Month: July 2009

Teambuilding: More Than just Teamwork

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Yesterday was a whirlwind as our team facilitated a commercial challenge teambuilding event. Cameras were rolling and competition was in the air as 12 teams created a customized 60 second commercial answering a specific question on how their customer viewed a particular product.  I could see a determined focus in the teams as they set out to write their script, choose roles, scout locations, and obtain the perfect props to enhance their film.  It always amazes me what group and individual dynamics appear during a teambuilding event. Some of the behaviors are new while others are tried and true stand bys that seem to creep up to the service anytime stress or tension is in the air.

As I observed and worked with the teams, four things stood out:

  1. Leaders Emerged Quickly: This particular group of 100 people was not shy and the leaders emerged quickly.   The gauntlet had been thrown and the teams were on a mission to win one of the awards along with the bragging rights of having the coolest commercial.
  2. Inspired Creativity: Sometimes a creative spark is easy to generate to get the ball rolling while other times it can feel like the idea bank is nothing but a dry well.  Yesterday, the creative energy was alive and flowing as teams summoned their imaginations that may have been dormant for years and turned common everyday items into magnificent commercial props. Sometimes a hotel towel can turn into a life saving vest!
  3. Shared Experience: It seems that the more technology influences our daily lives the more disconnected and removed we become from face to face contact.  The teambuilding event brought back the ability for people to hang out, bond, work outside of their comfort zones, and share laughter.  This shared experience is now a part of their memories and technology is not able to delete this from their memory database.
  4. The Customers’ Shoes: One of the objectives of the event was to create a compelling commercial from the perspective of the customer. What a great opportunity to take a test drive and walk in the customers’ shoes. The insights that were gained by shifting perspectives were very enlightening for the participants.

Teambuilding when done effectively with a purpose and clear objectives in mind can be a powerful motivator for groups large and small. The group of 100 participants yesterday experienced learning the old fashioned way by igniting the power of creativity and imagination.

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An Inside Look at Employee Motivation

Mexico Sunset

Celebrate! Another goal has been reached we have entered the Twitteruniverse – @WhatMotivates.

This is an exciting time at the Lantern Group as we embark on several new adventures.  Adventures that will hopefully position us to be more effective in helping companies engage their workforce; in expanding our knowledge and understanding of motivation; and in creating a workplace where we can grow and prosper.

Our process of transformation began back in March 2009. Despite the down turn in the economy our rock star leader decided it was the perfect time to retool, check in on our dreams, and decide on what is next for The Lantern Group as an organization. The company has enjoyed success and we have worked with great clients, but what was next?

Our team of three (along with their wonderful spouses) met in sunny Mexico, what a great place to dream, vision, and tap into what motivates and drives us as an organization. We determined that it was time to make a pretty dramatic shift to really tap into what drives and motivates us – employee motivation. 

Employee motivation is not a new concept, it has been around a long time but what has excited us is incorporating and enhancing what we already know with a new motivational theory – the four drive theory. This theory is practical, provides a language around employee motivation, and it integrates well with other great theories. We discussed, set goals, including those stretch goals, and created a plan.

We left Mexico excited and ready to embark on a new journey.  Four months have passed and we have been rocking our goals, oh and continuing with our client work of course!

So what have we accomplished in the past four months, here is a sampling:

  • Expanded Research: We studied the 4-Drive Model, extended how it can be used inside companies, conducted a number of employee interviews, and found our niche.
  • Brand New Website: Currently in development – to be released to the world very soon!
  • The Lantern Group Blog: What Motivates You was created and is live! Check out the great posts: http://thelanterngroup.wordpress.com/
  • Twitter: Officially became members of the Twitteruniverse. Come along and follow us @WhatMotivates
  • Product Development: A lot of great new products are being developed behind the scenes, we may need some ‘testers’ in the future so be on the lookout for announcements!
  • Cool Merchandise: Yes, we are developing some rocking merchandise working with a graphic designer to help bring our motivation vision to life. Because it is all about helping individuals, teams, and organizations be the best they can be by unleashing their potential.  Woohoo!

Not bad for a team of 3 people huh? It is amazing what a team can accomplish when they have a clear vision, hold each other accountable, the goals are aligned to the individual strengths and talents of the team members, and enjoy some celebrating along the way. Work can be fun right? Oh yes it can!

It is an exciting time at The Lantern Group and we are grateful to those that have been with us from the beginning and we look forward to those we will be working with in the future.

Come and join us on the adventure as we are inspired by What Motivates You!

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Employee Motivation – 9 simple tips for Managers

Employee motivation, in my view, is key to creating long term successful companies.  While there are no magic bullets out there, here are 9 tips that we’ve gathered over the years that can help any manager improve the motivation of the people working for him or her.

1.  Understand that everyone is motivated differently

We often apply the same motivational programs, ideas and processes across the board to the people that work for us.  Too often this is based on our own belief of what is motivating.  We tell ourselves, “well this would be motivating to me” believing that it should then be motivating to everyone.  Managers need to understand that we all have different motivational profiles.  By tapping into the individual needs of our employees we can maximize the effectiveness of our work.   Look to the 4-Drive Model to help understand all the different levers that a manager can use to touch the most people.

2. People don’t always know what is motivating to them

In response to the first question, managers often go about asking their employees “what would motivate you?”  While on the surface, this is good, it is important to understand that not everyone knows what really motivates them.  Research has shown, that when asked, people rate money as the number one motivator more than 70% of the time.  However, in certain side by side experiments performance improved significantly more when people were rewarded with merchandise or travel compared to money (see work by Scott Jeffrey).  Don’t just ask people but get to understand what drives them, understand what works specifically with each individual, find out each person’s personality and use data to find out the underlying motivators for each employee.  Henry Ford’s statement, “If I had built what people said the wanted, I would have built a faster horse” rings true.

3.  Fear works for only a short time

Often the default motivation lies in the command and control management style that uses fear to motivate behavior change.  The problem with this is that it only works as long as it is monitored and does not produce long lasting change.  Even worse, it creates a lack of trust and loyalty so that people tend to leave the company or sabotage it more often.   It is important to understand that managers often create a fearful situation through ignorance and not on purpose.   This is done through managers actions (or lack of actions) and words (or lack of words) that could be misconstrued or interpreted in the wrong way.  Humans have the innate tendency to think the worse if something has any ambiguity around it.

4.  Work with people to set specific, achievable goals

Locke and Latham have shown that goals, when they are perceived as achievable (but have a stretch aspect to them) drive significant performance improvement.  Employees are highly motivated to achieve goals that they have.  Managers need to make sure that goals are clear (have employees repeat the goal to them – particularly if they are team goals), focused on (have employees write them down and put in a prominent place or state them publicly), and that employees believe that the goals can be achieved (ask about the viability of achieving them).  Long term goals should have shorter term milestones that employees can achieve along the way.

5. Provide challenge and variety in the work place

The Comprehend/Challenge Drive shows how important it is for employees to be challenged or learning new things in their job.  Too often managers don’t allow their employees to expand beyond their areas of expertise.  Managers are fearful that they will need to expend too much energy on training or reviewing work, that there will be too many mistakes, or that the employees don’t want to have to learn more.  Job sharing, job rotations, special projects, strategic offsites, or even including employees in on key decisions can have a significant and positive impact on long term motivation.

6.  Take the time to focus on building relationships

Managers don’t often see the benefit of casual conversation, birthday celebrations, team sports leagues, team building events, or after hour get togethers.  They can take productive time away from work or interfere with people’s family time.  Again, the long term impact of developing meaningful relationships with people at work can drive increased motivation.  These types of things can be overdone, however, they do contribute to a more positive work environement and create opportunities for team members to bond.

7.  Frame discussions in the positive

Managers don’t understand the power their words can have on the motivation of their team.  David Cooperwriter showed in his research on appreciative inquiry, that the way something is framed (e.g., an issue, problem, opportunity) can impact how companies and people respond to it.   Managers too often focus on the negative aspects of work and don’t spend enough time on framing the postive and the potential.

8.  Recognize sincerely and in a timely manner

Too often as managers we take the easy way out and recognize people only when we have a recognition program, or at the end of the quarter, or at a yearly review.  People need more positive reinforcement that is both sincere and timely.  As a manager, we need to search for things that our employees are doing and recognize them right away.  However, do not make up or recognize things that are not sincerely appreciated – it is amazing how good people are at detecting these kinds of inscincere or false praise.

9.  Keep working at it

My job involves working with motivation on almost a daily basis…yet I still need a lot of help in this area (just ask Susan and Ash).  I have to keep at it and learning every day.  As managers, motivation isn’t something that we can schedule for every other Tuesday.  It is a daily activity and mindset that we need to be constantly tweaking and improving.

Of course there are a number of other things that we as managers can do to impact our employees motivation, but hopefully these have provided you some insight.  Please let us know some of your hints and practices.

Cheers!

Kurt

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Performance Review Blunders Impact Employee Motivation

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Every year most employees go through a performance review process where the employee and the manager set goals for the upcoming year.  In the past 15 years of working in and with organizations, I have experienced a variety of performance reviews.  Each of them had the good intention of reviewing past performance and setting performance goals and metrics for the upcoming year. But each performance review process regardless of how well thought out and defined seemed to fall short. 

Some of the most common performance review blunders are:

  • Goals are set for the upcoming year but they are not the right goals
  • The performance review is a surprise to the employee
  • The performance review conversation is one way – manager to employee
  • If this is the first time the employee has heard any feedback on their performance during the year, it results in a lack of buy in and authenticity to the performance review
  • Lack of performance documentation throughout the year leads to a performance review that covers only the last 2 months of the performance year

There are probably many other blunders that could be listed above, but this list provides a glimpse of how a poorly developed and delivered performance review can turn even the best employee into a disengaged employee.

Now that you are aware of the potential blunders, what will you do to improve your performance review process?

It is never too late to change.

Motivating a team

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I had an e-mail on Monday from a teacher who wanted to know how to motivate his speech team. While this is out of the realm of things we typically work on, it intrigued me. Below is my response:

“I have been thinking about your question and how you could use some motivational techniques with your speech team. I definitely believe that motivation is something that can be used with high school students in a number of situations such as the classroom, sports, and extracurricular activities such as debate and speech.

Some of the key things that I think would help in motivating the students on your speech team include:

1. Understand that each individual will have a different motivational profile. In other words, individually they are going to be more motivated by different things. For some, it is going to be the challenge of being in a competition or improving themselves (i.e. the Challenge Drive). For others it might be the prestige and recognition that would go along with winning a contest (i.e., the Acquire Drive). And for others it could be the comradery they have from being on the team and furthering those relationships (i.e., the Bond Drive). For others it might be that they don’t want to lose or be bested by another team (i.e., the Defend Drive). That being said, we are currently working on a tool to help people better understand their motivational profile in terms of the 4-drives. The tool is not currently completed (I can send it to you when it is), but in the mean time you can ask questions of your team to try to figure out which of the 4-drives (Acquire, Bond, Challenge/Comprehend, or Defend) is the greatest motivator for them.

I would use open ended questions such as “Tell me what you think it would be like to win XX contest?” “What will make you the proudest about winning?” “What are you looking forward to most after winning the prize?” “What are you going to focus on to motivate you to practice – even when you don’t want to?” “If you put one or two words up on your mirror to motivate you every day, what would those words be?” Use the responses from these to try to figure what drives each students motivation.

2. Customize how you talk to each individual to leverage their individual drives. For instance, if someone is motivated by the prestige of winning, talk about how they are recognized, what type of trophies they earn, or how proud their parents/peers/teachers will be. If the individual is driven by the challenge, talk to them about how they are learning and growing by working through this, how they can demonstrate their knowledge by how well they do, and how they will be able to use their newly acquired skill set in the future.

3. Have the students set individual goals for what they want to accomplish. Have them write these down and share them with the team. The goals should be stretch goals and be as specific as possible. Remind them of their individual goals when you talk with them.

4. Have a team goal that is a stretch for them. Have them think about what it would mean to achieve this goal and what they need to do individually to help the team achieve it. Have them make a verbal commitment to doing that. Set key milestones to achieving this goal (steps to the final goal with specific timeline for achieving them) and celebrate when the team achieves them.

5. Have them write down the two or three motivational words that will keep them inspired throughout the process and put them in a prominent place where they will see them every day.

6. If possible, have them pick a topic that aligns with their motivation and interest. Or have them frame the speech with that in mind. If you can tap into their intrinsic motivation around a topic or idea, then you will need less of other types of motivation to keep them going.

These are some simple ideas, but hopefully they might spark an idea or two for you. I would also invite you to join our newsletter mailing list – these come out quarterly and provide some insight into motivation that you might find useful. You can sign up by going out to www.lanterngroup.com and clicking the newsletter icon.

Good luck and let me know if any of this was helpful!”

Kurt

Favorite Quotes

I like quotes, but often feel like they get misused. Quotes in and of themselves do not help create a motivational workplace. I’ve been in many offices where they have the “Successories” posters hanging all around, and the motivation level is putrid. I’ve seen managers pull out quotes to describe any situation or provide a witty response to an employee need. Too often, I feel that quotes are a simple way out of thinking too hard oneself.

Quotes are best used, in my opinion, for three purposes: first, when they have an intrinsic connection to the individual and provide them with insight, reflection, or a reminder of something that is important to them; second, when they can say something better than we can to expound on an idea, a concept or an attitude; and third, when the words take on a different significance because of the original author.
That being said, here are just a few of my favorite motivational quotes and why.

“Never think you know” – author unknown.

This was written in a tunnel on the campus of the University of Iowa when I was a freshman there. I copied it down on a ruled sheet of paper and had it posted to my bulletin board for years. To me it was a way of challenging the presumptions that we all have. It touched a part of what drives me – the drive to comprehend, to understand, to know and not just presume. In my head, I typically said, “know you know” after reading it. Go ahead, try it.

“Become the change you want to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi

This quote is one that is often overused but I like it for the story behind it and the simple, clear message it provides. Supposedly, Gandhi was approached by a woman and her son. The son was overweight. The woman pleaded with Gandhi to tell her son to stop eating sweats, to which Gandhi answered, “I cannot. Come back in a month.” The woman brought back her son in a month and this time Gandhi told him to stop eating sweats. He himself had given them up – therefore he had “become the change” that was needed.

“The important thing is to not stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein

This quote has an intrinsic appeal to me, particularly coming from the likes of one of the greatest scientists of all time. It gets at a point that I feel is important. It reminds me to keep pushing the boundaries and never stop asking the question “why?”

Please let me know some of your favorite quotes and more importantly why…

Interviews Show That Compensation Plans Are Not Effective

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Do you know how you are compensated for the work that you do?

You may be surprised that there are many employees who have little understanding of how they are compensated for their work.   How can that be possible? Aren’t employees motivated by money? If this is true, then why would they not know how to squeeze every penny out of their compensation plan and maximize it?

Over the last year, I have interviewed approximately 50 individuals soliciting feedback about their incentive compensation plan.   Surprisingly, even though the industries and compensation plans were different, the interviewees stated similar concerns about how they were compensated for their work.  

Here is a snapshot of some of the responses:

  • Interviewees did not fully understand how they earned with their compensation plan
  • The compensation plan was too complex
  • The compensation plan was not communicated or trained effectively
  • The compensation plan components did not reflect actual job duties in the field

The above concerns can lead to an unmotivated workforce which can turn into organizational or departmental goals being unmet. There is little room for error in today’s economy because it may determine the success or demise of an organization.

In this new economy, effective and aligned compensation plans can be an effective tool for harnessing individual, team, and organizational success.

How companies get motivation Wrong – the slides

New Virus in the Workforce – Motivationitis

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Monday started like any other day for Catherine. She arrived at work, turned on her computer, scrolled through 100 emails or so, and checked her voicemail. Before coming into work today she felt fine in fact Catherine was singing in her car, smiling, and quite happy.  But after her initial morning routine was completed she found herself staring at the computer screen, not moving like a wax statue and before she knew it 10 minutes had past. She shook it off and wondered what is wrong with me?

She thought to herself,“Why am I just bla, I have no energy, where is the zip I had this morning when I was singing in the car?”

Catherine glanced over at her coworker, who was crazy busy shuffling papers to and fro and looking like at any moment she might collapse from exhaustion. Catherine rolled her chair over to Diane’s cube and asked, “What is wrong with me, my morning was going great and now I don’t feel so well. I have no energy and I caught myself staring at my computer screen for 10 minutes, this is not normal.”

Diane kindly smiled and said, “Awe, I know what is happening, you have a virus called lack of motivationitis, I heard it has been going around the office lately.”

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Lack of motivationitis is not a real scientifically vouched for virus but the signs and symptoms of an unmotivated workforce are just as toxic as any real virus. Motivationitis can spread and corrupt an organization quietly and without warning. You may have experienced the symptoms yourself;

  • no energy
  • no focus
  • lack of concentration
  • inability to make a decision
  • distracted easily
  • you make a to do list and that is your accomplishment for the day

Do you recognize yourself in any of the descriptions?

What do you do when you feel a lack of motivation taking over your work day?

Do you succumb to it or do you change your perspective and persevere?

When your motivational drive is in the tank sometimes a change is needed in the form of routine, tasks, or environment.  The solution(s) can vary but if you concentrate on moving forward instead of staring at the computer screen you will be able to move forward, eventually clearing out the last remnants of the motivationitis virus.

Motivation Vacation – Work Productivity on the Rise before the Fourth of July

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The Fourth of July, Independence Day holiday is almost upon us and many Americans will enjoy some time off from work: spending time with their families, having a picnic in the park, or simply enjoying a local fireworks show. Have you ever noticed what happens to work productivity right before a holiday or a vacation? Does it increase dramatically? The motivator may be making sure projects and clients will be well taken care of while you are gone or simply wanting a guilt free holiday or vacation.

I have noticed an increase in my work productivity right before I go on vacation or before a holiday. It is part of the process I go through and one I actually enjoy.

What, did I just say that? Yes, I enjoy taking care of loose ends, transferring project details, and cleaning up my massive piles of papers on my desk.

I love the feeling of letting go and not worrying about every little thing because I have been diligent about making sure I have a back up person in place in case something happens while I am away. Therefore, the work involved, making sure I have communicated to the right people, projects files have been shared, and worst case scenarios have been thought through is neither easy nor simple.  But it is a necessary part of the vacation or holiday process.

Today if you catch yourself staring at the massive piles of papers on your desk or daydreaming about the fireworks show you may see on the Fourth of July don’t be alarmed, take a deep breath and find your inner motivational muse. I double dog dare you to take the first step of clearing up the clutter in your work life in order to make way for the wave of freedom that is coming your way tomorrow.

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