A friend’s daughter went on an assertiveness course. “How did it go?” we asked when she returned. “It was alright, but people are still not doing what I tell them to do.”
On the whole, people don’t like being told what to do. In a work context, an employee will do what their boss tells them to do because the alternative is worse. And, of course, processes and procedures have to run properly.
But no organisation can run optimally if the people in it are working grudgingly, resentfully. Managers want – or should want – their staff to act on their own initiative, be creative, and willing to do the job. In short, to be motivated.
But let’s get one thing straight. No one can make anyone else do anything. If Fred says that Jane’s attitude made him get angry, Fred would have to explain how this mechanism worked – just how did Jane get inside his skull and fiddle with the neurons? Is Fred really arguing that there is a part of his mind of which he is not in control? And it wouldn’t just be one part because, I daresay, many people would be able apparently to ‘make’ Fred do or feel all sorts of things.
No. What happens is that Jane influences Fred, but Fred chooses how he is going to respond. The fact that he’s unaware of this doesn’t make it less the case. And, no doubt, Jane knows just how to act to ‘press Fred’s buttons’. In other words, she knows the things to do which will result in Fred, when he experiences them, becoming angry.
I’ve used this familiar example to emphasise my main point, which is: No one can motivate anybody to do anything. People motivate themselves. However, a successful leader will be able to do something, or be something, which, when it is experienced by the other person, enables them to motivate themself.
What is this something? Following DW Winnicott, the paediatric psychiatrist, who was speaking of motherhood, I say that a good leader creates a ‘facilitating environment’ in which the team, the team members individually, and the enterprise on which they are engaged, all thrive. Thriving in a work context means working optimally – and growing, developing.
Team members are likely to thrive most when they feel motivated to do so. The employee grudgingly carrying out orders clearly isn’t thriving. And the way to have a motivated team is for the leader to create this facilitating environment.
When I was training in NLP, there was a prevalent saying along the lines “if this stuff is so good, how come I don’t own a Porsche?” The answer is that pure NLP is almost entirely behavioural, and behavioural interventions are necessary but not sufficient to effect change. Each person’s behaviour is actually determined by their beliefs about themselves and the world, and by their feelings and emotions; and these will have developed from their experiences or, more accurately, their memories of their experiences.
To ‘motivate’ people, therefore, we have to work at emotionally intelligent levels as well as behavioural ones.
Leaders with motivated teams are ones who not only behave in a certain way, but also have specific, useful beliefs about themselves, their team and the world in general, and emotions and feelings that are congruent with these beliefs.
As a senior manager in the NHS said to me when we were talking about leadership, “we need leaders to have a ‘new way of being’ ”. Indeed.
So, this facilitating environment turns out to be, at heart, the set of relationships the leader has with his or her staff. Of course it is largely expressed and received through behaviour and other communication channels; but I believe it is too simplistic to say that there are certain things someone has to do in order that their staff are motivated. There are also certain ways they have to be, informed by useful beliefs and constructive emotions and feelings.
At emotional intelligence at work, we have collected a set of twelve precepts which we believe (and feel!) are the ways to be if a leader is going to have motivated staff. One of these is ‘Make the other person more important than you’. If a manager did no more than this, consistently, would not their staff feel more empowered? More motivated?
And this leads on to the question, how do I motivate myself? In the team situation I have been describing, the answer is… to practise leadership yourself. By seeing leadership as an attitude, not a set of tasks, everyone can do it. By following the leader, and doing what the leader does, everyone in the team contributes to the facilitating environment. And everyone receives from it.
This isn’t the whole story, of course. But it is a vital part of it, and a part which offers rich rewards to those who embrace it.
by Jeremy Marchant . © 2013 Jeremy Marchant Limited . uploaded 5 march 2013 . image: Free images
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