Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Motivate me. Just musing.

I used to be a manager of people. My management style was to be honest with the people who worked for me and also try really really hard to genuinely like them all (and 19 times out of 20, i could like the person.) Because i believe that people who like you will work hard for you. I supported them, they supported me.

This is called managing down, as opposed to managing up, which means supporting those above you over those below you. I hated working for this type as they would sell you out in a heartbeat.

The big push at work was “How do we motivate people?” I think this is the wrong question. You can de-motivate people, but true motivation comes from within. I do a good job because i need to do so for my own self respect, my own ethics if you will.

But a slacker will be a slacker, and big errors were made in trying to motivate these people and it having the effect of pissing off the motivated because the slackers were getting special attention.

I started thinking about this because we just got back from parent-teacher conferences at Em’s school. Em is very self-motivated at school and all the teachers had nice things to say about her. I talk to other parents and some of them tell me of their struggles to motivate their kids and ask how we do it. I never know what to say because we don’t do anything.

I don’t think it’s the job of one person to motivate another. And from what i have experienced, it doesn’t work anyway.

Your experiences?

21 comments:

Mignon said...

I think it's easy for you to say (and for me to agree), because you are a motivated person. I was thinking back to some good soccer coaches I've had, and I couldn't recall a single halftime speech that did anything for me. Why? I didn't need it. I was always fired up. Same with school, work, etc.

But the unmotivated? Perhaps the right carrot can make them pull the cart sometimes. It's sad that they are in a position in which someone else is forced to dangle that carrot, but only in a perfect world are we all where we want to be, all the time.

daufiero said...

Amen - I guess it's the same all over.

I have worked places that made an effort to find out what other benefits would motivate the employees (through psychological tests, etc.), but it always comes back to $$$$. (which for me is not the greatest of the motivators - I go for respect every time.)

As a kid, I'm pretty sure my mantra was, "you can't make me."

Mother of Invention said...

It's the old, "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink" type thing mostly. Some people are motivated by different things like incentive trips, and in the case of kids in school, bonus time at the computer, free time with a friend, or for the really young, those stickers work for most. Kids are much easier than adults. teenagers are in between...use of the car with free gas worked for me! Now so many kids have so much "stuff", maybe it's hard to find a reward.

You need to discover what a person's currency is. So I guess I'm of 2 minds...it works for some if you can find the right currency, and yet if they really aren't going to change, no one can make them.

Jennifer said...

I have similar experiences. In my current managerial role, I have two lovely young ladies in my care. I try, very hard, to be fair, honest, timely, appreciative, flexible, and encouraging. But I also have no qualms with being the bitch when needed.

I PREFER them to like me, but it isn't an absolute requirement of getting the job done to the highest degree of excellence possible, which is what I expect.

One of the young ladies came within a hair of being fired for her own obvious lack of motivation last year. I told her so, offered her a few words of cautionary wisdom, and made it clear that I was willing to help her in any way possible, but not willing to allow her to continue down that road on my watch.

Over the past eight months, she has blossomed beyond my wildest expectations. I don't believe it happened BECAUSE of me; I think she discovered the motivation within herself. But had I been a different sort of manager, she may not have had the chance to.

Dick said...

As a supervisor at Metro I found that if I treated those who worked for me fairly and honestly they would do their best most of the time to make my job easy. Occasionally I'd need someone to do a bit extra, perhaps even going a little over the required part of their job, but if I had a good report with them, they would usually do that to help get my job done. Some of the others who didn't relate as well to our drivers had a much harder time getting all the work filled. It is true that they know how you feel about them and it shows most obviously when things are not going well and you, the boss, needs some extra from your fellow employees. I've not just been able to get the work done but also developed some good friends that way. Leaving those people was the hardest part of retiring.

Lucia said...

I agree that fairness, honesty, and trusting people to do what they're supposed to do is key.

The best managers I've ever had (and therefore the ones I try to emulate) never asked me to do something they wouldn't do themselves. If there was a job that wasn't so great to be done, they pitched in--setting up chairs, emptying trash, whatever. For me, that set the bar.

caro said...

Early on in the school year we had a bit of a rough patch with our eldest daughter. She started high-school this year and is having a hard time organizing her homework. I fully agree with you on this. It has to come from the individual. It was once confronted by the consequences of her lack of motivation , that my daughter was able to let what was going on permeate her conscience. Man, it was painful to watch! She is doing very well now and is immensely proud of herself. For all the right reasons...

Josephine said...

I think you are definitely right about this. De-motivation is something that you can do to someone who is naturally self-motivated...by treating them badly or ignoring their efforts.

But by and large, most people are just the way they are no matter what you do for/against them.

Mrs. Chicky said...

This is so timely! I was just bitching to a co-worker about my last class (dog training) where so many people dropped out before the end. The people who didn't do any training with their dogs outside of class but yet took all my time asking me to repeat previous lessons and monopolizing all my time were the ones who dropped out. They weren't serious about it. I think I'll be slightly changing my class style next time! Thanks for the kick in the pants. :)

Bob said...

I am motivated by being left alone to do my job. So I do the same for the people that work for me. I expect people to do their best. I have been fortunate that most of the people that have worked for me were self-motivated and did good work. The few that weren't and did not do very good work quit fairly soon. I'm not really a manager. I give assignments, explain what I want, and wait for results. I keep up with their progress and help out when I see the need. I don't have a philosopy or a defined way that I do this, so I don't feel I am a manager. I write their reviews, recommend promotions and try to let them know areas that I feel they need to work on. The majority of my work is making sure that the software system I am responsible for does what the users need it to in the best way I know how to make it.

Sometimes I feel sorry for the people that work for me. I've worked for good managers and I don't see those qualities in me.

jen said...

i think that we can be inspired by others. motivation comes from within, or perhaps being part of a working system..i rely on the relationship (but that may be indicative of my field) to move things along sometimes, but i agree, there is drive/motivation, and there is something external. but they are not one and the same.

urban-urchin said...

I have high expectations of those who work for me, but I don't ask them to do anything I wouldn't do myself. I realized a long time ago that not everyone would like me, that's life. But I could deal with everyone fairly, with kindness and evaluate each individually.

If you aren't cutting the mustard, I will let you know, in a nice way, but you'll know.

And sometimes with the super unmotivated I just have to throw my hands up in exsparation!

lu said...

This is my daily struggle at school. Note that I say the following with varying degrees of success, and often times failing miserably:
In order to be motivated, a person has to believe in the project, or at least understand the reason or a potential benefit that will come from being involved. They need to believe that others believe in them as well or at least that the person trying to motivate them likes them. It's hard to do this every day, especially when you don't really like the person you're trying to motivate. I'm not saying much here, but you have me thinking

D_Man said...

I'm a slacker and proud of it.

Josephine said...

I just had to mention that, this morning in my state of starvation, your website makes me really want an orange push-up (sherbet treat, usually with Fred Flintstone or Sponge Bob).

Or some orange Bubblicious.

Mmmm....junk food is my favorite part of being an American.

meno said...

mignon, perhaps the right carrot can work, but the search for it can be really annoying, and somwehat like babysitting.

de, money is a motivator, but when that is taken off the table (by a company that pays everyone the same, without regard to performance) you are left with feel-good stuff. Which the un-motivated are immune to. Ooooh, i sound bitter!

MOI, school is a different theater than work, especially with young children. I do feel that attempting to find a way to motivate young kids in school is essential, a lot is riding on it, and they often don't get it. But sometimes nothing works.

jennifer, it's nice to hear a success story. Maybe she finally realized what she was risking. Maybe no one had made it clear to her before. Good for you!

dick, sounds like you had a good crew. I know what you mean about missing them. I still see some of the people i used to work with, but i do miss the daily interaction with others.

lucia, (Or asking you to do something that they don't know how to do, but should.) That was my kind of bar too. Roll up yer sleeves and move it!

caro, The first year of HS can be rough. Em's school spent a lot of time working with the kids to teach them how to organize and track their work. I'm glad your daughter figured it out. Whew!

josephine, it really bothered me to see the un-motivated getting special attention to try and motivate them, while the motivated got resentful. And it rarely worked either.

mrs. chicky, Good luck on that. Classes are something that seem like a good idea at the time, until people realize that it takes actual work.

bob, that's how i worked too. I was not a micro-manager and i hated it being done to me, so i'll bet you are a better manager than you think. I don't think i was exceptional at it, but i was at least reasonable and i tried.

jen, you always have such a wise way of putting things. I agree that relationship is key.

u-u, and then fire their ass!

lu, It is hard to motivate every day. I admire you for attempting it. I could never teach. Thank you.

D-man, yeah, i can tell because your writing and stuff is so sucky. You cling to that self-image, i'll wait here.

josephine, canteloupe and creamsicles. Mmmmm. Now i'm hungry too.

Sanjay said...

Am a self motivator. I just like to keep going and keep going...like the energizer bunny. ;)
But as a naturlaized American with no resources here except for me and *A*, there was only me and her and our efforts to get to where we want to in our home which is now the US. It's been a quite a journey.

Princess in Galoshes said...

I think it's true that you can't motivate people who don't want to be motivated. But I DO think it helps to provide a context that supports success.

By that I mean you probably don't let Em sit in front of the T.V. all day instead of doing her homework, and offer to help if she needs it, and ask her about her day, etc.

It's the same at work. It's a lot easier to be a good employee (whether you're naturally very motivated or not) when the boss gives you the tools you need, including training, to get the job done, rather than just throwing you into the fire and then berating you if it doesn't come out right.

bobealia said...

I'm learning how to be a slacker. I was always self motivated to the point of perfectionist. My parents never gave me presents for good grades, but I worked my butt off to get them because I knew I could and I wanted to do my best. Now, I'm learning how to take it easy on myself.
I love the way you talk about these issues though. I usually like people until they do something to make me not like them.

Julie said...

Meno, no offense, but the problem with your blog is that you pose all these thought-provoking questions and then generate tons of long, interesting comments so I have to read both the great post and then all the input. Please say more boring things in the future because I am a busy woman and I don't have time for this. Thanx.

Now as to the motivation thing, I agree with you completely and am wondering if you've ever had a chance to read "Punished by Rewards" by Alfie Kohn. He has some good points along these lines.

meno said...

sanjay, i would like to hear more about that journey. maybe a post?

princess, of course you are right. Being a boss/parent means that you need to provide an environment in which they can be successful. Do i hear a Herr MWOTH reference here?

bo, You Go Girl!!! It tales practice, but i know you can do it.

julie, sorry about that, i'll try and do better. Alfie just came and spoke at Em' school a while back and as a result we bought his book and made a few changes around here. Em saw him too and she was thrilled.