“Listen, we agreed it was good for your health and it’s a matter of discipline. Get up and do it now!.” At this point the worker in me realized they would have to come up with a cunning response or he would be pounding the pavement. “Listen, it is still dark and if I trip and fall I won’t be able to run for weeks. It’s actually a health risk to go running now. I will do it later!.” The manager in me was stumped. How do you argue with such a great excuse? The worker had a point and was not being defiant, as he did say he would go later. To be reasonable and fair the manager had to compromise. “OK, but I don’t want to hear any excuses later on that you were too busy or that the weather is bad.” The worker in me tucked back into bed and smiled knowingly; “We’ll see. I have another 8 hours to come up with my next killer excuse.”
For anyone trying to achieve a goal there is an internal battle between the planner and the doer. Understanding this manager –worker relationship can teach us a lot about how to manage others. Achieving a goal requires a balance between two motivators: Extrinsic drivers that force us to do things we don’t want to do; and intrinsic drivers that lead us to a new personal best, just because we really want to.
Here is a 3 step approach to consider:
Step 1 is to create a plan which includes both a minimum measurable standard and a vision of the utopia outcome. The minimum standard is not subject to compromises and debates. It is a non-negotiable standard that we must meet. When my worker-self argues that I will run tomorrow, and gets away with it, it’s because I have not set a minimum standard for myself.
Step 2 is to create external pressure to meet this minimum standard by sharing it with others and even defining some consequences or rewards. This ensures that you at least get compliance to the basics of the plan through discipline, until it has become a habit - Skipping my run today is not an option because I have to run at least three times a week, and today is Sunday and I have only run twice - The worker in me has nowhere to go, as the manager in me is not going to listen to any arguments or excuses, come rain or shine.
Step 3 is to visualise the utopia scenario and define some stretch goals that are more about the end result, than the discipline of getting there. What you want is for the motivation to be internalised. Identify what the true internal, personal driver is. External motivators can achieve compliance, but often not more. Internal motivation will encourage innovation, drive and determined commitment to achieve a personal best. While I am running instead of finding an excuse, I am visualising how fit and healthy I will be and push myself harder.
Motivating staff is a balance between defining the minimum compliance line and sharing the vision for excellence. Define and externally motivate for the minimum Key Performance Indicators to be met, and also share the inspirational goals of your team, to get buy-in and commitment to excellence.
Balancing external motivation techniques while nurturing intrinsic motivators is a key leadership skill.