“Team work makes the dream wok”, yet everyone's dream is different so which dream are we working on?
Everyone is tired from working long hours and another call for service comes in, what will the team do? Leadership has a dream that everyone will work together peacefully and profitably but the reality is that the motivation train doesn’t always steam along down those tracks without some fuel to propel it. In these situations, what will stimulate individuals to action - which team will be responding to which dream?
There are many managerial delusions, one of which is that everyone marches to the company drum beat. Only the extremely deluded would state it in such blatant terms but many managers express this sentiment in other ways. The truth is that people rarely go above and beyond for a company because of the company. Brand loyalty alone is not typically a primary motivation for employees as though a mid-level manager can summon the name on the logo as a beacon to action for the minions. Enduring motivation for individuals come from a sense of family (within the team), a sense of duty to someone they respect (leader or peer) or a need for remuneration (financial goals). It's important to understand what makes the individuals on your team tick so that you can attempt to connect with them to help build collaboration within the team. If you know just enough to be dangerous, or so that you can manipulate people, this dark art of stimulation will only last so long before you will run out of trust currency.
In the discussion of motivation I have yet to meet a person in a position of leadership who hasn’t attempted some level of incentives for their organization. Jeremy Watkin, who is the Head of Quality for FCR and a featured columnist for Customer Think, shares his experiences and insights with incentive programs concluding, "Unexpected acts of appreciation reinforce the behaviors we want to see in our contact centers. Couple these with efforts to empower your agents and you can watch the engagement and motivation of your team increase." There is no silver-bullet incentive that will work in the same way for all people at all times. A team member may or may not bite on the bait of a particular incentive but that alone is not an indication of their engagement or commitment to the goals of the organization. Mr. Watkin shares some of the responses from individuals within the teams he has overseen who did not participate or weren't successful in certain incentive programs:
A second managerial delusion, or faulty perception, would be that lack of participation equates a lack of motivation or loyalty. As noted above, perceived failure in response to incentive programs can occur for various reasons, remember you are dealing with individuals. When seeking to motivate people, especially if you are in a position where you need to ask for the extraordinary or draw from energy reserves that may be depleted, connect with individuals to conquer as a team. As noted previously, the number of employees that are loyal to your company (the logo) are likely few. This doesn't mean that they aren't loyal employees or that they won't run through walls for the team, it just recognizes that brand X is not the reason why. For example, if all of your people have been working long hours and you get that infamous call at the end of a long day for emergency services, some of the least effective motivational speeches you could conjure would include sentiments such as, "It's your job...This is what we do...You owe us...Do you want me to tell the CEO that you refused..." If you seek to build a connected and collaborative team that is poised to conquer their shared goals, that type of camaraderie occurs at the local level with individuals of character and a team that cares for each other. It is to the benefit of the organization as a whole when there are strong localized teams who are working for each other.
Culture is no accident as we discuss in our article Culture is not a Unicorn. What matters is that the individuals on the team respect, enjoy and fight for each other as those bonds will enable the group to rise to those occasions that draw upon those deep reserves. Teamwork makes the dream work because a strong team has an energy tank with more capacity than any individual. Everyone on the team has a unique motivation, and at times in their life those motivations may change due to circumstances. A sense of brotherhood, empathy for customers in need, the desire to reach financial goals, a commitment to the rotation of responsibility (i.e. It's my turn since you did it last time), respect for a leader, as well as many other positive factors help to keep the wheels turning when everyone is ready to call it a day.
Those in a position of leadership cannot expect a culture of service without being intentional about building it. Even when the culture of service is active, managers must be mindful not to become the boy when cried wolf when sounding the all-hands-on-deck bullhorn. Leadership has to understand that drawing from the bank of trust and motivation requires that they have invested currency into those reserves through things such as development, emotional intelligence, team building and employee engagement. Rather than calling for blind allegiance to the badge of the company, building the team to be prepared for service and having intentionally invested in individuals enough to know how to connect them to a need in relationship to their values and/or motivation are key. Capacity for extraordinary response starts all the way back at the point of recruitment, are we clearly representing our organization to candidates and through our process are we learning about them as individuals with respect to how they will embrace and promote our team culture? Are we reinforcing our vision and values through training, employee development and regular check ins with team members? Investing in individuals and being active in development are the right qualities in building strong teams and they will also go far in preparing the group to respond when the need arises. Don’t wait until the alarm sounds to invest in people.
As noted in a previous article on Open Doors, “Leadership is an extension of customer service within your organization. When leaders demonstrate care and service to their employees they perform several key functions including engaging their employees, encouraging positive action and demonstrating how the organization treats people.” Leaders cannot expect team members to sacrifice without having themselves exemplified this value. One of the beautiful revelations of programs such as Undercover Boss is that those who sit the highest and furthest removed from the boots on the ground get a first hand view of the strengths as well as weaknesses in the organization in action. Nothing reveals more about a person or enables close connection better than working shoulder to shoulder, or in the case of services industries like ours - elbow deep in human waste. Motivation comes in many colors, shapes and sizes as so do your team members. Exploring means that recognize individuality as well as build the team are going to be the most effective long term. Making the commitment to understand the individuals and investing in each team member will assist in building individual as well as team reserves that can be drawn upon when the extraordinary is required.
From recruitment to retirement, understanding the motivations of individuals and building a connected team, that collaborates on values and is poised to conquer goals does not happen by accident. Nothing worthwhile comes easy, investing in employees who grasp, build and hold their peers accountable to a culture is key to long term success. If team work is going to make the dream work we must clarify the dream of the organization, understand the motivations of our team members and intentionally build means to connect those values into something collaborative.
Jeremy Watkin - http://customerthink.com/incentive-programs-for-service-agents-a-pre-implementation-checklist/
Thoughts on personal and professional development.
Jon Isaacson, The Intentional Restorer, is a contractor, author, and host of The DYOJO Podcast. The goal of The DYOJO is to help growth-minded restoration professionals shorten their DANG learning curve for personal and professional development. You can watch The DYOJO Podcast on YouTube on Thursdays or listen on your favorite podcast platform.