Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Shaye Feingboum, a known Israeli Football couch, once explained the reporters: "People say I am a 'motivator'; that means someone who injects motivation to his players".
No doubt, that in every profession, starting from football and reaching teachers, through manufacturing, medical cares and art, the worker's motivation is an essential factor of his or her productivity. No doubt, that motivation cannot be purchased, by a check any manager is willing to sign.

There are many theories that speak about motivation that triggers activity, and hopefully, assists in achieving desired goals. Two of the more famous related theories are Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory and John Adam's equity theory. Maslow defined a pyramid of needs, starting with physiological needs, through safety needs, love/belonging needs, esteems' needs and up to self-actualization needs. The individual's behavior is influenced from all. In order to achieve motivation, we should fulfill all five levels of the individual's needs. The lowest level of unfulfilled needs will be the one to block the individual's motivation. For example, if an individual will not feel safe in the place he or she work, then they can be respected thoroughly (esteems' level), yet will not feel motivated. And vice versa; The more we invest in supplying the necessities of the individual, in more levels, our chances to gain motivation of our worker, will rise.

Adams speaks about another aspect: equity. In order to achieve job motivation, the individual wants fair treatment. Fair is defined by comparing what the person invests in the organization, to what he or she receives; and fairness is defined by comparing what the specific person receives comparing it to what other colleagues receive, the near colleagues (in the same team / place of work) and the more far defined colleagues (working in the same profession / friends, etc.). The Adams theory enables us to better implement Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory: Also, when we give the workers a partial answer for their needs, if they feel that what they receive is relatively fair, these partial answers may be enough for triggering motivation. Even if the business is experiencing difficulties (economical or others), what is important is the relative answer we give to the individual rather than the absolute one.

Above all these wise and important theories, I use various tools in order to motivate people:
First, I understand that there cannot be a uniform level of motivation for all employees and for each employee every day in the year. Motivation is triggered also from character, and people are different one another. Motivation is also influenced by external factors, factors that we cannot control: Coming angry to work, someone in the family sick, separation, etc. We have to be empathic to our employees and compare each one of them only to himself and to no one else. If we feel a motivation decrease, we should give it place, and watch in order to learn if it is an external passing problem, or a trend teaching us there is a motivation problem of the employee in the organization.

On the individual level:
I try to delegate authority. When a person knows that he or she are trusted, motivation increases. Of course, we have to prevent them from feeling "suckers" or helpless. Delegating authority must be accompanied with guiding, and should be conducted in an atmosphere of "big thinking"; not abuse.
I try to challenge my people. Challenges draw motivation;
I try to fit part of the assignments to things I know the person to fill it relates to, or likes to do. I try to highlight these aspects in existing activities;
Moreover, I try to respect and thank. Cherishing people for successful activities and good results is the fuel for motivation in the next activity to come.

On the personal level I try to show people how motivated I am, as much as possible. I try to show a good example, to serve as a role modeler. If we, as managers, are motivated, and if we are out there with sparkles in our eyes, we enhance the chances of our people to be motivated; and vice versa.

On the organizational level:
Two related tips;
First, a good organizational climate; the second, Share the employees in what is happening.
There are only few things better than causing our employees to want to come every morning to work, smiling and with motivation to work. In the company I manage, we held, a few months ago, our yearly satisfaction review. Naturally, the people included criticism too, and naturally, even though the "big picture" was good, these comments turned me sad. The day after we published results, one of the employees knocked on my door. He said: "I want you to know, that even though people included also less favorable comments, I come to work every day, smiling; I like to come to work; and I certainly am not the only one that feels that way". We cannot always have people only say good things and thank us. People tend to want better, and that is a good thing, because it turns the organization into a better one. Yet, we have to remember, to see that the climate is good, that the atmosphere is positive. We have to see to that, that our employees are happy to work in our organization, and happy to start their day with us.

What has it to do with sharing the employees? Employees that are shared in what is happening, feel more safe and less threatened (rumors are a recipe for trouble) and feel more belonging to the organization. Safety and belonging drive motivation. Did we mention, by any chance, Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory?


Saturday, October 11, 2008


"Life and death are in the power of the tongue", said King Solomon, in the Bible (Proverbs 18:21). Sages of blessed memory added: "silence is a fence for wisdom". Not always, speaking is the right thing to do. Not in all cases, using words, adds.

No doubt, that words are significant. They always had. However, it seems, that regarding to work, the power of words turns to more powerful. Why is it so? For two reasons:
First, in the reality that existed one hundred years ago, the employee had less interaction with his manager. Therefore, also if words were powerful, there were fewer opportunities for using them, when speaking about employee-manager communication. Secondly, the relationship between the manager and the employee have turned in the last years, in some aspects to be symmetric, and in others not. This lack of balance drives the word said or written to have much more influence. I will explain:
Today, employment is symmetric. This issue has been dealt in previous posts, but I wish to return to it and explain its consequences on use of words. In the past, a place to work was a choice for life. Today, people are regular to move on every few years, changing their employment. The initiative for such a change could be the manager, but could come also from the worker. This is the symmetry. If, as a manager, you have said something non-positive to an employee, or even you have been understood that way, it is easy for the employee to remember and turn angry and bitter. These can be translated, within time, to people not wishing to stay in work. It is not easy to know about such things. As in other aspects of life, it is easier to rune than to fix. In the former situation, also if such feelings would exist, their influence on the employees stay was minimal. As employees know that they are staying for many years, they knew how to ignore, not to take every issue and empower it. It resembles the relationships between a married couple. We know that the relationship is important; we know we want it to last. So we learn, as adults, not to get insulted from every said by the other. It is obvious that two grown people cannot see everything in the same way, yet it is not worthwhile heart breaking. The fact, that we see a specific place of work as a stage only, eases its breaking.
Yet, there is the a-symmetric part of the manager-employee relationship that was and is to stay: The word of a manager has more power. It has more influence. It flies far.

The combination of these two factors, the symmetric and the a-symmetric, makes life non-balanced. Make the power of the word more significant.

A few things I have learnt, part of them, the hard way:

Beware what you write to your employees. Especially when using email. Formal documents are in most cases professional, and rarely serve as part of the communication between a manager and his or her employee. When we speak with our employee face to face, we see them, hear them and sense them. It is easier to fix mistakes, if we failed in choosing our words. If we write a mail, backing off and rephrasing is much more complicated. Emails tend to be one dimensional, and the employee's impression is not supported by our facial expression, by the tone we use when we speak and by all our body language, which are, as researchers claim, the main part of what we understand in any message.
The use of email in the 21st century flattens the organization in some aspects, and should be considered as a blessing, yet it has potential faults as well. The flattening enables a channel of communication between various levels in the organization, communication that does not exist in other channels. The impact of every written word empowers, as it is not supported by the frame of all other accompanying channels, leaving the communication manly one channel, with one dimension only. Therefore, be careful! Even though it is tempting to write short and straightforward, when writing emails, consider every word and write what you decide- in more than in one way. That way, the chances of misunderstanding, decrease. Of course, we should memorize, time after time, that many issues should not be dealt by mail at all.

When you talk, and even more important, when you write, consider avoiding criticizing together with giving compliments. It is possible, but we should take in mind, as managers, that in many cases the compliment turns transparent. Nobody notices it, even if it was the major part. It does not matter if the complement precedes the critics or comes after. One time after another, I have learnt that people are selective in what they decide to catch. What do I recommend? To decide what is more important in each case, and stick to it, without adding the other part; or, take the risk, those things will be disregarded.

This is the place, before continuing, for an important tip. It is somehow natural for us to criticize, less natural to appreciate and value good things done. Appreciate your employees! When someone does a good job, do not treat it as obvious. Tell him or her, what you think, even better in writing. Even a short mail will do the work. It does not cost, but it is worth, and a lot. You would not believe as how much our employees are yearning to hear something good from us; how important it is to them. They deserve it, so give it! Say something good.

However, do not exaggerate. Write and say only the truth. The words we use, their value is subjective. If we reuse to much the term "excellent", for example, its value, as to the listener, will decrease drastically. If we do not give a complement every day, on every thing, we drive a situation, that when we do complement, its value amazingly is high. That way, it is also easy for us to give it, to say a good word, as we feel inside our hearts, that the people deserve it; that it is significant.

One last thing: When we want to pass an important message, it is best to pass it three times. Use more than one mail, or use more than one communication channel. We were born that way as people. In order to achieve more than hearing, also listening; more than reading, also heart and mind understanding, we must return and say it repeatedly.

Maybe, not in all situations, "Life and death are in the power of the tongue", but in all cases, the words are truly significant. For the better and for the worse.
On that, Sages of blessed memory said: "Wise people, beware what you say".