How to motivate the late, the lazy and the terminally uninspired

I work with teams and have done for the past 25+ years. Over those years, I’ve learned to ask my two most favourite questions:

I ask managers. ‘Would you like to be free of having to deal with fire-fighting/ crisis managing, and employees asking dumb questions for even just one day every week?’

And I ask employees – ‘How may of you get up on a cold wet Monday morning in the middle of Winter, leaping out of bed wanting to get to work?’ And I sit back and wait for everyone to fall off their chair, laughing themselves silly for the next few minutes!

Try it – I bet you get the exact same reaction.

I believe our work habits are left-over from The Industrial Age. In those days most employees were illiterate so managers had to tell them what to do and when to do it, and how to do it. And so to ensure speed of production, we unconsciously created a parent/child way of working; manager acting as ‘parent’ and employees acting and reacting like children.

We are now in what can best be described as The Age of Technology. Most employees in our workplaces are reasonably well educated; some are very well educated. Yet we still act out that old parent/child model.

It just doesn’t work, and in all honesty I don’t think it ever really did.

How to do this ‘work’ thing differently is the challenge, because even though we want better results in our workplaces, we don’t actually want to do anything differently in order to get those better results – it’s called human nature.

Humans simply don’t like ‘change’.

FACT: There’s very little career development any more. Organisationsal structures are now pretty flat. So to keep good staff, career growth may be more about encouraging them to learn more skills rather than climbing a ladder.

FACT: There’s is a real possibility of anyone’s skills becoming obsolete (because of technology) so it seems like a really good idea for employees to learn as much as they can, as often as they can, so they have other skills to fall back no matter what changes hit the workplace.

So as managers there are four powerful questions you can ask of your people to ensure you get your one day per week freed up and your employees DO get up every Monday wanting to come to work.

The questions are:

  1. Where would you like to be in 5 years?
  2. What skills do you need to get there?
  3. How can I help/coach/mentor you?
  4. I need to start delegating some things (to get rid of the $25 an hour jobs!)
  5. Which are of interest to you?
  6. Lets set a time for me to teach you.

And then get started.

All the steps above lead to the process of managers starting to work ON the business rather than IN it. It leads to them delegating all those trivial admin jobs and other ‘operational’ tasks that managers should not be doing. PLUS these jobs offer a growth opportunity for someone else.

Remember though, delegation is not abdication.

You’ll need to coach and mentor until the person is confident in taking over that job for you. And then you’ll have freed up that one day a week which can be far better used working on your business rather than in it. Yeah!