February 2010 – Behavior Matters!

Month: February 2010

What Do Manager’s Need?

The Drive to Define and Defend: A Smile can Crack the Armor

Today started out like any other day, the alarm clock buzzed, I consumed massive amounts of coffee, and then I drove to a conference center for our company’s annual strategy meeting.

I entered the conference center’s lobby and I was immediately greeted by the person at the front desk with a big smile and a, “Good Morning, how may I help you?” I responded by asking where a particular conference room was and with the same smile and cheerfulness she directed me to the appropriate room.

The entire exchange took less than 5 minutes but it left an impression on me. I started to wonder what my day would look like if every day someone greeted me with a smile and a sincere desire to help me.  We live in interesting times and many individuals are guarded and their Drive to Define & Defend is in full force. Besides putting on clothes for the morning, individuals are adding an additional layer of invisible but very real armor to protect them from the hostilities of the outside world. It is a very natural defense mechanism to want to protect ourselves from the ‘yuck’ of the world. I think about Disneyworld and how it is a very popular attraction for kids and adults. Why is it so popular? It is the one place on earth where adults are given permission to dream, to believe in magic, to shed their armor, and let down their guard.

Carrying this extra armor around of protection is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining but the thought of not carrying it around frightens even the strongest of us. Protecting ourselves is a strong motivator and one that is more instinctual then deliberate. But sometimes a smile from another individual can crack the armor and allow a brief moment of respite.

Today would be a great day to send out a smile to a stranger, it is free, it is easy, and it could provide an oasis of hope in a world full of ‘yuck’ for someone just in time.


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Part One: What Motivates an Olympic Athlete?

You may have caught a glimpse of the Winter Olympic Games on television this week as Vancouver hosts the world’s best athletes. The Olympics are an amazing competition full of tradition, athleticism, teamwork, determination, and perseverance. The athletes are interviewed, marketed, and packaged for the viewers like a good action movie complete with personal tragedies, heroes, villains, and great nail biting endings.

What impresses me the most is the human spirit and how the athletes handle the pressure and the honor of being an Olympian.

Where does the motivation come from…

  • to be the best in the world at something?
  • to sacrifice?
  • to train?
  • to raise money to fund an Olympic dream?
  • to represent an entire country?
  • to know that in an instant a dream will be fulfilled or come crashing to the ground?

The Olympic athlete is the Four Drive Model personified in human form. The motivational drives that fuel the athletes are internal drives that pick them up when they fall down, push them to train just one more hour, or to face their fears in front of millions of people. When is the last time you failed in front of millions?

It is a courageous act to be an Olympic athlete and compete against the world’s best. As I watch the Winter Olympic Games I am in awe of the dedication and passion the athletes demonstrate to the world. It is a gift to catch a glimpse of a dream realized through a competitive sport born out of an idea to be the best in the world.


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Opposing Perspectives Inspire Creativity

Derek Sivers, from MuckWork presented at the TED Conference. The clip below shows a very poignant perspective on how one thing can be true in one part of the world and the opposite in another part of the world. The discovery is how to utilize opposing perspectives to spark creativity.

How would a current problem of yours look differently if you viewed it from the opposite perspective?


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Undercover Boss: Remembering the People Factor

A new television show premiered after the big Super Bowl game last Sunday, Undercover Boss. The reality show follows a senior executive who steps down temporarily from their position and becomes a rank and file employee for 7 days. They literally go undercover changing their appearance so as not to be recognized and become a member of the front line. The purpose is for the senior executive to get a real sense of what happens on the front lines of their organization by trying out various front line job positions.

The episode last Sunday featured Larry O’Donnell, President and Chief Operating Officer of Waste Management.  

His motivation for wanting to go undercover was to find out the following:

·         How did the policies that were made at corporate affect the actual employees who had to implement them in the field

·         Were the safety procedures being implemented in the field and adhered to on a day to day basis

·         Were the goals and targets that he set realistic

It was fascinating to watch a senior executive tackle various front line job responsibilities like picking up paper, sorting through recycling items, or cleaning out port-o-potties. He had to learn the basics of the job very quickly and pretend at the same time that he knew nothing about the organization.  It appears that he learned a lot during his time in the field. He was able to interact with the employees of Waste Management on a different level and it seemed like he had a renewed sense of pride for his organization. He found out that some of the policies and procedures that he had implemented were not affective in the field.  A humbling experience in and of itself to see how something that sounded like a good idea can in fact have a negative ripple effect with employees.

How many times does that happen in an organization? An idea seems great at corporate but when it actually gets into the field it falls short of expectations and takes the organization 2 steps backwards instead of 5 steps forwards. A senior executive has many demands and expectations placed on them especially during hard economic times. The people factor is usually the first company value to be ignored as the organization goes into survival mode. This is understandable but it would be wise to remember that the employees in an organization will remember how they are treated in the tough times as well as the good times. So why not break the mold and work together as an organization to come up with solutions that are both cost effective, generate revenue, and recognize employees for their skills and talents. There is a reason why they were hired into the organization, utilize their expertise and their knowledge and you may be surprised at the outcome.  

I believe that Mr. O’Donnell has a new appreciation for his employees and Waste Management will probably be a better organization because of his willingness to go undercover and listen.  


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What really motivates employees?

Harvard Business Review discusses a study that looked at what really drives employee motivation. While the study is really looking at emotions and what satisfies employees and makes them happy (and not really “motivation” per se), it does reveal some interesting findings. The most important is that employees having a sense of progress is a key driver in this aspect.


Of course this ties right into two of the four drives: Acquire & Achieve and Challenge & Comprehend. As employees, we need to feel like we are Achieving something – i.e., making progress. When we feel we are stuck or not moving forward, we are not satisfying our drive to Achieve.  We also are motivated to be challenged – but we need to see progress in this arena in order to stay motivated by it.

While the study shed light on how progress motivates, it did not dig in deep to how this works.  For instance the HBR study did not explore what type of progress was greater motivator — progress on everyday simple tasks or those tasks that are challenging.  I would theorize that progress on the challenging goals has a higher impact.   Nor did it look at the effect of proximity to the end goal.  In other words, is it more motivating to achieve progress towards a goal at the very beginning or closer to the end (e.g., example of getting the first 1,000 miles towards your frequent flyer free trip or getting the 24,000 mile (when you need 25,000 to earn the free trip))?

Overall the HBR article brought up some key insights that will help us all in understanding what motivates us. Read the HBR article here

Stuck in the Muck – Which of the Four Drives Motivates You the Most?

If you are looking for a little fun today read on as it may just help you get unstuck and moving forward!

Think back to a time, and it may even be right now, that you were in a slump, no desire to do a whole lot and not quite sure what will get you going again. It is times like these where looking at the situation from a different perspective can help you get unstuck and moving forward even if it is just baby steps of progress.

The Four Drive Model is our perspective shifter today and yes that is a very technical term.  When you are stuck, which of the four drives below is the one that can pull you out of the muck and get you going again? (This is a self assessment and by no means scientific but it will help shift your perspective and harness one of the drives to pull you out of the muck.)

Are you driven by the ability to Acquire & Achieve?

You are jazzed by setting and reaching your goals, receiving recognition for a job well done, and/or receiving an incentive for completing and reaching a goal.

Are you driven by the ability to Bond & Belong?

You enjoy and are energized by other people, collaborating on a project, feeding off the thoughts and ideas of others help you in completing your tasks.

Are you driven by the ability to Comprehend & Challenge?

You thrive off of a challenge and learning something new and if it is in service of the greater good even better!

Are you driven by the ability to Define & Defend?

You protect your beliefs and your work and enjoy a healthy debate that helps define your work in a new manner.

Have you chosen the drive that will help you get unstuck? If not, go back and read through the descriptions again and go with your gut, which one makes you smile and internally say, “Yes that is it!”

The ability to see a situation from a different perspective combined with a motivating drive can be the start of getting you out of the muck.


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