Why Your Team isn’t Motivated

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I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with some great leaders, and one of those thought leaders, Dr. David Facer with the Ken Blanchard Company, is a friend who has done extensive research on “Optimal Motivation” factors related to our personal and professional engagement.   

The following are thoughts from David regarding three ways to begin motivating our teams.  The great motivation debate among business leaders has been whether motivation is a trait we are born with or a skill that can be developed. Contemporary research has answered that question; motivation is a skill that can be nurtured and developed in oneself and others. This important finding means that employees at all levels have the capability to motivate themselves to meet the complex demands of their jobs in today’s knowledge economy.

But leaders still play a vital role. The next advance needed in today’s organizations is to develop motivation into a strategic leadership capacity. When leaders treat employee motivation as a strategic issue, they create a distinctive advantage that is not easily matched by competitors. This strategic approach results in higher quality individual performance on everyday goals and projects, more “out of the box” thinking, faster innovation, greater acceptance of change, and greater “idea velocity.” Sustaining high quality motivation as a strategic capability also creates a magnet for talent.
Where to start?
The path to competitive advantage is paved with autonomy, relatedness, and competence. Focus on honoring employees’ legitimate needs for a sense of freedom in their work, their natural desire for warm relationships that are free of manipulation, and the natural striving for ongoing competence and growth.
One powerful place to start is with what you write and say to employees.  Here are three simple upgrades that you can make to your communication style to build more autonomy, relatedness, and competence in your interactions:
  1. Offer as many options as possible when making requests for action, and make them true options. Employees need to feel a sense of freedom and control over their work. Try to avoid false options that really pressure them toward the single outcome you think is best.
  2. Highlight the extraordinary learning that everyone is doing, particularly when times are tough. People are less afraid of difficult challenges when they realize they are successfully learning their way through them.
  3. Balance focus on final results with focus on team, community, and collective effort. Be sure not to bang the table for results without expressing your gratitude for individual and team effort along the way.
Distinctive motivational capacity across the entire organization, in all functional areas, and among every level of executive, can be built by more carefully cultivating the work environment. Optimal motivation is fostered when you upgrade the quality of the language used in everyday meetings, in email, and even in how senior leaders speak to the financial markets. Such improvements tell employees what matters most—and whether employee well-being is really a central management focus.
The more you show that you genuinely care about your people as human beings, and are thankful for all they strive to achieve every day, the more likely you are to set your organization apart from the rest.

About the author:
The Motivation Guy  (also known as Dr. David Facer)  is one of the principal authors—together with Susan Fowler and Drea Zigarmi—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new Optimal Motivation process and workshop.

How to Control Your Control Freak

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Control freaks are bullies even when they smile.  Trust me, I’m a “recovering” control freak and I know first hand. Anything less than compliance offends “us”.  

Dan Rockwell has some great thoughts on this topic:  

We are a Control Freak if we:

1.  Believe perfectionism is the same as excellence

2.  Get irritated when people don’t adapt to you

3.  Possess irritating tenacity

4.  Know better and can do better than others

5.  Nitpick and intervene

6.  Monopolize conversations and interrupt.

Bonus: Control freaks panic when they feel control going to others.

6 Ways to control your control freak:
  1. Authorize someone on your team to confront you when you’re controlling. Give them permission to point out controlling language, postures, and behaviors.
  2. Ask more; command less.
  3. Adapt to and align with others. Adapting is weakness and failure to control freaks. Everything’s a contest.
  4. Speak for yourself not others. Control freaks won’t speak from their hearts and won’t let others speak from theirs either. Say what you really think.
  5. Monitor and reject fear-based decisions. Control freaks are fearful. Fear is best for maintaining and protecting. Courage innovates.
  6. Go with new ideas. Control freaks default to “no,” unless it’s their idea.                             

Control your control freak by having real conversations:
Control freaks can’t have conversations because conversations are with  – not to.

Control ends conversation.
Control freaks can’t listen. They’re constantly wondering how to get what they want.

Candor and control:
Control freaks aren’t candid, they manipulate.
Candor takes courage to own hard things 

not just say hard things.

Types of leadership conversations
  1. Connect. Close the distance. Embrace casual; reject corporate-speak.
  2. Correct or confront.
  3. Create.
  4. Collaborate. Plan with not for.

5 Anger Management Techniques That Work

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Many of us would say that we don’t have anger issues. However, all of us have our limits. As Vince Limbardi the hall of fame football coach used to say, “Difficult times do not build character, it reveals it.”
We all have the potential to use and express anger at times. It is a God-given emotion. Still, it is better for us to utilize some self-management techniques.
I want to insert the term “Frustration” – because some relate to anger, many of us related to being frustrated.   While I am not a licensed therapist, below are a few of my favorite anger management techniques. Try using a few of these ideas when you feel yourself about to lose it.
1. Stop trying to control everything.     Sometimes our frustration comes from us wanting to control things beyond our control. Life started working better for me when I realized that I really only need to focus on the things I can control. Anger and stress come into our life when we try to control the things beyond our reach.
2. Create margin in your life.    Much of our anger and frustration comes from our hectic schedule. Let me offer a personal example. I have two wonderful kids. They are elementary age and mornings in our house used to be stressful. Luckily, for our sake we changed that. We simply decided to wake up earlier and leave the house with plenty of time to spare.  The whining, anger, frustration and aggravation in our house has all but been eliminated simply because we chose to create some margin. 
 I was reading a blog post about the subject of kindness once. They said the number one reason why we do not show more kindness to others is due to having no margin in our lives. If we have more time availability, we are kinder.                                     
3. Give people room to make faults.   Anger often comes about in connection and interaction with others. When someone has done something that we do not like, we use anger as way to get back at them or to justify the situation. The problem is that remedy never works. While it may feel good to exert that emotional control over someone else, it never ends in a good place.  
It is in your best interest to pass over the fault at times. Having discretion is a good and worthy attribute to have.
4. Engage in regular activity.   Daily physical movement is an awesome way to deal with the emotion of anger that we feel. Take time in your schedule on a regular basis to go for a walk, a jog, and experience the joys that fresh air can bring. All of these things are great ways to reduce stress which lowers the potential for acting out in anger.    
Is there a hobby that you can participate in? A good book that you have been wanting to read? Tis allows your mind to calm down and can reduce the emotion of anger that you may feel.
5. Monitor your self talk and thoughts.    This is a big one and not easy to conquer in the beginning. Your self talk can be enormously critical on a regular basis. By having conversations with yourself (yes I said it) and being aware of your thoughts, you can begin to challenge the ideas that are being presented.
Most of the time our thoughts are one-sided and usually have just as narrow a prospective. We need to challenge that. This is why you may have often heard people say it is better to talk things out. It is really not so much about sharing, but more about getting your self talk out and learning a new perspective on the situation.
Which one of the above tips can you start using today? I hope you can identify with at least one of them and start using it this week in your life. Remember, it is often the small habits that make the biggest changes in our life.

Defeating Mind Monsters

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There is a monster creeping around the corner.  And we all battle them.  They are mind monsters – negative thoughts consisting of lies we believe about ourselves, our life and our future.
 Negativity can creep up in our lives without us even realizing it. Sometimes the negativity causes us to be quiet, irritable, stressed, or restless. If you are going to live a vibrant life then you have to learn how to get rid of negative thoughts. The first key is really awareness. Our thoughts can almost be on auto-pilot without even realizing it. These negative thoughts can way on our spirit and pull our emotions down. Before we know it, we get into a downward spiral. Things suddenly become worse than they really are in reality.
Awareness helps us to get in tune with these emotions well before we get further down in the funnel. Once you are aware of the negative thoughts you can begin to take steps to get on the right track. Here are some things that I do when I want to get rid of negative thoughts.
 How to defeat Mind Monsters:

Feed Your Mind with anything Life-Giving .  Your mind is never void of a thought.  You can’t “think about nothing.”  Therefore, you and I have to choose to fight the mind monsters with life-giving thoughts.  
Ancient Wisdom says this:  “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8)  

Whether it’s a book, online teaching or conversation, fill your mind.  It’s going to be filled something.  Don’t let your mind “wander” – it’s natural path is negativity Therefore, be intentional. 
Decide to journal and get it all out. Sometimes when we have all of these negative thoughts swirling in our head it helps to get them out on paper. Journaling can be incredibly enlightening as overtime you see the same trends appearing in your life. It also is a way to get it all out. When you journal, do not be concerned with spelling or grammar, just get out when is in your mind. 
Slow down and enjoy the moment. Other times our negative thoughts are self-inflicted. By that I mean that we have brought the negativity on ourselves and not because there is anything really bad happening in our life. The negative thoughts come about because we are frustrated with the lack of progress we have in our lives. In times like these, we can benefit from taking a deep breath and just slowing down for a bit. We, as Americans, live life at a rapid pace. We bring on most of the stress in our lives by how we choose to live. Learn the habit of slowing down. Laugh with a friend, play board games with the kids, watch the sunset, spend an evening fishing in a nearby lake. Just slow down.
Go on a walk with a friend. Talking through the thoughts in our head can be a great thing as well. Go on a walk with someone you enjoy being around and tell them everything that is going on between your two ears. Just by doing this you will come up with solutions to your own problems. It is funny how different our negativity sounds when we verbalize it.
So be vigilant and merciless – don’t let the Mind Monsters live any longer.  They are sucking the energy right out of your heart and spirit.  

They are clouding your perspective of the future.  

They are destroying your leadership.  

Now is the time to declare war.

Utter these Four Words (If You Want to Kill Young a Leader’s Drive and Motivation)

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  I met a young man in his mid-20’s recently who shared with me his plans to change jobs. He’d been with his current employer for a couple of years, taking on increasing levels of responsibility. He didn’t mind the additional work without a title change or more compensation; he was delighted to be learning, expanding his skills, and gaining valuable experience. A position in his current organization that represented the next logical step in his career progression had recently opened up. He summoned the courage to approach his management with his interest. The response he received started with those four small words:
You’re too young to…”
Nothing that came after mattered to – or was even heard by – this young man. He promptly activated his network, started applying for jobs elsewhere, and tendered his resignation.
“You’re too young to…”
These four small words go far beyond answering a request or redirecting someone’s effort. They’re killer words.  They extinguish motivation, inspiration, excitement, and even connection with the organization. These four small words close doors and choke off possibilities. They discourage, demoralize, and drive young people away.
Now, let’s be honest. Not all young people are prepared to take on every challenge they aspire to. But youth should never be used as an excuse or reason to hold someone back. Instead, what if organizations and managers communicated a different ‘you’re too’ message to their young, ambitious workers? What about…
You’re too talented to not keep growing… so what skills will you need to develop to be prepared to take on greater responsibilities?
You’re too valuable to not know how much we appreciate you… so thank you for your contributions and performance.
You’re too creative and innovative to not continue to be challenged… so what‘s next on the list of things you’d like to take on?
The ambition and even impatience of young workers can be a vital competitive advantage to organizations who know how to harness it. We need young employees to remain passionately engaged so we can cultivate them into the tenured contributors who will become the bedrock of our organizations. The first step is to rid your vocabulary of those four small words.  And we’re never too young – or old – to do that.

*I am thankful to Julie Guilioni who stated these findings, and caused these thoughts to be noteworthy.

Four Ways to Overcome the Fear of Conflict

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It’s nauseating to hear – someone soft-shoe dancing around an issue because they’re afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. They do so because they might receive negative feedback in a 360 review that they were abrupt or too direct in delivering feedback on that issue. So rather than going the direct route, they water down their message until it’s a mealy mouthed blathering stream of meaningless suggestions.

Let me ask you this – do you want to follow a “leader” who doesn’t speak his or her mind? Someone who is more concerned with how their actions will be perceived rather than saying what they really think? Do you want to follow a leader who is more interested in doing nothing wrong (and hence not doing much of anything) or would you rather follow someone who takes a stand for what they believe in and suffers the consequences as appropriate?
Me? I’ll choose option B.
Conflict avoidance has invaded teams,  and it’s an ugly blight. IMPORTANT: realize, I’m not advocating or approving of hateful, cruel, rude, or offensive behavior and words. Those words and behaviors have no place in any workplace (or our lives for that matter).
What I’m attacking is a belief that we as leaders can’t speak our minds because we might hurt someone’s feelings. It’s that mindset that erodes the core of leadership over time and turns it into gentle corrective actions that end up having no impact whatsoever. Sure, no one felt corrected or had their feelings hurt but they now effectively have no idea what they’re supposed to do or what they did wrong in the first place because the message was diluted.

It’s called CANDOR.  Jack Welch speaks of this as critical for personal success.   So here’s what I propose:
1. Take the But(t) Sandwich off the Menu
Starting and ending feedback sessions with some false flattery just so you can jam a big slice of nasty feedback in the middle is a waste of time. It’s disingenuous. It also destroys your credibility as a leader. Any time after that if you begin praising someone, they’ll simply be waiting for the “but…” even if it’s never coming. This approach to giving feedback is terrible. Stop it. Now. But(t) sandwiches are now off the menu.
2. Everyone Grow Up
Take your binkies out of your mouths and put your blankies away in your Scooby Doo knapsacks. This ain’t kindergarten anymore folks. The feedback isn’t personal. If you screwed up, step up and take it like an adult. I’ve screwed up plenty of times. And yes, when I took my beatings they were VERY unpleasant. But I took them and acted on them.
When you get drilled for doing something wrong then go crying about it to your peers, it makes you look like an idiot. They know you screwed up. They know you’re simply deflecting blame. If we spent as much time and energy focusing on fixing the mistake and building our skills to prevent the next one as we do on complaining to our coworkers about how mean our boss was to us, maybe we would actually perform better.  Getting some pointed feedback and being mature about receiving it is in your job description.  When you take responsibility, others trust you much more.  
3. Take of the Soft Shoes and Put on the Boots
When you tiptoe around an issue, we come across as lacking conviction and clarity. More likely than not the recipient of the feedback knows what they did (or didn’t do). They just want you to get it over with. Dancing around the issue is a waste of time. It’s confusing. The recipient might walk away confused or with the wrong impression. None of these are good things.
Whether you’re going to saddle up and be more direct or not, you’ll need to take off the soft shoes and put on the boots. If you’re going to be direct, you’ll need the boots to deliver a swift kick in the behind. If you’re still going to dance around the issue, the boots will at least protect your ankles from the piles of crap that are rising and filling the room.
4. Lead
It’s not always a glamorous job.  Whether you are a Director, Executive, Teacher or Parent, you’ve chosen to do it. Go be direct. Don’t deliberately hurt feelings but for crying out loud tell people what you really think.
If you’re avoiding conflict so you can fly under the radar and continue to advance your career,  at some point your lack of direct communications will be your undoing. If you simply find being direct difficult and inherently unpleasant you might want to reconsider where you want to take your career. The higher you go, the less tolerance there is for bullcrap.
The best leaders I’ve ever met and worked for were direct. They were respectful of the individual, polite, and when needed, up in your grill with some pointed feedback. I know it made me a better performer. You’ve probably had similar experiences. Don’t you owe that same directness to your team? Shouldn’t they know exactly where they stand?
Being “nice” for the sake of avoiding conflict is dysfunctional. It will destroy your organization and your credibility in the long run. I call on each and every one of us to embrace candor and directness in the spirit of making our teams better. I think I’ve been direct enough in this post with what’s on my mind. Now it’s your turn…

The Yoda Principle of Leadership

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Life goals. Bucket lists. “One day I’ll…”

We all have dreams and goals. The biggest difference between people who achieve them and people who don’t is the act of actually DOING. 

Do you have goals and things you want to achieve? Professional aspirations? Personal bucket list items? Let me ask this – what’s stopping you from starting on them?
Today I decided to serve up a little motivation, Yoda style.

Luke whined “All right. I’ll give it a try.” Yoda gave Luke an attitude adjustment “No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.”

What would Yoda say to you if you talked to him about your goals and your progress toward them? That’s what I thought. I’m here to be your Yoda. (for a few minutes anyway).  
Here are some great first steps you can take right now to help you move toward achieving your goals.
“Ready are you?” – Yoda
You can’t get “there” if you don’t know where “there” is. Sit down and actually articulate what it is you’re trying to achieve. Define success.
Some people say I’m lucky (I actually think I am) but there’s more to it than luck. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” I tend to make sure I’m prepared to achieve my goals.
Have you defined your goal? Are you ready to seize the opportunity when it knocks? No? Then go write your goal down. Now. I’m not kidding. Write it down.
Luke: “I don’t believe it!”
Yoda: “That is why you fail.”
Do you believe in yourself? What about belief in God’s direction in your life?  Do you believe you have the ability to achieve the goal or build the skills that will enable you to achieve it?  
You have to believe. You must be relentless in pursuing those goals. The minute you lose confidence, you’re done. That lack of confidence will show through in all you do and a vicious circle of failure will begin.
Do you have reminders around you that help you remember you can achieve and succeed? Find those reminders. Start believing in yourself, those close to you and providential purpose. It’s a good bet to make.
“There is no try. Do.” – Yoda
I could spew forth a ton of quotes about taking that first step on your journey blah blah blah. I won’t. I’ll just say if you have big goals, they can be daunting. But you have to start somewhere.
Every interim step on the path to the broader goal is a goal in and of itself. I tackle every one with a mindset of “do.” Do not procrastinate. Do not be overwhelmed. Break your goal up into smaller steps and “do.”
Look – I know you have goals. The question is whether you’re actively pursuing them and ready to achieve them. 

Heed Yoda’s advice:

– “Ready are you?”
–  Believe
– “Do”

Four Words I Say to Jerks

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Someone once taught me four words that you should say to jerks.

They are simple, they are easy, and they are not that fancy.

Whenever someone is a jerk to me, I always say, “You might be right.”

This accomplishes a few things:

1. It admits that maybe they are right. I make mistakes. Maybe I did something wrong. Could this person bring it up without being a jerk? Sure, but just because they were a jerk doesn’t mean they were wrong.

2. It ends the conversation.

3. It releases me from carrying it around all day.

It’s over. I’m done. You might be right.

Maybe you’re not, but I didn’t say, “You are right.” I said “You might be right.”

I’m just not going to give you anymore of my life to figure out if you are.

I’m out.

10 Ways To Kill A Good Idea

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Ever watched a really good idea crash and burn? Me too.

Here’s some brutal honesty: Entire movements have gone down in flames because of boneheaded approaches to good ideas. This isn’t to say we can’t afford to make mistakes. In fact, the only way to know we’re taking risks is to make mistakes. We can’t afford not to make them. But we also can’t afford to ignore common-sense leadership practices.   
In honor of our most fatal leadership mistakes, here are my “from the hip” ways to kill great ideas. (Warning: sarcasm ahead)
1. Form a committee. In this way, you’ll be able to devote more time to empty note taking and less time to solving problems. Also, we’ll be able to prevent a single great leader from running with the idea without feeling the need to check with several people with different opinions before proceeding.
2. Be sure to control it. Before you even start executing a good idea, be sure to write plenty of rules and parameters so that no one feels the freedom to run too fast with it. Freedom is the enemy when we’re trying to kill good ideas.
3. Devote a lot of time to calculating the costs. Be sure that everyone understands just how much failing can cost us so that we inch along, paralyzed by fear.
4. Assume it’s everyone’s responsibility. If we’re able to say, “Our organization should really be doing this,” it takes the pressure off anyone in particular who might actually take ownership. In this way, no one gets blamed for the death of the idea … at least not individually.
5. Assume it’s your responsibility alone. If we get help, we’ll just saddle people with the burden of investing their time into meaningful pursuits rather than having more free time to not develop their skills and talents.
6. Vote on it. This will give everyone a sense of power and let them decide that they’re “against” the idea even if it isn’t something they understand. After all, majorities of people are usually smart, right? Besides, in the end, it’s really about keeping as many people as possible happy.
7. Avoid learning from others who have acted on similar ideas. Never ask people who have succeeded or failed before. It’s better to re-invent the wheel, take full credit (or blame) in the end and brag on how much we’ve been able to do (or not do) all on our own.
8. Keep young people out of it. They’re all too inexperienced and unwise to lead anything. Besides, do the voices of the young really matter? I thought they were meant to be seen and not heard … or valued.
9. Keep old … advanced … experienced people out of it. After all, they’re just all grumpy, afraid of change and set in their old-fashioned ways. Their years of wisdom and experience will just complicate matters.
10. Take a little more time to talk about your intentions for the good idea. As long as you’re intending to do something good, it’s as good as doing it, except that it never gets done. But you will have meant well when it’s all said and not done.
I’m guilty of at least a majority of these at one time or another in my own leadership, so I’m not writing out of arrogance but in confession.

What Teams Really Want from Their Work

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What do you really want from your work?  
Inspired and engaged team members have reasons why there are making an impact compared to those not fully engaged and motivated.   Other than the basic requirements – food, shelter, health care – on the hierarchy of needs, what do people really want from their jobs?
Based on a study by Peter Cappelli, a Wharton professor and thought leader on talent management, where he addressed that question.   These are the top five things that a large group of people say they want from their work:
1. Friendly environment

2. Chance to use my skills

3. Chance to do something worthwhile

4. Feeling respected by coworkers

5. The opportunity to learn something new
Is there anything on the list that’s really that surprising? If you stop and think about it, you probably want those things from your own work.
Here’s the catch on the data that Cappelli shared. He presented it in the content of a talk on managing the older generation of workers and the data comes from a study that AARP conducted on what older workers want.
Is the list really that different that what workers of any age would want? My experience and observations tell me no. People want to work in an environment where they feel respected and appreciated, where they can learn and do their best work.
What does your experience tell you? What’s on your short list of the most important things that leaders can do to create a place where people want to work?