by Neil Fiore, PhD

Human nature has been sold short . . . [we all have] a higher nature which . . . includes the need for meaningful work, for responsibility, for creativeness, for being fair and just, for doing what is worthwhile and for preferring to do it well.

— Abraham Maslow, Eupsychian Management

1. Organizational & Personal Missions Intertwined

To motivate employees and “Maximize Human Potential” managers must demonstrate to employees that the achievement of their career and personal development goals are intertwined with their contribution to the organization’s mission.

At the core of any human being’s sense of personal effectiveness in the world is the achievement of noble objectives, individually and as part of a team. This is what contributes to employee satisfaction — a life of purpose and meaningful work that makes a positive contribution to one’s family and community.

To avoid loss of motivation, we must protect the higher human drive to learn, improve one’s environment, help others, gain recognition and contribute to the common good. We must create a safe work environment in which employees can take pride in their work and feel that their individual styles of learning and communicating are understood and respected.

2. Positive Expectancy

Nothing has been invented thus far that surpasses the motivating power of a parent’s look of expectancy when their child takes his or her first steps. That look carries the child through the risks and pains of failure, through recovery from the tears that come with falling, and through the courage to once again find the motivation to stand on one’s own two feet.

We all long for that look that sees the best in us, forgives our failures, and encourages us to find once again the part of us that is strong, robust, joyful, and creative. Employees who have known failure in school and other areas of life, long for that look in the eyes of a supervisor, manager or mentor – a look that will remind them that they have something of value to give, that their potential for excellence is just below the surface. Nothing is quite so powerful as positive expectancy.

3. Four Principles for Motivating Employees:

  1. Replace criticism with an environment of safety and respect. “Catch them doing something right,” … said in The One-Minute Manager. Effective leaders find several positive things to point out in an employees work for every suggestion for improvement.
  2. Replace coercion with choice. Offering a choice will avoid the resistance usually encountered when the implied threat and pressure of “you have to” is given.
  3. Replace a demand for compliance with an invitation that evokes commitment. The passivity of compliance will gain half-hearted obedience, but full commitment and follow-through is more likely when we feel we have choice and an opportunity to contribute to a higher good.
  4. Replace crisis management with clear vision. Strategic planning should lead to a clear sense of purpose that every one from the vice president to the janitor can use to define priorities (e.g., fight disease; improve health; facilitate the growth of small businesses). Without a clear purpose, low priority tasks and bureaucratic rules divert us from our objectives.

Put simply, replace ineffective leadership with Effective Coaching.

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