Motivational momentum

The euphoria and promise of a new
employee’s first few weeks can be difficult to maintain. Recent studies have shown that, over time, nearly 70 percent of
employees become disengaged with their

These numbers suggest a gap in leadership’s ability to build on the initial energy of
a new hire. Workers always hit the ground
running, but without a mix of motivation,
inspiration and a clear vision of the big picture, they soon run out of steam. So how do
the best leaders maintain motivational

“Every day, our employees leave us clues or
triggers about what motivates them,” says
Mark Paskowitz, senior consulting partner,
The Ken Blanchard Companies® in Escon-dido. “We need to be aware of what they are.”

Smart Business recently spoke with
Paskowitz about the perils of a one-size-fits-all motivational strategy and why the best
leaders know how their followers are feeling when they come to work on Monday

How can a motivational strategy backfire?

I remember early in my career as a new
supervisor wanting to acknowledge one of
my peak performers for a job well done.
Since I was extroverted in my personality
and communication style, I assumed that my
employee would like to be acknowledged in
front of 50 of her peers. Immediately after
the public celebration, she pulled me aside
and said, ‘Never do that again.’ She was an
introvert and didn’t like public celebrations.
As a new supervisor, it was an early wake-up
call, which taught me one size doesn’t fit all.
What motivates one person may not motivate another.

What practical tools and insights can managers apply immediately?

It starts when employees first join your
organization. How do you maintain their initial excitement about joining the company?
Their immediate manager can make all the
difference in the world. I remember, before
payroll automation, a manager who would
leave positive comments regarding my performance attached to my paychecks. It was a small and simple thing, and yet, it was very
powerful. People want four to five positive
strokes to one redirect/reprimand. Redirection should be focused around keeping the
energy positive and delivered while not punishing someone who is still learning. You
learn a lot about organizational culture and
leadership when people make mistakes. It is
human nature to largely focus on people
making mistakes instead of when they do a
great job. Praise is one of the most underutilized skills that managers can always do
more of.

What are some different forms of motivation?

Intrinsic motivation focuses on activities
an employee enjoys doing that bring them
meaning, fulfillment and enjoyment. The key
is being able to tie the intrinsic needs of the
person with critical performance indicators.
Can this worker find fulfillment with what he
or she is doing while providing value and
high performance for the organization? The
critical question to ask as leaders is how do
our employees feel when they come to work
on Monday morning?

Extrinsic motivation focuses on external
rewards or outcomes an employee receives for doing a job well. Whether it’s a promotion or earning a well-deserved raise, the
key is to build the person’s confidence and
competence so he or she performs well on a
day-to-day basis. The focus should remain
on what we can do to help our employees
achieve success.

What motivational methods are best from an
organizational perspective?

One of the big motivational factors for
organizations is having individuals understand how what they do is tied to something
bigger or how what they do ties to the business strategy and organizational purpose.
You must ask yourself, ‘Do people rally
around the vision of our organization?’

Another best practice is to tie great performance into the performance management process. A lot of people fear the end of
the year review because they aren’t sure
what is coming. By having frequent and
quality conversations, we ensure that
employees are aware of what is going on.
That way we celebrate having employees at
the end of the year earning an A. The key is
to develop a systematic process instead of
an annual event.

How can leaders define a process for motivational strategies moving forward?

In partnering and coaching our employees,
we must take the time to intimately get to
know them — letting them know we care
and continuously inquiring about their interests and well-being. The old saying, ‘People
want to know you care before they care how
much you know’ is so true. You should develop a series of courageous and compelling
questions to help discern your workers’
motivations. Some questions to ask include:
What brings them energy and fulfillment?
What do they strive for in a great working
relationship? How do they learn successfully on the job? Where do they see themselves
going in the future? How can we best support them? These are a sampling of the questions we need to ask over time to maintain
motivational momentum.

MARK PASKOWITZ is a senior consulting partner at The Ken Blanchard Companies. Reach him through The Ken Blanchard Companies
Web site at