Some time ago, in a meeting I was facilitating, people were going around introducing themselves. One of the long-time veterans of that organization stood up and introduced himself in the following way: “My name is Bill. I don’t remember how long I’ve been here, but I have 64 months to go!”
You would think that Bill represents a small minority of cynical people. However, my experience says otherwise. Unfortunately, I find cynical and resigned people at all levels of all organizations.
When I ask senior executives, “How are your people doing?” I often get a stock answer of, “My people are excited and in great shape.” However, when I interact with the organization, I often find people to be uninspired and uninspiring.
The bar for what passes as ‘inspired and energized‘ in corporations today seems to be quite low.
Oddly enough, many leaders still do NOT seem to view the creation of inspiration as a critical aspect of their roles or the success of their business. Some believe it’s a ‘nice to have,’ but many still think it is not up to them to inspire. A few even view inspiration as irrelevant altogether. Many leaders often believe that the only or main thing that truly motivates people is pay, objectives, compensation, and bonuses.
Quite frankly, I believe that money as the most significant source of motivation is a big myth!
Please don’t misunderstand me; I am not disparaging pay, compensation, or bonuses. They are indeed an essential part of any motivational strategy. However, I have seen situations where people could double and triple their bonus if they collaborated and worked together, but they still stayed siloed and didn’t work together. On the other hand, I have seen situations where people had no financial incentive to collaborate, but they still did the right and best thing for their own success and satisfaction, as well as for their company success by collaborating with genuine commitment and passion.
My point is that being energized and inspired is something that comes from within, not from external circumstances. Yes, external stimuli can help, but ultimately they are not the primary source of how people feel and act. When people feel included, valued, cared for, and that they can make a difference, they can’t help themselves but get energized and inspired. And, because any organization is always a reflection of its leaders; inspiration and energy has to start and come from the top.
So, how can you, as a busy leader energize your staff on a day-by-day basis and make sure people are not cynical? Here are a few simple tips to start you off:
- Show up and listen. I have often heard the complaint in organizations that leaders and managers simply don’t listen. If you want to energize your people spend some dedicated time each day, week or month walking the floors, showing concern, interacting with team members, asking people how they are doing and what you could do for them. And then follow up with whatever comes out of those interactions and conversations.
- Follow up and follow through. So much of the cynicism that people have comes from a lack of follow up and follow through. Teams make decisions, and then there is no follow-up or follow-through. Leaders and managers promise things, and then they don’t do what they said, they don’t acknowledge this and/or change their promises. When it comes to acknowledging what was promised, following through, and doing what you said, there is no difference between big strategic promises and small tactical ones. If you don’t follow up and follow through even on the small things, people will become skeptical and cynical around you.
- Praise, recognize, and thank people. I have written so much about this. It doesn’t cost a penny to say, “Thank you!” every day, and it goes a long, long way to engage and motivate people. One of the biggest complaints in organizations today is the lack of recognition. Well, if you want to energize your people and avoid cynicism, go out of your way – every day – to praise, recognize, and thank them. In fact, always recognize people in public and criticize them in private. This way, they’ll feel respected and trusted.
- Encourage new ideas. There is always more than one way to get anything done. In addition, different people have different ways, ideas, and styles about how to effectively make things happen. As long as the objectives and key ethical values are clear and adhered to, it’s actually healthy to allow employees some room to innovate. And, it goes a long way to increase ownership and defeat cynicism.
- Encourage, promote, and reward high ownership and accountability. People who are making a difference from time-to-time make mistakes. The only way to avoid this is to play so small that your mistakes are irrelevant. When employees play big, the impact of their mistakes tends to be big too. However, responsible people go out of their way to learn from their mistakes and correct them. By showing them that you respect ownership and accountability, they’ll play even harder, bigger, and with more commitment.