Leaders spend a lot of time and money and effort trying to motivate the troops. They buy lunch, they put up pretty posters, they bring in motivational speakers, they send clever emails, they give bonuses, etc… But how effective is it in the long run? The next time that spirits dwindle, you have to up the ante to motivate further. It can become a never ending cycle.

Jim Collins in his book Good to Great says that the goal of a great leader should be to find self-motivated people to be on your team. Then, as leader, your role changes. You don’t have to expend as much energy motivating them! Your job becomes finding out what demotivates them – what sucks them dry – and eliminating those things so the team members can continue on with their own self-motivation.

This thought floored me when I read it several years ago. It’ something I’ve never forgotten.

How many leaders actually spend time trying to figure out what is demotivating their team? Have you, as a leader, ever asked a team member “what drives you nuts, and what can I do about?” Did you actually follow up on the question? (If you didn’t follow up, it was probably a demotivating moment for your team member.)

What are some examples of demotivators?

  • Wasting time working on the wrong things
  • Being asked your opinion even though a decision has already been made
  • Being promised something, but nothing ever comes of it – not even an explanation or apology
  • Leaders with no vision
  • Being ignored or unappreciated
  • Leaders who never say “thank you”
  • Being taken for granted
  • Being manipulated
  • Leaders who are inaccessible behind closed doors, too busy or stressed to spend time with the team
  • Delegation without empowerment
  • Delegation followed by an overruling because the leader didn’t like the results
  • Leaders who brag about how much money they make
  • Leaders who are too busy talking to listen

I once had a lady named “Cindy” in my group at work. She was interviewing for another job, and I didn’t want to lose her from the group. So I asked her if there was anything I could do to keep her. I asked, “Is “Glenn” annoying you? I’d be happy to fire him.” (That was a joke. The annoyance was the other way around actually…) The point is this: have you ever had that kind of discussion with a team member?

A self-motivated team member will go to the ends of the earth for the team and for the leader. Unless something gets in the way. Unless a demotivator sucks the life out of them.

Leaders. Go talk to your teams! Find out what is knocking the wind out of their sails. Then – and here’s the key – do something about it!

This principal applies both in the business world and in volunteer organizations. In fact, I think it is even more important in volunteer organizations. A demotivated volunteer can simply walk away leaving a hole in the organization. A demotivated employee may stick around long enough for you to eventually fix the problem.

So stop trying to motivate your people and start undemotivating them.  (Yes, I’m hoping to coin a new word here.)



One Response to Demotivation

  1. TREVOR JONES says:

    interesting, no philosophies and ancient models, just straight talking.


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