April 2010 – Behavior Matters!

Month: April 2010

5 minutes and 20 Slides: A Cool Motivator!

What would happen if at your next team meeting instead of talking off of your typical status spreadsheets your team each gave their status update in 5 minutes and using 20 PowerPoint slides? 

I recently came across Ignite Phoenix through one of my crazy online searches.  It is a really neat concept for those looking for a creative spark and an innovative motivator. During Ignite Phoenix, a group of people gather together and witness 18 presentations on topics from horrible office coffee to what I learned from cows. Each of the presenters has 5 minutes and 20 PowerPoint slides to share their story. That is it. Short and sweet.

One of the organizers, Jeff Moriarty, introduces Ignite Phoenix #6 and provides the foundation for what it is all about. Their YouTube video area is fun to check out and it might just motivate you to come up with your own ignite presentation!

What story would you tell if you had 5 minutes and 20 slides?


If you know someone that might benefit from this article pay it forward and pass it along.

P.S. The other fun video to checkout is Slideshow Karaoke it is really creative!

Warning Signs: Are Your Employees Motivated?

In previous blog articles we have discussed the positive or engaged traits of the 4-Drive Model. When employees are motivated and engaged in the work they do the 4-Drive Model can help provide a framework for what behavior is occurring in the workplace.  This is important as sometimes when discussing motivation it can be hard to put language around what is happening, the 4-Drive Model is one way to create a common language and understanding of motivational drives in the workplace.

So what happens when employees are disengaged? What are the characteristics within the 4-Drive Model that are on display?

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Personality and motivation – findings from my dissertation and how I was wrong

As some of you might know, I am working on my PhD in I/O Psychology and have been for many years.  Too many years actually – which is why I think my wife insisted that I attend a five day Dissertation Writers Retreat held by Capella University just outside of Chicago.  So for the last five days I’ve been working on Chapter 4 of my dissertation which is the results section.   I’ve been having a blast inputting data, crunching numbers, running statistical tests and analyzing the results and what I found out is surprising…at least it was for me.

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Celebrations – Love or Loathe?

Celebrations mark important milestone in organizations from project completions to recognizing employees for the number of years employed by the organization.

Like motivation, the process and appreciation of celebrating can vary from individual to individual.

Are you the type of person who loves or loathes the public display of celebrating your birthday at a chain restaurant? Come on, you know you want to try on the big sombrero and have your picture taken with 8 strange restaurant employees while you blow out a birthday candle on a sweet treat. You may have guessed from my past blog articles that I would be in the “love” column for public birthday celebrations. I love enrolling others in the restaurant to join in the celebration! The noisier, more obnoxious, and joyous the celebration the more I light up like a big bright star and shine with happiness.

But alas, not everyone enjoys what I like.  Despite how much I try and enroll others in a little Happy Birthday dance I understand that this type of celebration is not for everyone.  Remember that everyone is different and some may LOVE or LOATHE your company celebrations and there rarely is an in-between emotion.  I encourage you to take a look at how your organization celebrates: does it come off as something that needs to be done to check it off some master celebration to do list or is it genuine and personalized to the intended recipients?

Celebrations can be as simple as a meaningful phone call to congratulate an employee on something they did well that week or they can be full organization wide productions. Regardless of how big or small the celebration is keep  in mind that celebrations are like motivation in that every person has individual preferences and will react and appreciate the act of celebrating in a different manner.

Celebrating is natural and when done right can leave lasting, positive impressions on your organization and employees.


If you know someone that might benefit from this article pay it forward and pass it along.


When you get motivation right – Oak Ridge Hotel & Conference Center (part 1)

Susan and I just had the wonderful pleasure of spending a day interviewing 11 people at Oak Ridge Hotel & Conference Center to try to uncover their secret – because they have gotten the formula right on employee motivation.  Anyone who has ever stepped into their facility outside of Minneapolis can attest to the customer service mentality that every employee exhibits – from the front desk, to housekeeping, to the chefs, groundskeepers, and even in accounting.  There is a definite difference in how the majority of these employees “show up” at their job everyday and how they view and take care of their “guests”.  They are truly a company that is doing something right.  While we haven’t had time to fully analyze the interviews (we will in the upcoming weeks), there are a few things that I can say definitively:

1. Leadership counts – the one overriding conclusion that hit us in the face was how important leadership is in this process – they need to be present, genuine, and focused on the right things.

2. Its not about the money – I was a little surprise to hear (actually to NOT hear) about bonus plans or contests or other recognition that had a big dollar value.  It wasn’t important.  It didn’t drive their day-to-day activities or play an integral part in their motivation.

3.  It is about the team – teamwork was an overriding theme in all of the interviews that we did.  It wasn’t ever about “my job” but instead about serving the customer.  If that means that top managers have to change sheets, then that is what happens.

4.  Genuine recognition rejuvenates – real, honest recognition that is done on a regular basis, in public, helps reinvigorate and help drive the culture.  Knowing that their work is important and recognized keeps people engaged.

5.  Its about people – employees were seen as people first.  Management spent time getting to know them, getting to understand who they were, spending time finding out about their families and interests.  They care and it shows.

Over the next few weeks we will let you know more about our findings and get in depth with some analysis.  Oak Ridge Hotel & Conference Center has been kind enough to give us access to their people and allow us to share our insights with you.  There is something to learn here if you are interested in creating a workforce that is motivated and engaged. Stay tuned!



Amazon exiting the incentive game

The end of the game

So Amazon is leaving the incentive market which they just entered three years ago.  From all reports it isn’t because the venture isn’t profitable, but instead it is about ensuring that their brand and their customer service reputation are not sullied.  Paul Hebert in his blog wrote,the decision was made to drop fulfillment through incentive programs due to customer service issues.  Specifically, the recipient, if they had problems with their order, would call Amazon for resolution but Amazon would have to refer them back to the incentive company – who in turn would do the due diligence to fix the problem.  From Amazon’s point of view this created a negative impression of their customer service.” In a nutshell, they are taking a hit on millions of $ to make sure there is no negative impact on the billions of $ that they do in their non-incentive business.  In my mind, that is a pretty smart move (one that you wouldn’t see a lot of businesses making).  Now I’m sure there are other factors (i.e., tax issues, not controlling the customer relationship, etc…).  Nothing is ever quite as black and white as it seems.

In the short time that Amazon was in the market, they shook it up.  They offered a new way of fulfilling incentive program offerings.  With their great number of items, their back end processing and handling, drop ship expertise, and their low price points, Amazon was able to provide even the smallest incentive companies with a very sophisticated e-catalog of incentive goods.  No longer did an incentive house need to have the large capital expense of a warehouse and stocking products.  Amazon was able to provide the back-end seamlessly for a price that couldn’t be beat.

Playing against Amazon

I was part of a large pitch (as a partner with a traditional incentive house)  last fall to a company that loved what we did, trusted our customer service, thought that our creative approach was the best and liked the way we brought behavioral science into the process (i.e., The Lantern Group) – but, ended up going with a different company because they could offer more merchandise at a lower cost point.  How did that other company do it – they used Amazon as their fulfillment partner.  At that point, I thought I saw the writing on the wall – that the days of making large margins on merchandise were all but over.  How could the traditional companies compete, when smaller, more nimble and aggressive firms could come in and under-price while having a larger item selection and great fulfillment services.  In the debrief with the company about why we lost the business, the purchasing agent said, “…this is the wave of the future, all [incentive] companies should be doing this.”   It was going to be a new world – and I was excited!

Changing the game

For years the pricing model used by incentive companies has been margin based.  While there is nothing wrong with this conceptually, it does create an interesting dynamic.  Merchandise is the cash cow for these companies.  Without this, many of the companies will fail.  There is an underlying need to get people “into the warehouse.”  When I started my career (many eons ago) I was naive enough to think that when I was hired on at one of these incentive companies that I was going to work for a consulting firm that was trying to find the best way to motivate and engage employees.  What I found out was they were all for that – as long as the way to do motivate and engage led through the warehouse (I’m exaggerating a little here for emphasis, but there was an underlying culture of this).

While that culture has shifted slightly over the years, it is still present in the industry.   If Amazon was going to be able to undercut prices because of their buying power – then incentive companies were going to be forced to change their model.  This would mean finding other ways to make money – which would lead them to finding other ways to increase motivation.  The benefit would have been that these companies would have created a larger toolbox with more tools and thus not fall to the old idiom “when you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”   This would mean better solutions to motivation problems.

The next competitor

While Amazon might be leaving, they showed that there was a desire in the marketplace for something like this.  I don’t think there is another company right now that could fill that role, but that doesn’t mean in the future there couldn’t be.  So, with that in mind, it is important to think about the next game.  What will this mean for the traditional incentive houses, for the mid or small sized performance improvement firms?  Will someone take that bold step to change the game and bring in a different set of plays and players or will they exhale a deep breathe, thankful the other team forfeited, and go back to their old ways of playing?  Right now, we’ll just have to wait and see…

Please share your thoughts and rants on this…would love to get a nice dialogue going.


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Motivation: Simple and Elegant

Some days the words just do not come, they do not flow like you would like them to so you sit and wait.  Waiting for some of us can be agony as we are used to moving things forward and making things happen.

The cursor continues to blink back at me, taunting me with its steady rhythm daring me to start typing even if I have no clue where to start. I take the challenge and start to type.  This is what comes out,

“What motivates you today?”

There is something to be said with keeping it simple.


We would love to hear what motivates you today – leave a comment below.


If you know someone that might benefit from this article pay it forward and pass it along.


Four Drive: Great Tips to Increase Employee Motivation

A few weeks ago during the Motivation Webinar, Kurt Nelson reviewed some practical everyday things you can do to increase employee motivation in each of the Four Drives.  Regardless if you attended or reviewed the webinar slides, the following tips are good reminders and may spark further ideas for you today on how to increase your employee’s motivation!

Drive to Achieve & Acquire:

  • Recognize or provide incentives for your employees in a customized manner (one size does not fit all)
  • Ensure recognition is timely and focuses on achievements
  • Reward your employees with appropriate and individualized tools, (i.e. a $20 gas card would not be a motivator for someone that telecommutes)
  • Make recognition a priority utilizing formal and informal methods – ensure you do this on a regular basis
  • Get creative, some of the best recognition is low cost but high in creativity

Creative Resource: 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, Bob Nelson PhD

Drive to Bond & Belong:

  • Create and support opportunities for employees to connect on a personal level, i.e. potluck lunches, business book clubs, work softball teams, bowling leagues, etc.
  • Develop formal job sharing/rotation where peers learn other jobs on the team
  • Understand that there is a human need to connect with others, remember to balance the perspective of employees ‘goofing off’
  • Organize a share and tell day, where employees get together and share what they do within the company and how their job fits into the bigger picture

Resource: http://www.thiagi.com

Drive to Comprehend & Challenge:

  • Provide challenging work assignments that allow your employees to grow
  • Create opportunities for your employees to cross train into other areas of the company that they might be interested in learning
  • Share fun/interesting magazines or journals with your employees, highlight interesting articles and then have them pass along to the next person
  • Set achievable but realistic stretch goals – have a goal setting meeting with employees

Resource: Work Motivation: History, Theory, Research and Practice by Gary Lathum

 Drive to Define & Defend:

  • Provide time off /company time for charitable work
  • Ensure you have a clear Mission
  • Be transparent with information, this will foster an environment of trust and pride
  • Actions speak louder than words, have your employees back, believe in them
  • Ask for testimonials from customers have them share their experience with your company and then share those with your employees

Resource: Driven HBR Article: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/2543.html

What tips do you have to increase employee motivation in each of the Four Drives? We would love to hear your ideas, leave a comment below.


If you know someone that might benefit from this article pay it forward and pass it along.


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