Why You Can’t Motivate Workers


Guest post Monday brings us Larry Kahaner of The William G. McGowan Charitable Fund.  The William G. McGowan Charitable Fund was established to impact lives, create sustainable change, and empower future generations to achieve their greatest potential.

Someone once said to me: “When the job looks better because you’ve gotten a raise, then it’s time to leave.”

This advice bolsters a growing, albeit not fully accepted, belief among managers that money may not the best motivator of workers.

In fact, more money has never been the prime motivator of workers but most managers still don’t want to accept it. Why? Because it is easier to give people more money in the hopes of lighting a fire under them than to do the hard work of figuring out how to motivate them.

We are individuals and learning what drives each of us takes time and effort. It’s easier just to throw money at a problem.

This is particularly true in sales, as money has always been the traditional carrot dangling from a string.

Enlightened sales managers go beyond money and find the inner drive of each sales person and speak to that, but traditionally it’s been money as the reward and job loss as the punishment.

Every once in a while, though, I see someone who gets it right. In his new book The Best Damn Management Book Ever: 9 Keys to Creating Self-Motivated High Achievers,Warren Greshes presents the notion that people cannot be motivated, that motivation only comes from within and savvy managers give their workers the tools, ideas and techniques to motivate themselves.

As someone who has sat in on my share of motivational speakers, only to see attendees be pumped as they leave and back to their old habits by the next day, I can attest that the only successful motivators are those who offer a framework for self-discovery instead of those who merely get people excited and stoked.

In a recent blog Warren Greshes writes: “Most people are not self-motivated because they themselves don’t know what motivates them. They have no goals or plans for their lives or careers. Therefore, they’re working to help make the company more successful, not themselves: That’s de-motivating.”

He continues: “One of your most important jobs as a leader is to help your people…put together a set of goals and plans detailing what it is they want to achieve out of their lives and careers, much like you do for your company or clients. Then show them how to use the job as a vehicle toward getting them what they want. Now they’re working for themselves. They’re working harder and coming in every day with a great attitude, because they understand that every day they come to work and do well, they’re getting that much closer to what THEY want.”

Greshes is not alone in understanding this concept.

One of the first questions that archetypal motivator and life coach Tony Robbins asks in his presentations is “What gets you excited?” He understands that motivation comes from within and is not dependent upon external stimuli.

Robbins’ programs are designed to help people discover their own passions instead of having others dictate or guess what they are. Once identified, people can ride that passion in their work and a personal lives.

Dale Carnegie understood this, too, saying:  “There is only one way… to get anybody to do anything. And that is by making the other person want to do it.”

Managers, I have good news and bad news.

The bad news is that motivating workers takes time, effort and thought. It can be difficult and you may feel more like a psychologist than a boss. The good news is that once employees discover their motivation, they will be the world’s best workers – and you will look like a star.

The William G. McGowan Charitable Fund brings its vision to life “through grantmaking in three program areas including Health care and Medical Research; Education, and Community Programs for Those Most Vulnerable.”



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