What is Motivation?

People often describe motivation as an intrinsic quality; either you have it or you don’t. Motivation is not a possession, but a result of a two-part process of channeling your attention; Here’s where you are, and here’s where you want to go. It’s a shared future that can be a goal or a behavior, and the key is establishing the link and creating engagement around it, telling the story.

Rock Stars – one of the most overused corporate buzzwords today. The point of finding Rock Stars, though is to find a perfect match for your team and organization. Whether hiring a new employee or working to help the team improve, here are the qualities/qualifications to look for and cultivate:

Self-managing time, goals, and efforts. This leaves you free to be a coach, not a boss. Think of athletes. Top performers don’t need to be coaxed to workout, the coach simply puts the right players in the right places and gets out of the way!

Self-motivated by their own sense of pride. The best people are driven by their own success and the success of the team. No need for carrot or stick!

Fast learners who enjoy solving problems. Curiosity about the world in general, not just their own tasks. Focus on “how fast can you learn” not “how much do you know.”

Not tolerant of bad management. They will make you better by not accepting anything less.

Willing to push back and give their own opinions.

Customer-focused. IT is a service, and the best employees won’t put up with mediocre service levels.

Great One-on-One Meetings

 Most one-on-one meetings get bogged down by check-ins and updates on tasks and projects. By shifting your mindset from taskmaster to personal growth facilitator, you’ll give your employees the accountability and mentoring they’re craving.

 Timing & Location

The problems people leaders face are universal but every culture is unique. A human-centered discovery process has two primary functions:

  • Meet for 30 minutes each week. Create a recurring calendar event.
  • Choose a private space. An office or conference room is ideal, but anyplace where others can’t listen in.
  • Meet whether things are good or bad. Consistency is key to establish trust for the tough conversation and gives space for employees to offer feedback as well.

 Questions to Ask

  • Keep your focus on longer term themes rather than short term tasks. Who they are and how you can help them grow is more important than today’s mini-crisis.
  • Try to avoid generic and superficial questions like “How are you doing?” or “How can I help?” Instead, ask questions that turn your one-on-one into high-value terrain:

“What’s something you heard a customer say this week that concerns you?”

“Which of our organization values are we most struggling to embody right now?”

“What’s one conversation with a teammate you’ve been avoiding this week?”

“What is the task you do during the day where you think ‘there must be a better way’?”

Topics to Cover

You’ll get traction in your one-on-ones when you give performance feedback that inspires personal growth. Here are five common themes to focus on:

  • Time management. Is there a pattern of lateness, or showing up flustered or disengaged? Name the pattern and use it as the beginning of a deeper conversation.
  • Keeping agreements. Do they say “Yes” even when overwhelmed and then have to backtrack or miss deadlines?
  • Naming challenges. Do they pretend to have skills that they don’t? Guide them to see how that undermines other’s confidence in them and how asking for help builds trust.
  • Embracing mistakes. Do they play the victim or blame the system when something goes wrong? Invite them to take 100% ownership for their contribution.
  • Taking creative risks. Do they keep their head down in meetings with execs? Do work that is good-enough but not great? Do they always have to have a better idea? Give them examples of how their style pushes others away, and role-play a new way to show up!

Additional Tips

Locate the Conversation. Is this week’s meeting a conversation where you need to push them a bit out of their comfort zone? Or have they been stretching lately and need some extra acknowledgement for taking a big step?

Be Transparent With Your Authority. It’s very confusing for employees when they feel their boss needs to be their friend, and it clouds your judgment as a professional. Honor their career and your responsibility by staying real about the power imbalance and the limits that puts on personal relationships (socializing outside of work, being friends on Facebook, etc.)

Share Your Struggles, Own Your Contribution. If you held onto a piece of feedback too long, apologize and let them know you’ll try and be more timely next time. If you see in hindsight that your expectations weren’t clear, or you were too harsh or too soft with them, let them know you know. They’ll appreciate it!

Remember, the most effective one-on-one conversation is one that builds over time. It’s where your employee has the consistent experience that you are invested in their personal growth and professional development. It’s easier than you think and you don’t have to be anybody’s therapist! Just keep work at the center of the conversation, hold people accountable for looking at their contributions, and ask questions that invite people to look inward rather than blame the system.

Stay curious and have fun!

4 Ways to Create a Learning Culture on Your Team

Technology is disrupting every industry and area of life, especially how we work. The digital revolution has placed a premium on intellectual curiosity and learnability, the desire and ability to quickly grow and adapt one’s skill set to remain employable. What you know is less relevant than what you may learn.

“The single biggest driver of business impact is the strength of an organization’s learning culture,” says Josh Bersin, principle and found of Bersin by Deloitte in Oakland, California, citing findings from a 2010 Bersin & Associates research report, High-Impact Learning Culture: The 40 Best Practices for Creating and Empowered Enterprise.

Like most things, creating a learning culture is easier said than done. Fortunately, it can be taught.

True learning cultures, defined by Corporate Executive Board (CEB) as “a culture that supports an open mindset, an independent quest for knowledge, and shared learning directed toward the mission and goals of the organization,” are still the exception rather than the norm. According to CEB research. And only 20 percent of employees show effective learning behaviors.

On the plus side, workers today have much more control over their own development. That’s largely due to the ubiquity of online learning courses, webinars and social networks. Given a choice, people generally prefer to learn online at their own pace.

Learning is taking place, but are employees learning what they need to? Does the organization support their efforts with a learning culture?

Here are four science-based recommendations to help create a learning culture on your team or in your organization.

Reward continuous learning. A formal reward system entices the changes you desire, and even then there is no guarantee unless the rewards are effective. It is more than simply praising and promoting efforts to learn; it’s about creating a climate that nurtures critical thinking, where challenging authority and speaking up is encouraged, even if it means creating discord. This is particularly important to foster innovation.

Giving meaningful and constructive feedback. The focus on “strengths” and feel-good approaches to management tends to minimize the value of negative feedback. It is hard to improve on anything when you are unaware of your limitations. Positive reinforcement is motivating, but we all have blind spots. Negative feedback provided in a constructive and delicate way—it is a true art—can also help team members to improve.

Lead by example. What you, as a leader, actually do is a critical driver of employee learning. As illustrated by the leadership value chain model, leaders’ behaviors—particularly what they routinely do—have a strong influence on the behavior and performance of their teams. Nurturing your team’s curiosity and learning, then means practicing what you preach. Start by displaying some learning and unlocking your own curiosity. Learn a new skill or enhance an existing one. Read a book and share what you learned.

Hire curious people. It’s far easier to prevent and predict than to fix and change. When selection works, there’s less need for training and development. Hiring people that are naturally curious you won’t have to worry so much about their willingness to learn. But how do you identify an individual’s propensity to learn and be curious? There is well-established science to predicting a person’s probability of displaying such traits (for example, openness to new experience, tolerance for ambiguity, critical thinking, and inquisitiveness). The screening and hiring process can include questions and other methods to uncover these desirable traits.

Reinforcing positive learning behaviors, giving constructive and critical feedback, showcasing your own curiosity, and hiring people with high learnability are all likely to create a stronger learning culture within your team and organization.