Leaders often talk about the importance of motivating people.
However, in many instances where the teams are not performing, this has been because the teams have been demotivated, rather than they are lacking motivation.
We need to be very careful, ensuring that things we say cannot be misinterpreted, and lead to demotivation.
I have seen many instances where the objective was to motivate one part of the organization, say the top 20%, and what’s actually happened is that we actually demotivated the remaining 80% by leaving them out, making them feel less important.
Demotivation is significantly more powerful than motivation.
How can that be? I hear you ask.
Well, if you are well motivated you have probably increased your chance of success.
However, if you are demotivated there is a 100% probability that you will fail.
So when we motivate we need to motivate the entire group, different parts may have different objectives but we need to make sure we include everyone.
It’s the same in our private lives, if we focus on encouraging one of our children more than another, we will end up demotivating that second child.
This is an unintended consequence. We need to ensure that, as we try to encourage and motivate our teams, we do not unintentionally demotivate any other parts of our organization.
One time I unintentionally demotivated a team, even though my intention was completely the opposite.
I’d given my team a task to improve process adherence from 70% to over 90%.
The team worked really hard on this, and after a week they came back with their proposal.
We reviewed and it was excellent, one of the best I had seen.
During the review I noticed that, with a small change, we could get the adherence up to over 95%.
As I pointed this out to the team, I noticed that their enthusiasm diminished, they agreed to the change I had suggested and left.
What I hadn’t realized was that with the small change I proposed, the solution had now become my solution.
I had taken away the glory of their achievement and left them with the disappointment, disappointment that they hadn’t noticed the small change and made it themselves.
This was a great learning for me.
I learnt that when teams present solutions, even if you think you can see an improvement, in order to maintain motivation it’s actually better to say nothing. Leave them with their victory.
Or if possible, ask constructive questions that will lead them to the make the discovery for themselves, this can be tricky as it can be hard to ask question which don’t show that you have already spotted an improvement.
If we can avoid demotivating our teams it will make the task of motivating them so much easier.