The Management Blog
Tips & advice to help you improve your performance
We had an interesting question on one of our open management courses recently. The activity was about staff motivation, and a delegate asked what she could do when she had no money for bonuses to recognise the input from high-performing staff.
She noted that praise and recognition was a good motivator for some, but she didn’t know how to use it effectively, beyond the usual ‘thanks for a good job’. Could any of the delegates help her, please?
The comments were backed up by other delegates, so we came up with a checklist that would support this very important leadership aspect of motivation within the workplace.
We all know that affirmation is a key principle in our self-worth. We all like to feel we have made a difference in some way, and when our efforts are recognised by our peers and management, it boosts our self-esteem and our self confidence.
Here’s a quick checklist to ensure your praise and recognition of your team’s efforts is carried out correctly and effectively:
Find something to praise in every team member: This will help you focus on looking for the good, rather than always looking to find fault.
Do it spontaneously, but only if it is deserved: You have to maintain credibility with staff. Praising them for getting back from lunch on time is seldom seen as boosting self-esteem; praise has to be a reward for success or accomplishment. You lose respect and credibility if praise is seen as patronising.
Praise specifically: Tell people what you liked about the job they did. Rather than ‘Well done for that’, say ‘I thought they way you handled that call was excellent. You really kept your cool under pressure’.
Praise for skill development: If you are looking for the team member to improve in a particular skill, look out for opportunities to praise that skill. A small amount, given often, will subliminally affect the team member for the positive.
Praise effort, not just achievement: This will help people see that their efforts are being noted, even if they don’t always succeed.
Praise individually and in public: Letting others know how well someone did will encourage the team to support the individual and drive them to higher levels of effort. Be careful, though, that the reasons are given for the praise, so jealousy doesn’t set in with some.
Show praise in a variety of ways: A quick hand-written note, a non-verbal nod and smile, a mention in the newsletter or on the intranet are also ways that praise can be shown.
Don’t use praise to cover over a criticism: ‘Well done on that call, Phil, but watch out for raising your voice when you’re frustrated’. Phil will only remember the criticism there. So don’t try and soften any critical remarks with praise; separate them out, or your team member will become suspicious of any praise you give in the future.
Praising, then, is a skill that is simple, inexpensive and inexhaustible. It can have a ripple effect on people, who subconsciously look for other ways of creatively carrying out the work that was noticed. Remember, praise needs to be given in the right way, at the right time and for the right reasons.
W. Edwards Deming is famous for developing a continuous quality improvement model.
It’s a sequence of four steps that can take you through any project successfully and creates a benchmark for you to follow.
It’s known as the PDCA model or cycle, the letters standing for Plan, Do, Check, Act Of the many management models available, Deming’s is one of the most straightforward.
Its analysis of how change can be managed has helped various businesses drive towards improved productivity and profits.
The essential elements are:
PLAN: plan ahead for change. Analyse and predict the results.
DO: execute the plan, taking small steps in controlled circumstances.
CHECK, study the results.
ACT: take action to standardise or improve the process.
Each of these stages can be monitored for any project you’re working on, and create a great framework for you to assess your results.
Which stage is the most important?
They all link together, but if the plan isn’t laid on solid foundations for improvement, the results won’t drive the business forward.
Executing a plan is important, but if the results aren’t measured and monitored, you are simply taking action for the sake of it, and can’t make contingency arrangements.
Results will occur whatever action you take, but if you want to get the same results again, you need to identify the recipe and standardise the actions you take, so you can get the same results again.
Deming’s model has been used effectively all over the world, and offers a sound basis for changing your approach to work.
Employees who take more days off than their peers can cause real problems for you.
Morale, productivity and profits can be affected, and can irritate you more than than anything else, as you have to make swift arrangements to cover for the absent person, or simply lose the value of their contribution for the time they are off.
Why this meeting? Why now?
If you ask people where most time is lost at work, the invariable answer is “meetings that don’t have a point”. So why do we let it happen? What can we do to persuade people that meetings are actually a valuable use of their time, and not another excuse for not getting their reports done on time? Learn More
Do me a favour. Get a pen and a piece of paper.
Carry out this simple exercise before reading down the screen.
OK? Ready? Let’s go.
Draw a tree.
Just draw it.
It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece.
Just draw a tree.
Go on, do it now.
Don’t look down the screen.
Draw it now, then come back to this point.
Take a look at the tree you’ve drawn.
Some people’s drawings are magnificent and wild; others’ are simple and plain.
It doesn’t matter.
Now, let me ask you a question.
What’s the most important part of a tree? The trunk? Branches? Leaves?
Most people would agree it’s the roots.
You can tell the condition of the roots by the condition of the tree.
Strong roots, well-fed and watered, equal strong trunk and branches.
And yet, most people we ask to carry out this exercise don’t draw the roots. Why? Obvious.
Because we don’t see them.
They’re beneath ground.
The most important part of the tree is beneath the surface, unseen.
How many other things do you tend to ignore because they are out of sight?
What problems may occur because of this type of selective thinking?
Now, let me ask another question.
What are the most important skills we expect to see in a great manager?
I anticipate you saying things like communication skills, integrity, honesty, technical ability, motivation skills, a good listener, delegation skills and such-like.
And how do you know the manager has these skills?
By their behaviour, of course.
Most great managers we’ve seen have these skills, and more, developed over a period of time so they become habitual responses to challenging situations.
They are seen as the result of tried and tested reactions. And where are they hidden? Beneath the surface.
Where are they manifested? Above the surface, where they can be seen.
The observed qualities of great managers are developed beneath the surface, through constant personal development, skill assessment, trial and error, observation of others, constant monitoring, modeling, reading, research, coaching, self-motivation and training.
At the root of all qualities of great managers is consistent and never-ending improvement.
They water and feed these roots constantly, so they never run dry or starve for nourishment.
There’s a constant drip feed of quality material, readily devoured to nourish the hungry learner.
Seek them out. Be proactive in developing your skills that will feed the roots of your progress as a manager.
What you see is a constant reminder of what’s below the surface.
Make sure your skills are fed and watered effectively and consistently with a personal development programme that will support your growth.
And next time, draw your tree with roots!
There are many motivational models that appeal because of their applicability to the real world. None more so than Victor Vroom’s Expectancy Theory
His theory assumes that all our behaviour comes from choices among alternatives whose purpose it is to maximise pleasure and minimise pain. He suggested that the relationship between people’s behavior at work and their goals was not as clear cut as others had imagined. He realised that an employee’s performance is based on individuals factors such as personality, skills, knowledge, experience and abilities.
The theory states that people have different sets of goals and can be motivated if they believe that:
– There is a positive correlation between efforts and performance,
– Favorable performance will result in a desirable reward,
– The reward will satisfy an important need,
– The desire to satisfy the need is strong enough to make the effort worthwhile.
This will only occur, Vroom states, if the following belief systems operate:
1. People actually want the reward, so managers must identify the value structures of their employees
2. People expect that they can attain the reward
3. The reality of the reward. Managers must ensure the promised rewards are carried through
Vroom suggested that an employee’s beliefs about these things interact psychologically to create a motivational force such that the employee acts in ways that bring about the conditions for the reward to actual come about. He stated that people will be driven and motivated by how much they want the reward on offer, the chances of them actually achieving the reward and whether the expectation of them receiving is is high.
This formula can be used to predict whether someone will actually be motivated to achieve goals set by management. And it answers the question why some people are more motivated than others; they simply want the rewards more than others.
How many times has one of your team mates said ‘I just can’t do this task!’? Have you often come back with ‘Of course you can’, or ‘Just try harder!’
Did it work? Most often, not. Why? Because most people will be able to justify any statement they make, and they habitually fall back into this negative state. Learn More