Six Things for All Leaders to Consider

Keep These Areas In Mind When You Work To Motivate Your Workforce.

By Steve Schumacher

Over my career as a leadership consultant and change agent, I have heard the mantra “people are our greatest asset” more times than I can count. It is usually verbalized by senior executives in annual reports or in employee meetings. 

This experience covers all kinds of industries and locations around North America. Unfortunately, when I interview employees and ask them if they feel like the organization’s greatest asset, the responses I get tend to be “not so much.”

Why the gap between what executives say and how employees feel? There are a lot of variables involved in the discrepancy but the reality is if both parties feel that way, it is real for them. One of the realizations about leaders I came to many decades ago is that leaders do not realize the impact they have on their employees. 

When leaders do not check with employees on how they are perceived and employees do not offer honest feedback, these kinds of gaps in perception happen and perpetuate. Employee attitude surveys and focus groups can work well to collect feedback from employees. If you go this direction, make sure you ensure confidentiality for those willing to give feedback. 

As a leader, regardless of the business environment, you must pay a great deal of attention to the following factors that influence motivation and performance of your workforce.

Accountability. Believe it or not, people like to be held accountable for results. We like to know what our boundaries are and what is expected of us. Set goals WITH your people. Telling them what they must accomplish will not guarantee they will hit the goals, it will only show that you are the boss. 

True motivation comes from being allowed to participate in goal setting and have an honest give and take about what can be achieved. Have regular discussions with your employees with the agenda being a goal status check, along with an honest discussion about how you, the leader, can help the person achieve their goals. End-of-year performance reviews should be summaries of year-long conversations, not surprises.

Data. Organizations have always collected much more data than they ever need to effectively manage their operations. The key is, in the mass of data available, are you collecting and monitoring the key indicators. The 80-20 rule applies here: 20% of the data you collect drives 80% of the performance. 

Make sure data is shared with all employees that impact the data. Show employees how they can make the numbers go in the right direction. Compare current performance with past performance and the goals that you have set together.

Feedback. Feedback is the breakfast of champions. One of the constant complaints I have heard for decades, from employees, is that they do not know where they stand in the eyes of their boss. Let employees know where they stand on a regular basis. Data-based feedback is great, behavioral feedback on the skills employees are doing well is even better. These days, face-to-face feedback is tough but it has the most impact.

Recognition. Just like feedback, we all need a pat on the back. With so many crises going on these days, I know it is hard to find things that are going right and comment on them. As a leader, that is part of your job – catching people doing things right. Make sure that the recognition you give is tied to performance and not a popularity contest. For people to actually hear your praise, it takes four pieces of praise to balance out one piece of criticism.

Training. The face of training and development has changed dramatically. Regardless, your responsibility is to ensure that your employees have the tools they need to succeed. Remember, you need to supply skills in both technical, interpersonal, and management skills. 

I have seen a lot of leaders promote someone into a managerial position because they are good technically. Sales and engineering are notorious for this. Do not assume that a good technician will be a good manager. Train them to be good leaders.

Customer Service. We all have customers, either internal, external, or both. Put processes in place where everyone in your organization is clear on what it takes for them to provide excellent customer service. Make sure there are metrics in place so you can monitor customer service at all levels.

The world of business has always been full of unexpected twists and turns. The recent times have been especially unpredictable and concerning. Even in the face of uncertainty, leaders must create an environment where employees are motivated and achieve high levels of performance.

Steve Schumacher is a management consultant, trainer and public speaker with more than 25 years of experience in numerous industries throughout North America, including aggregates operations. He can be reached at [email protected]

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