Great leaders surround themselves with great and skillful people. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, and his team researched what it takes for organizations to achieve greatness. He identified great companies and found that they all had the same kind of leadership. These leaders were usually humble, yet passionate about the business they were in. Unlike many of the celebrity CEO’s of today, they were ambitious for their organization to succeed, rather than ambitious for themselves.
They focused their organizations on a combination of what they were passionate about doing, what they were good at doing, and what would drive their economic engine (sustain and/or make profitable).
Collins states that one of the first things these leaders do is to surround themselves with the right people. Instead of spending time and money on motivational incentives, they find people who are already motivated. In other words, they recognize that true motivation comes from within.
I have met many leaders who feel “stuck” with individuals who are not motivated to deliver the value that is needed. Most leaders do not have the luxury of bringing in new people. Quite often, you have to work with who you have. If people aren’t performing, you usually have to give them a chance. If over time, they do not improve, you may be able to let them go. Yet, it does not serve you or your organization to focus your energy on “How do I get rid of this person?”
Leadership is about helping others to find their own internal motivation. The question is not: “How do we get this person to do the work?” The questions are: “What can this person be passionate about? What are his best talents and how can those talents be used best in this organization?” As leaders, we should want for every person in our care to be excited about getting up in the morning and coming to work. If we can help them find this, we won’t have to motivate them.
People are motivated by meaning. Leaders create meaning where none seems apparent. At the very least, someone benefits from whatever work you are doing. That is cause for meaning. Enjoying your work is cause for meaning. Being skillful at what you do is cause for meaning. Honest, caring relationships are cause for meaning. Promoting growth and improvement through ongoing feedback, high expectations, and reasonable learning curves creates meaning.
It is easy to focus our attention on where people fall short, and on what’s wrong. This focus on things going wrong reinforces problems. Great leaders are able to spot and develop talent. They see what someone can do and they believe in it. They believe in it so strongly that the person is inspired to believe in himself. Having a strong belief in one’s self is meaningful.
Another effective question to ask is: “What barriers have been created that stifle the passion and skill of these people?” Often there are rules and ways of doing things that get in the way of the full expression of talents. For example, an employee knows how to solve problems for customers, but she must ask permission from a manager each time an incident occurs. Trusting her to function as a responsible adult would give more meaning to her in her job and better service to customers.
The “right” person is inside of everyone. It is the responsibility of a leader to help people find that person within themselves. If they can’t find that internal motivation where they presently are, then you help them go somewhere else where they can.
Creating a self motivated group of people takes time and patience. It takes self reflection on the part of leaders, and the willingness to discipline one’s thinking and behavior. Great leaders are passionate about their business and skillful at producing their products or services. Today’s leader must also be passionate about bringing forth meaning and self motivation in each and every person who works in the organization.