Motivating yourself and others

Motivating your staff can be difficult, even in good times. So in times like these- with tighter budgets, smaller staffs and the ever-present threat of more layoffs - it appears even more difficult, if not impossible. I've talked a lot about motivation in this newsletter, but there's one angle I haven't covered: what to do if you are not motivated.

For help I spoke with Alexander Hiam, author of "Motivational Management: Inspiring Your People for Maximum Performance." "If you're lacking the emotional foundations for a good performance, you cannot share and build them with your employees," he says.

Hiam advocates a two-step approach to motivating your staff- and yourself. Yet if you're finding yourself lacking, you need to address your own problem first, then tackle your staff.

Step 1, Hiam says, is addressing the emotional aspects of good performance. "People will figure out how to do better work if we help them feel better," he says. "You may be feeling in yourself and seeing in others a difficulty in throwing ourselves 100% into doing great work. The tendency is to address that on the structural side, on the work. But if we know people are suffering under a great deal of stress, we really need to focus on the human dimension. We need to give more attention to that."

Hiam encourages managers to talk to employees- or yourself, if need be- about how you feel. "Let's revisit the things we used to take for granted: how people feel. If people are worried about their security or finances or other sources of stress, they need to get together and share ideas and strategies, and put some of their energy into working on those problems. Making plans and taking actions will make them feel more secure."

Now you're probably saying to yourself: What can I do about someone else's finances, for example? Not much, but you can facilitate help. Let's say, for example, you talk to an employee about stresses in his life and he shares that he's worried about making ends meet. You can't pay his mortgage, but you can help him by talking to HR to see if they know of any free resources employees can use. Or you could give the guy an afternoon off, or flex time, to research financial planning or meet with a mortgage broker. You can't refinance his mortgage, but you could help him find someone who can. Hiam says extending that natural concern will automatically make employees feel better about themselves and their challenges, and that will shine through in their work.

"Ask directly how people are feeling, what their greatest concerns are and if they're getting in the way of their work," he says. "Suggest they work on the things may be getting in the way of their work. At least support them as they try to find options."

Next time we’ll look into Step 2.

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