The house we live in is on a half acre lot with lots of trees. It is a beautiful setting, but the situation does call for a certain amount of work to keep the place looking nice.
Some time back I gave my teenage son a job to do out in the yard picking up sticks. Since the sticks look bad and can do damage to the lawn mower, this needs to be done every so often before I mow the grass. Frankly, my son despises picking up sticks. I really don't blame him. I don't like to do it either. Most of us, when there is a task we have to do but don't like, will put that job off as long as possible. My son is no exception. Instead of just getting out there and getting it done, his tendency is to wait until the last minute, then do it half-heartedly.
But, I have observed an interesting phenomenon. Even though he hates this job, there have been a few times when he went out and did it with a lot of enthusiasm. This tended to be times when he wanted me to do something for him, or when he, for some reason, particularly wanted to please me.
Isn’t it interesting that a person can actually become enthusiastic about doing a job that they would normally despise? What if you could learn to do that for yourself at will, and inspire the people who work under you to do it, as well?
The Problem of Productivity
Recently the Gallup organization published a book that gave some insight into this phenomenon. Their research indicated that 75% to 80% of people in any given organization are performing below their potential. The fascinating conclusion, though, is breathtaking. If employers could get their people working to full potential, they would boost customer loyalty by seventy percent and profits by as much as forty percent. What would that be worth? It is one thing, though, to know the math, it is another thing to actually get people working better. But it can be done if approached the right way.
While many companies focus almost exclusively on the financial bottom line, that is not the place where the most benefit can be extracted in creating a better bottom line. If all of the work in the company is handled by some mechanical system, maybe a "bottom line/mechanized" focus is an option. But most organizations depend on people to make the systems work – and people have their own special set of requirements.
I know people who are willing to work harder, and for less pay, because their work situation gives them the kind of personal fulfillment that motivates them. I am also aware of situations where people quit jobs that had very high pay and great benefits because, to them, the pressure was not worth it.
So, what can a company, or a management team, do to get its people operating in a way that produces high job satisfaction, high customer loyalty, greater productivity, and a bigger bottom line? The answer is to know your people and challenge them in ways that fit them individually. This may seem like a daunting task but, if the Gallop organization's conclusions are correct, figuring this out may be the most important thing your company can emphasize.
This is actually not that difficult a task. But, it does require that every level of the organization be staffed with people who are right for the job. This may not to be so difficult to do if the organization has a large number of people to draw from. The HR department can usually pick out the people with the right qualifications to do the company's work. The difficulty lies more at the management level where individual managers must have great people and decision making skills, in addition to the task skills.
This is often where "The Peter Principle" kicks in. The Peter Principle states that in every hierarchy, each employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence. The primary reason this happens is that people who are great at doing their production job get promoted to positions which require them to have relationship and supervisory skills that they don't have the training or the personality for. It is not enough for them to be experts at doing the job; they have to become experts at helping other people become experts at doing the job. This can be developed and should become the focus of management placement.
This is not to say that an organization should have lax requirements. In fact, if the company expects to compete in the rough and tumble free market jungle, there must be high standards. The real issue is, "How can you cause your people to be excited about working in that kind of environment?"
Start with a Human Focus
Here is the bottom line. People will move heaven and earth to accomplish the thing that fulfills their personal sense of purpose. This personal sense of purpose is different for each individual, even for those who have the same job description. That is the reason managers have to focus at an individual level. The company's bottom line can not be the focus. Rather, it is what the task means to the worker who is doing it.
Let's look at an example. Bill, Jack and Ramona all work as financial consultants for a national company. All have been with the company for about two years, but their manager, Alex, has noticed that there is a lot of inconsistency in the work of the three. He knows that all three have great potential. He has seen it displayed at times.
To try and be a better manager, Alex has studied different management techniques and styles. He has tried to motivate his people by dangling incentives in front of them or sometimes by getting on their case – with varying results. The various programs that he has studied seem to work sometimes and sometimes not. What Alex doesn't realize is that the issues that motivate his three people are all different.
Bill is recently married. He makes enough to live a comfortable life and is not nearly as interested in the company's bottom line as Alex is. What Bill wants is to make enough to take care of his new wife and to have time to do things with her.
Jack is an immigrant and must support his wife and three children as well as both of his parents. He seems to be motivated to work hard no matter what the situation and would probably work one hundred hours a week if he could. He does, though, struggle a bit with the language.
Ramona is a hard worker, but she is a single mom with one child in elementary school and another in middle school. While she is committed to the company, she sometimes seems rather distracted.
If Alex is only looking to management technique to get better productivity, it will always be hit and miss. Sometimes he will accidentally find something that strikes a chord with one of his people. But, if he will make the effort to learn what fulfills each one's purpose, and facilitate that need, the outcome will be exactly what he is looking for.
Fulfill the Purpose
Each individual starts their work on the basis of their own purpose, not the purpose of the company. The trick, for the manager, is to create a situation where the purpose of the company and the purpose of the individual coincide. Once that common ground can be developed, the worker will work for the company as if working for self.
Perhaps there is a way to create opportunities for Bill to spend extra time with his wife while doing certain company projects. Perhaps there is a way to help Jack with his language so he can do more in less time. Perhaps there is a way to help Ramona with scheduling so that she can be more productive during the time her kids are in school. If they knew that Alex was trying to help them this way, would they be more loyal? More productive? More satisfied with their job situation? Absolutely!
In fact, the satisfaction they receive from being more fulfilled will cause them to work in ways that generates more customer loyalty and higher profits for the company. Over time, the job satisfaction will turn to job passion. And as we all know, passion pays!
Dr. Freddy Davis is the owner of TSM Enterprises and conducts conferences, seminars and organizational training for executives, managers and sales professionals. He is the author of the book Supercharged! as well as the "Nutshell" Series of books for strengthening business. Sign up, free, for Freddy's twice-monthly e-letter, Nutshell Notes, at www.tsmenterprises.com
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