Our goal as leaders is to have people do the best possible things at the best possible time to get the results that our clients and we as an organization value.
This is not easy.
People are not machines; each has different skills, mindsets, and moods. They are working in an environment where they have to deal with the varying skills, mindsets, and moods of clients, partners colleagues, and bosses. And we are all dealing with work that presents constant changes and challenges.
As leaders, we can take three approaches to achieve that goal in this environment: external motivation, internal motivation, and internal inspiration.
- External motivation. We can make them do the right work at the right time. This looks the cheapest (we just tell them what to do) but is quite expensive because we stay on the hook for figuring out their work and we face increasing resistance to us telling them what to do. We spend so much time on this that we are unable to do our own jobs.
- Internal motivation. We can have them push themselves to do the right work at the right time. This looks like a better answer. Based on the motivation, “I do this because it’s my job,” they push themselves so you don’t have to. But they will become resistant to their own pushing of themselves (think of people who go and go and go then crash). This can be expensive because you have to take time getting someone to become internally motivated or you have to pay higher salaries for people who come that way. Then you lose them to burnout or to falling back into external motivation.
- Internal inspiration. We can have them committed to the results, finding new & better ways to deliver those results (usually better than we ever could), and feeling great about it. This looks the hardest but is the cheapest in the long-run.
(You can guess which I think is the best way, ya?)
The way to lead though internal inspiration is to regularly and frequently
- Communicate clearly what wins for the company are (e.g. standards, goals, vision),
- Understand clearly what would be wins for each employee,
- Coach employees (this includes encouragement, correction, problem solving, skills building, and political support or “air cover”) to make and keep commitments that deliver these wins, and
- Find ways to give them more and more accountability, responsibility, authority, and reward.
The time we invest in this way of leading pays off handsomely in
- The time we get back to do our strategic work,
- Growth of the business that happens without us having to do it all,
- More profit because more things happen more automatically with fewer people,
- Easier recruiting of new employees (and investors who will notice the profitability), and
- Our own growth and value as leaders who can build businesses.
This way, please.
In your corner,