Unmotivated employees? We can fix that.

“Individual commitment to a group effort–that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”– Vince Lombardi

A Problem

Of course, we all want our teams to be high performing.   Accomplishing great things is rewarding on many levels.   However, the gap between this desire and realizing the achievement is often wide.   How do we get our team aligned and working together?  Why are so many focused on individual goals rather than those of the team?

This is a problem that we have recognized for a long time.   Although billions of dollars have been spent ($7.8 Billion in 2017) trying to improve employee engagement, nearly 70% of employees today are not engaged at work – pretty much the same level that we had in the year 2000.   What can be done?

A Solution

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Gregg Lederman, author of CRAVE (you can enhance employee motivation in 10 minutes by Friday).  I loved that Gregg presented a simple and actionable plan that any of us that lead teams can quickly implement.

Did you know??  75% of employees surveyed would choose a new boss in place of their next raise.

How can something so difficult be made so easy?   Well, first we have to take a step back and ask ourselves what employees want from their experience at work.  This has been studied for decades and there are many results to be reviewed but Gregg helps us by grouping the results into 3 categories that are consistent across these studies.  The categories are;

  1. Respect – help me feel respected for the work I do 
  2. Purpose – show me how what I do makes a difference and is relevant to the organization. 
  3. Relationship – help me build stronger relationships with people…especially my immediate supervisor.

Next, we reviewed 3 important brain chemicals;

ChemicalPrimary Feeling Caused Triggered By
1. DopaminePleasureMaking Progress
2. SerotoninMoodSense of Pride
3. OxytocinTrustConnection with others

A Process

So, combining the needs with an understanding of how the brain works, an ‘Ultimate Leadership Habit emerges – the act of strategically recognizing employees.   This is summed up by the simple phrase “recognize what you want to see more of”.   It works like this;

  1. Tell the Action – catch someone doing something good.   Make sure you capture this specifically and in detail. 
  2. Connect to a Focus Area – link the positive action with a goal or core value of the organization (if you need help, discovering your core values, I would be happy to help you)
  3. Share the Impact –  show the benefit to the team, your customers, or the organization as a whole

This simple series of steps – when done in tandem – provides a huge benefit to the receiver.   They get a dopamine hit due to being reassured that they are progressing (respect).  Serotonin is released due to the pride in supporting organizational norms (purpose).   In addition, the effects of oxytocin are felt as personal bonds are built and/or strengthened (relationship). 

As an example, let’s say that you manage an accounting firm and you observe Beth taking extra time to help a new client decipher the structure and key data in the quarterly financial reports.   You might say “Beth, I noticed (or was informed by the client) that you went the extra mile in explaining the report to client XYZ. (tell the action)  That is a great example of ‘Unwavering Customer Support’, one of our core values (connect to a focus area).   This type of support is why the client has resigned with us for another year of service. (share the impact)

As you consider this path forward please realize that this is something we are doing FOR members of our team and not TO members of our team.   If these interactions are manipulative rather than supportive, there will be no benefit.  Also, these actions need to become a regular part of your day or week or month at work.   (The author provides some great implementation ideas.) 

A Challenge

Pretty basic, eh?   Now, all that stands between you and a future with motivated team members is some focus and effort on your part.  Are you willing to do it?

Scroll to Top