“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”–John Quincy Adams
Pam, an area manager for a big box retail chain, frequently walked stores with her support-team. She liked to get an on-the-ground view of operations and talk to store associates and customers. During these visits, she preferred to walk alone through the store to make observations without the chatter from others. Her staff took her example and similarly spread throughout the store to check conditions using their own assessment gauges.
While examining a display, Pam heard Larry, a member of her support team, speaking with an associate. As rude as eavesdropping is, Pam wanted to see how Larry interacted with the store staff. She was appalled at what she heard. Their conversation centered on a Mercedes-Benz Larry had recently purchased. He groused about the high cost of maintenance to an associate that made a dollar over minimum wage. Pam politely rounded the corner and sequestered Larry to ask why he felt that was an appropriate topic of discussion. Larry explained that he was trying to motivate the associate to aspire to higher positions and obtain the level of success he held.
While Larry’s intentions may have been on target, his methods completely missed the mark. Motivation is a highly individualized process. Everyone has different triggers that ignite their internal drives. While money may motivate one person, a challenge may motivate someone else, and a kind word yet another. Leadership author Ken Blanchard once wrote, “There’s nothing so unequal as the equal treatment of unequals.” (I’ll let you think on that one just a bit.)
What never motivates is a trip down your own egotistical lane. Associates are keenly aware that if you are in a leadership position, your paycheck is bigger than theirs. When in doubt about what motivates someone, ask! Ask associates where they want to go in the company and how you can help them achieve their goals. That is a firm basis for both servant leadership and motivational success.
Know Your Audience: Accelerators
- What motivates you to higher levels of achievement?
- What motivates your team members? (if you don’t know, ASK and write it down.)
- How can you use what you’ve learned about your team members’ motivational preferences to inspire them to higher levels of performance?
Dr. Jeff D. Standridge is the best-selling author of “The Innovator’s Field Guide” and “The Top Performer’s Field Guide.” He serves as Managing Director for the Conductor and Innovation Junkie, and teaches in the College of Business at the University of Central Arkansas. Jeff helps organizations and their leaders generate sustained results in the areas of innovation, strategy, profit growth, organizational effectiveness and leadership. Learn more at InnovationJunkie.com.