Leadership, And Management Skills Are Not Coded Into Our DNA.  Do You Really Know How To Motivate Your Team?

Leadership and management skills are not coded into our DNA.  But you hear people say, “He or she is a born leader.”  Well….not really.  They may know less about their own team and what motivates it than they imagined.  Just ask managers what motivates workers and they will pop off a list that is topped by “recognition of good work.”  Sure that makes sense.  We all love praise.  But have you talked to your team about what truly motivates them?  Their answers may be very surprising, and certainly enlightening.

A research team at Harvard put diaries in the hands of employees.  What came back was a picture of the psychology of the employee and what motivates them.

§  Making progress at work

§  Figuring something out

§  Completion of difficult tasks

Think back to the last time your boss said, “Good work.”  What does that mean?  Did it feel good?  Or did it feel like a cursory observation?

A strength-centered compliment has a lot more motivational power.  “Ah, you figured it out!  Your intelligence and determination, is obvious by the way you made the details talk to get the answer.”  Now it feels like all of your hard work resulted in a higher level of appreciation, and more importantly, you know you accomplished something, figured it out.

A young Albert Einstein was always trying to figure things out.  Throwing a spit wad at another boy in front of the class produced a scientific “Aha…moment” for him.  He realized that gravity had a role in the speed of the spitball.  His teacher did not care what he learned or achieved, and rewarded him with expulsion.  A small acknowledgement of his discovery may have been worth a little behavior modification.

The Harvard study, part of the Breakthrough Ideas for 2010, offers fitting advice when an employee makes progress, a discovery, or solves a challenge.

“Negative events generally have a greater effect on people’s emotions, perceptions, and motivation than positive ones, and nothing is more demotivating than a setback—the most prominent type of event on knowledge workers’ worst days.”

Good management and skills must be fostered, practiced, practiced more, and used frequently.  If you want to work more effectively with your team, listen to them. There is nothing in DNA coding that makes any of us a natural leader, who motivates and leads well.  Your team has the answers to motivation.  So listen.