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How Do You Motivate the Unmotivated?

The truth is, I don’t know. As the CEO of No Limit Agency, I wish I did. I am sure everyone did. Life would be so much easier if the path to winning were clear. However, with a clear path and everyone winning, winning would no longer be what we expect it to be. I have now been a business owner.....

By Nick Powills1851 Franchise Publisher
SPONSORED 11:11AM 11/20/14
The truth is, I don’t know. As the CEO of No Limit Agency*, I wish I did. I am sure everyone did. Life would be so much easier if the path to winning were clear. However, with a clear path and everyone winning, winning would no longer be what we expect it to be. I have now been a business owner for seven years and was a manager before that. I have tried many motivational methods. Some have worked, many have not. Here’s five of my lessons learned: People hate change, even when they are the reason for change: Admittedly, I have made a lot of changes at No Limit. In fact, I am going to probably make hundreds more. I am on a mission to create a great company. My processes and procedures may work at one point, but as people change, so do the processes and procedures. All of my changes have been well-intentioned; unfortunately, though, getting 25 people to conform to change is not a cake walk. I have written in the past about the challenge of finding a perfect marriage (which I have so far) when it’s between two people and that when you are trying to lead a group of people, that leadership depends greatly on the ability of those around you to deliver your message. This remains true. People will always hate change. Therefore, when you are changing an incentive or a process to try to create stronger results, it has to be done in one of two ways: thoughtful or forceful. I am always thoughtful in the changes I put in place because my intention is long-term satisfaction of the greater majority of employees. I do have to be forceful, because if one person dislikes it, it doesn’t mean the rest will. My force is always reinforced with conversations among key players on my team, though, so that others support my decision. But if the behind-closed-doors support doesn’t echo outside, the change will be seen as painful and involuntary, even when it’s monetary in nature. My advice, based on my experiences thus far, is to make change when it’s in line with your mission and values. At the end of the day, it’s your risk that created the company and your risk that you hope turns into something much larger than you. Someone has to be willing to take it on the chin to maximize productivity. Money can motivate, but only for a short period of time: I believe all of the experts would agree with me on this: Money is just a Band-Aid in business. I once had an incredible employee who I could have seen involved in our company forever. He was constantly getting recruited by other social media agencies. Every time he neared his termination with the company, I would bump his salary. The fact was he was done, checked out. Sure, he said yes to staying several times, but a piece of him at NLA had been exhausted. Money could not make NLA the best fit for him at that time. The same goes for incentives. We have added in financial incentives each month in 2014. Some of them motivated our team, but most simply look at it as a part of how the company works. Money is not a motivator; it’s just something they get for a job well done. Time off is an interesting conversational piece, and although the perception is that this is what employees want, it’s not: When I started No Limit, I had a policy that I thought would help us stand out above everyone else. Vacation was “need it, take it.” Midway into our second year of operations, a few of the employees approached me about this incentive, suggesting that it was off-putting because they never knew how much to take. I responded with as much as you need, as long as you are excelling at your job. Clarifying policies is critical to motivating your staff. People want to know a clear path to whatever privileges and perks they receive as an employee. I asked them to rewrite the policy. They did. About three months after that point, one of them came to me and asked for upcoming time off. I said that I would love to give it to them, but according to the policy that they wrote, they were out of vacation time. They had taken much more time off than they felt was appropriate before the new policy was put in place. She said it was unfair. Time off is interesting, but it’s the eating of the cake that’s most important. I don’t know if it’s time off that motivates. I think it’s respect and being treated as an adult. The challenge with that broad approach is that not everyone is at your company for a career. Many are there for a job and a paycheck. No matter how much I wish all employees were there for the mission of becoming the greatest midsized agency that ever existed, they are not. I understand this. This is where the balance of motivation has to be thoughtful. Do I create the why for the job or the why for the career? Dress code can motivate and demotivate at the same time, depending on who enforces it: This is a funny one. At my last job, we worked in a very relaxed dress code environment. One of my guys would wear a sweatshirt and sandals no matter the weather or the occasion. Thus, I incentivized and attempted to motivate with a continued relaxed dress code. If we hit our goal, we wore what we wanted the next week. If we missed it, we wore full suit and tie until we covered the goal. This motivated — especially for those who loved wearing sandals. The challenge with these motivational tools is that they depend on whom they are coming from. At that point, I was another employee. A manager, but another employee. As the owner, it would be seen as aggressive. My feeling is that incentives almost have to come from direct leadership, not from the top. If I left the motivational policies up to my managers, what would happen? It’s a curious thought. At the end of the day, 99.9 percent of employees are temporary holding spots. And that’s sad: When No Limit had 10 employees, I would look around the room and hope that all would be there in 10, 20, 30 years. The reality is people change, and the majority will move on. They are only in the company for a temporary period of time. Gone are the days of workplace marriage (those who, as long as they received what they wanted, would be in a company for life). I can certainly still dream about it, though. If you are searching for motivation, at the end of the day, focus on motivating those who have the best chance of being involved in your company the longest. That way, your efforts will always be directed at motivating the top 30 percent. Then again, those are probably the people that don’t need much motivation anyway.

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.