The Voice for Insightful Leadership with Shelley Row, P.E.

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It was a dark, stormy night. Rain was falling in buckets as we drove to Houston to pick up my sister at the airport for the holidays. The white lane lines were scarcely visible. We had a general outline of the road but were stressed because of the limited visibility.  Suddenly, the road lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree. The lane lines were raised reflective markers and they glowed through the dark rain like beacons. The road was clearly visible.  There was no question that we were on our path and our relief was palpable.

Your plans for 2019 are like the road. Perhaps you set your goals and they are completely clear in your mind. But how well have you communicated those goals to staff?  Even if you see clearly, your staff may not. They may be generally on the right road but without clarity, they can feel the stress of uncertainty and that wastes energy and time. When your goals are crystal clear, your staff is relieved of that uncertainty and can focus on execution. It’s like having the road to their goals lit up with reflective markers.  How do you bring that goal clarity into your workplace?

  1. Set clear goals. Your staff wants to know that you, as the leader, know the direction of the organization. If you haven’t already, take the time to consider your 2019 goals. It’s like picking the route you’ll travel this year just as we picked the road to Houston. When you think about 2019, what course are you on? What are your goals for the year? What are the major activities you intend to accomplish? Write them down now.
  2. Metrics. How will you know that you achieved the goals? I like to ask clients, “What does success look like?” This question is a great way to crystalize your expectations. Success may look like a revenue target, or a target for new clients, or specific behaviors for customer service. Once you know what success looks like, what are the metrics? Maybe it’s financial or maybe it’s that staff manage client calls in an efficient, friendly way. For each goal, write down the metrics or behaviors you associate with your goals.
  3. Share with staff repeatedly. You need goal clarity and so do your staff. Don’t underestimate the difficulty of assisting staff to internalize the same goals. This is a key job for you! You must share the goals and share them again and again, to embed them in long-term memory. Once is not enough. Neither is printing them on a poster and thinking you’re done. Repeated, specific goals, with metrics, are the reflective markers along the way that reduce stress and provide clarity. It’s key for staff to know, really know, the expectations for them and the organization. Clarity eliminates wasted energy on speculation and allows all that energy to be directed into performance.
  4. Report progress. Progress reports demonstrate that you are serious about the goals. Visible reporting of progress reinforces the goal and creates more clarity. It reassures staff that they remain on the right road and that their way forward is still lit with bright lights.
  5. Celebrate success. Divide the goal into chunks and have mini-celebrations along the way. I recently read Chip and Dan Heath’s book, The Power of Moments. They note the success of dividing a big goal into chunks that can be rewarded along the way. The brain likes rewards for meaningful progress. Completion of interim steps encourages one to tackle the next step. What intermediate milestones can you celebrate?

We arrived in Houston safely and with less stress due to the clear, lighted path. You can provide your staff with a clear, well-lit path by identifying your goals and clearly articulating them … regularly. When you do, you reduce their uncertainty and stress so that they can focus on performance. And that makes for a great 2019!

control

Is there someone you work with who could use a little motivation?  Could you use a little motivation? You can’t motivate someone else if you can’t motivate yourself and, frankly, we could all use a little motivation sometime. Too often we think of motivation as money or a promotion but intrinsic motivation comes from inside and is powerful.  How can you leverage findings about brain function to connect with intrinsic motivation? There are five ways to aid your brain or other’s brains to feel motivated by feeling rewarded.

Today, let’s look at control (we’ll examine other approaches in upcoming posts). The brain likes to feel in control so take advantage of it. There are two ways to use control in your favor.

You are in control of more than you think you are. I was excited to be in a new job and looked forward to contributing to the organization.  But I soon discovered that my new boss was a control freak (to be fair, so am I) and my motivation suffered. After venting every evening to my husband and lamenting that I’d taken the job, he encouraged me to look for areas where I could exert some control. And I found that he didn’t care much about our conference planning process so that’s where I jumped in.  We reworked the process, implemented a new approach and I felt motivated because I now had an area of control. Do you suffer from a boss who won’t share control? If so, you need to dig deeper. Where can you exert a bit of control? Look for areas where your boss has little interest and jump in.  Taking control is likely to have a motivating impact.

You can give up control of more than you think you can. You may be stifling motivation by being overly controlling. Give others a sense of control to activate reward feelings. If you’re feeling queasy about releasing control, don’t worry. You don’t have to give away full control. You might release control of the process but retain control over the final product. Can you provide a range of options from which they can pick? You could ask for input on a big decision which makes the brain feel like it at least has a say.   You might break a project into parts and give over control of the less risky elements.  For a client who is unconvinced of the merits of a project, you could ask them to set a trial period to define the parameters for moving forward, or define when to pull the plug. It puts them in control of part of the work. Where can you hold on less tightly? You can give up control of more than you think you can.

Whether it’s you who needs more motivation or someone on your team, push yourself to find ways to take or release control. The brain will be happy you did.