Friday, July 9, 2010

The HOW Question - Your most potent motivator

Employee motivation. It’s the number one problem on the minds of most managers. When I worked as an underwater salvage master, the job of motivating the team typically fell on my shoulders. I’ve tried everything from a bullwhip and cattle prod to throwing fists-full of hundred dollar bills at people. Asking the HOW question has proven to be the most potent motivator I’ve found. As a problem solver and trainer, I’ve taught this tool to hundreds of managers who have used it with outstanding success.
Before we get into what works, let’s talk about what doesn’t. Money is the least powerful motivator. When you give an employee a raise, will he or she magically become motivated to work harder? NO! Human nature dictates that money motivates employee behavior only in advance of the raise or bonus. The employee works hard to earn the extra money, but once it’s been absorbed into their budget, the raise has little or no ongoing motivating effect.
In survey after survey the most potent motivator has been interesting work. One of the best ways to make work interesting for the typical employee is for them to have input into HOW the work is done. Do you often get an eye-roll or some other form of push-back when you tell an employee how to do a job? What do you think their response would be if you asked them HOW they can do it the fastest or safest, with the best result?

When you ask someone the HOW question, several attitudinal changes happen:
1. The employee is given a morale boost - they’re honored that you asked their opinion. You may not always agree with them, and you may not use their idea, but they’ll always feel valued that you asked.
2. The next change is that employee gets to think about the best way to do a job. He takes into consideration parts of the job you may not have thought of. And who better to think through all the intricacies of performing a job than the one who is hands-on and has a working knowledge of the problems involved? Typically they’ll find the fastest and easiest way to do the job, which is often the least expensive.
3. Once you approve their method, the person owns not only the method - they own the results. It’s called buy-in. You haven’t dictated to them about how to do the job. They came up with it themselves. They now own the method and the outcome.
4. When an employee is asked HOW to perform a job and you approve of their method, do you think they’ll work harder to make it work than if you just dictated the method you thought up? I guarantee it! The reason is because the employee now has a stake in the outcome and they’ll bust their fanny to succeed.
Asking the HOW question is a proven long-term motivational tool. If you’ll learn it and use it every time you have a chance, you’ll build a motivated team of powerful, creative employees who will take your organization to the next level. I promise!

Guest blogger, Bob Walker provides organizations with immediate practical solutions to management and team problems that involve Communication, Conflict, and Ineffective Performance.

© 2009 Bob Walker
Sink or Swim Problem Solving

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