7½ Bits of Wisdom for Your Practice of Leadership

  • Jan 10, 2006

To start off the new year, we depart from our usual format of promotional marketing success stories to bring you a guest column on leadership by Tom Stevens.

7½ Bits of Wisdom for Your Practice of Leadership

By Tom Stevens © 2005
How do I motivate the people in my organization?

It's a question I hear often; but what's really being asked is how to get people to do more on their own - to be “self” motivated. Is there a way to get people to go beyond what is minimally required?

Motivation, like morale and loyalty, is not something you operate but a condition you cultivate. There is no magic lever to pull that turns on motivation. Rather, motivation is like a garden and will grow on its own with proper conditions, care, and cultivation. You can't make someone be motivated, but you certainly can influence their intrinsic motivation.

Use the following seven (plus) items to stimulate your thinking on leading and motivating others, and begin to cultivate higher levels of intrinsic motivation within your organization...

1. People can't genuinely say yes unless they have the ability to say no.

People can only choose when there is a choice. Extra effort is by definition voluntary. The lesson for leaders and managers is to manage people as if they were volunteers.

2. Fully listening is not equivalent to agreeing.

To listen and understand a differing view demonstrates respect (and wisdom). Knowing that you will be listened to is often valued as much if not more than specific outcomes. There is little that is as powerful for cultivating high levels of motivation as knowing that ideas are welcome, even if not always adopted.

Tom Stevens

3. Start with building rapport.

There is much wisdom in the saying, People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. A small emotional connection to others at the outset of a conversation pays big dividends for going the extra mile and making a meaningful contribution.

4. Increased communication always brings increased miscommunication.

Increasing the amount of communication within an organization is no-doubt beneficial. Human communication, however, is inherently imperfect, and thus, increasing the number of messages also increases the opportunities for misunderstandings. Skill in miscommunication recovery is more important than seeking communication perfection.

5. Real trust is given just before it is earned.

People are more motivated to expend extra effort when they know they are trusted. Over time and experience, trust moves in a positive or negative direction - it doesn't stay neutral. A positive cycle of trust has to start somewhere. What risks are you willing to take to initiate trust?

6. Assume competence.

It's not unusual that people live up to exactly what others think of them. Why not start thinking the best? You might be surprised how many people will live up to your expectations. Treat people as fully competent until you see compelling evidence otherwise.

7. Encourage conversations about big questions that can never be fully answered.

What do we do best? What are we passionate about? For big questions that are important to us, a coherent answer is useful - but any answer we have is incomplete. It's the unanswered part that provides value because it keeps people searching and engaged.

7.5 [Bonus Bit for Extra Credit] Have fun and let others have fun too!

If you are having fun you are more likely to be at your best. If you are having fun, you are more genuine, authentic, and persuasive - and therefore more influential. If you are having fun, it's an invitation for others to have fun too, and bring out the best in themselves, and be passionate about your organization.

Favorite Quotations

“If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going.”

~ Irwin Corey

Favorite quotations

Just for Grins

Customer: I have problems printing in red...

Helpdesk: Do you have a color printer?

Customer: Aaaah................... Thank you.

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