Monday, November 28, 2005

Motivate Your Team

When is the last time you looked for creative ways to motivate your team? Often I think that companies, especially professional services firms, feel that the high salaries they pay their people should be enough to keep their people enthused. If that is the case, why are their so many employees in these organizations who are underperforming and bored with their jobs?

I know that many highly paid attorneys who are not excited by their annual bonuses. At their income level an extra ten or twenty thousand dollars is nice...but hardly enough to change their lives. Meanwhile the partners in these firms think that more money is a huge motivational tool.

The truth is that at a certain level money stops being a major source of motivation. Don't get me wrong, people like to get the financial bonuses, but they become expected (the word "bonus" suggests "extra"....but how many professionals count on them as a guaranteed part of their compensation?). I have seen people who are paid over $400,000 have a fit because someone else got an extra $10,000 in compensation. These people view money as a scorecard....NOT a motivator (there is a big difference!!!)

I believe that people get excited about other types of perks. I have written before about public recognition, trips, gift cards, lunches, etc... And while expensive perks are nice, it is often small things that will get people in gear to produce results (and to have fun along the way).

A regional sales manager for a Fortune 500 company set some very high stretch goals for his team. There was one particular product offering that he wanted sell record amounts in the fourth quarter. He set two levels of achievement for that product. Any salesperson who reached the first goal, the company would pay to have their car detailed. If they reached the second level, the boss would fly to their city (his team is across nine states) and wash and detail their car himself.

WOW. How much extra effort would you put in to have your boss wash your car? The team is on track for a huge quarter in all products, and he is planning to have to wash four or five cars in January (*even better, the boss washes their car in the cold weather!).

I shared this story with an attorney who said that, "this would NEVER work in a law firm, as the associates would not respect the partners if they washed their cars". (a big pet peeve of mine is sentences that begin "that would never work here....").

The funny thing is this highly paid sales manager has respect from his team by doing exactly this type of thing on a regular basis. He knows that you EARN respect, not COMMAND respect. His people love to excel in their jobs because, in addition to the money (and they earn a lot of that), it is a fun environment where everyone works hard. Will they laugh and take pictures of him washing their cars (which will probably have been off-roading the day before he comes to wash)?? Yep. But will it all be in a spirit of fun with enthusiasm and respect? Without a doubt.

As you plan for 2006 why not set some huge goals with the payoff being something a little quirky. If the team can achieve the goal, everyone wins. So what if you have to wash a car or two? It is about the success.

Have A Great Day.

Thom Singer

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