might help.”

Several members said, “He doesn’t get here on time himself and he sometimes leaves early.”  Others’ comments included: “He doesn’t wear the new safety vests; says they are too hot.  Why should we.”  “He berates us about meeting schedule when he knows that some of the parts need reworking.”

When I mentioned these behaviors to the manger, he said, “I’m the leader.  Why should I have to do everything they do?  I have a reserved parking space.”

This manager apparently operated as a do-as-I-say, not a do-as-I-do leader.  Employees study their leaders constantly and leaders’ actions overpower their words.

You want employees to come to work on time; show up early yourself.  You want quality work; show a passion for quality.  You want people to work safely; demonstrate safe practices with your behavior.  Teams, like fish, rot from the head down.

 

Be Wary of Using Financial Incentives to Motivate


Part 2 of 5 on Employee Pay

I believe in “pay for performance.”  That is, higher performers deserve greater pay.

However, financial incentive and bonus systems often result in less performance plus other unintended consequences.

Psychologist Sam Glucksberg, in his famous candle experiments, predicted that cash awards would motivate teams to produce better solutions faster.  However, the opposite occurred.  Teams that had opportunities to earn larger cash awards actually took longer to complete their work.

A number of studies in actual companies show that financial incentives often lead to less, not more, performance.  Additionally, incentives may encourage jealously, turnover, and cheating.

In an effort to improve food quality, a large canning company offered bonuses to employees who found insect parts in their food products.  Guess what happened.  Employees started bringing insect parts from home, tossing them into the process and later discovering the parts and claiming bonuses.

For very repetitive work, incentive systems may actually increase performance.  But for assignments that require problem solving, incentives change the focus from “get the best solution” to “do what you have to do to get the award.”

What then is the best way to reward high producers?  How about just paying them more based on managers’ judgements?