Motivating the disengaged

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Connecting peopleBusinesses don't succeed – people do, says Richard Burkard. He explains how you can motivate your staff – even the disengaged – to turn your company's fortunes from good to great.

At the heart of every successful business lies four key things – a strong vision, values, culture and passion. It's these qualities that help drive a company forward and enable it to make the transition from good to great.

Whether it's marketing, manufacturing or the professional services, problems arise when a company loses sight of its aim and ignores its raison d'être. Step forward the 'disengaged'.

Photo of Richard Burkard"Success comes when a business lights the fire in its people, when the culture of the business inspires staff and where people buy into its vision and values. People will then aim to give 100% every time they come to work and every time they do anything in life."

Mistaken as being unmotivated or unwilling to work hard, people become disengaged when they fail to buy into what their firm, manager or team is trying to do. It's impossible to maintain a healthy workforce without defining goals, creating a suitable environment for these to be met and providing tools to enable employees to achieve these aims.

Senior managers often try to impose rules, bark orders and then expect results, before establishing and preserving the company's core. Success comes when a business lights the fire in its people, when the culture of the business inspires staff and where people buy into its vision and values. People will then aim to give 100% every time they come to work and every time they do anything in life.

Winning trust

So how do you win back the trust of the 'disengaged'? The first step is to find out why they've lost touch with the business. When you've understood the problem, ask the question 'how do I light the fire in my team?' It's important to encourage employees to ask themselves a number of questions: 'What behaviours do I need to change?' And: 'Why should I put in maximum effort every day?' This is often the missing link.

The answer to all these questions lies in an understanding that every single thought we have has a direct effect on how we behave. If you go to work thinking 'I don't like my manager' or 'I dislike my job' then naturally you'll fall into a negative spiral and convince yourself that everything is conspiring against you. By understanding why we behave the way we do, we can use this knowledge to achieve lasting change, both personally and professionally.

Positive self-talk – thought processes – comes primarily from the individual, but it can also come from senior management. Help people to identify what positive behaviours they want to feature in their everyday lives; encourage them to examine and challenge their behaviours so that they can put themselves back on track; create a positive working environment; and realise the power of encouragement, belief and high expectations. Look for any opportunity to give praise or demonstrate good work. Remember, most people – irrespective of their status – value recognition, respect and responsibility above remuneration.

"Help people to identify what positive behaviours they want to feature in their everyday lives; encourage them to examine and challenge their behaviours so that they can put themselves back on track; create a positive working environment; and realise the power of encouragement, belief and high expectations."

New goals

With respect and trust firmly in place the task of setting goals and getting the most out of your workforce will become much easier. But how do you ensure your employees consistently perform at their peak? It's a question asked by many and one that leaves people searching for answers. Each day we are faced with a host of unforeseen challenges that test our ability to be the best version of ourselves. In sport, those challenges are laid down in a fixture list, where on Saturday at 3pm every ounce of effort and commitment is streamed into achieving peak performance. In real life you don't know where or when those challenges will come. Consistency is the key – spiking to excellence is not sustainable.

Performance continuity can be achieved at any age, in whatever walk of life, by applying simple rules.

  • Have stretching/outrageously ambitious goals
  • Set out long-term and inspirational targets that have an holistic focus – covering business and life
  • Apply standards – expect excellence from yourself for life in general not just at work
  • Remain consciously aware of where you are at, at all times
  • Understand that people are not machines – you can't turn excellence on and off, it needs to be maintained
  • Decide what you want to be – it's about going from good to great
  • It's essential that senior managers, as well as individuals, consistently monitor performance and have sufficient strategies in place to recognise and manage it.

    It's important to:

  • Divorce performance from the individual. Be careful not to criticise them – be aware of the language that you use
  • Continue to see the person as you want them to be
  • Recognise poor performance early – don't let it slide – this is about being tough on yourself
  • Hold people to their own high standards
  • Catch them doing it right and give sincere, genuine, forceful praise
  • Recognise someone else exhibiting the right behaviour and praise them for it in sight of the poor performer – this needs to be subtle and spontaneous
  • Give specific and constructive feedback
  • The task of creating a motivated workforce is an ongoing process. The important thing is to always communicate the company's vision and values and continually reinforce the things that you do want rather than reinforce the behaviour that you don't. Remember, businesses don't succeed, people do.

    Richard Burkard is a training consultant at Advance Performance, a corporate and personal development specialist. For further information visit www.advance.tv or www.leading-light.tv

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