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Two Underused Secrets in Motivating Others

“I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among others the greatest asset I possess. The way to develop the best that is in others is by appreciation and encouragement.” ~ Charles Schwab (1862-1939) US president of Carnegie Steel (1897)

By the time Friday afternoon rolled around this week, I wanted to crawl into a cave and not come out, ever. A very exciting business opportunity had been delayed again. I’d also received some sobering news on another project – one I’ve been putting a LOT of work into. So, there I was, crying in my beer, so to speak, for a few hours and not feeling particularly on-top-of-the-world-ish.

Around 3pm Friday afternoon Catherine, my virtual knight in shining armor, arrived on my desktop in the fo rm of an innocent email. In it she complemented me on my writing and how much she enjoys it. “Humph” I thought to myself. She also requested I connect with her. Still feeling a little glum, I stared at the email on my screen, wondering whether to leave it till Monday when it would be – with luck – in a better frame of mind. I trusted my gut, gave her a call and got exactly what I didn’t really know I was missing: a good dose of sincere appreciation. Not only that, she encouraged me to write a book! While I’m not so s ure about the book thing yet, I hung up the phone a different person. I couldn’t believe the difference her remarks made.

I’ll admit a small part of me thinks I should be able to “get along without all that appreciation stuff.” After all, I’m and adult a nd adults don’t need that kind of feedback, at least not the strong, independent, leader types. And of course that’s who I am, right? Yet there I was, feeling great after a good dose of it. So, either I’m terribly insecure and in desperate need of therapy, or just human.

Humour me and let’s assume the latter.

Now, consider a client conversation I had this week. Eric had significant employee turnover. As we talked about it, he had an insight. It turns out that they were throwing more parties to honor people who were leaving for greener pastures than the ones who were staying. You could almost hear the “ping” go off in his mind – Eric and his senior managers were completely neglecting their key performers and it was showing in their retention.

Perhaps Charles Schwab knew a thing or two about management after all.

Coaching Questions

Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are social creatures in need of appreciation and encouragement. We naturally crave a sense of belonging. We want to know we make a difference. Sound cheesy? It isn’t. In their groundbreaking book, “First Break all the Rules,” authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman surveyed 105,000 employees to explore what the worlds greatest managers do differently.

According to their results, the answers to the following questions will predict your ability as a manager to create a strong and vibrant workplace long term. How would you do if you asked your team these six questions?

Do you know what is expected of you at w ork?
Do you have the materials and equipment you need to do your work right?
At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
Your fieldwork: practice appreciation. First, notice when people contribute to you. It may be obvious people such as your spouse, your kids, your team members, or less obvious like the java-jockey at Starbucks who whipped up your favorite latte like a pro. Then, take the moment and thank them. Really thank them. It just takes a moment. “Pay-it-forward” for a week and see what happens – you’ll be amazed.

Let me get you started. If you’ve read this far then you’ve invested some time. A key sign of leaders that last is their willingness to continually learn and grow. So first, congrats on your mindset, it’ll take you places. And second, thank you for giving me a moment to contribute another perspective. I hope it was valuable.

Russ Lombardo