Staff Motivation: Creating A "Do For" Culture

Posted on


Staff motivation does not occur as a result of anything you do to or with or about employees. Staff motivation occurs because of what you Do For employees.

The Motivation Secret

Read the next sentence very carefully. Staff motivation is a consequence. That reality is rarely mentioned. Motivation occurs as a result of something else. Issues such as rewards and incentives, recognition, job satisfaction, inspirational leadership and the rest are details that reinforce the consequences. They are important details: but details neutralheless.

A Staff Contribution Culture

To develop highly motivated staff, you need to create a particular culture: a culture of staff contribution and participation. Only a manager can do this. Such a culture enables staff to contribute demonstrably to business success.

Until you establish this culture, you’;ll never be free to manage successfully. You’;ll always be doing work that your staff should do.

When staff become successful contributors you can use rewards and incentives, and various other recognition devices to support their successful contribution. But these devices of themselves will not create highly motivated staff. You must create the culture to take full advantage of them.

Once you establish the culture of contribution and participation you can take the next step: establish a culture of staff autonomy. A culture where staff are given freedom to operate without supervision.

Famous Brazilian manager, Ricardo Semler puts it this way. "As a leader my job is to motivate them to go home proud of their work ."

A New Perspective

Do you want highly motivated employees? If so, what can you do to make them "proud of their work". I mean "proud": not boastful or conceited but proud in the sense that they know they’;ve done well for themselves, their colleges and the business.

Forget "Pep" Talks

Staff do not need pep talks, statements and "rev ups". They need guidance, information, encouragement, support, autonomy, responsibility, clear goals and the freedom to achieve and contribute positively to the business.

Studying Motivation

Gurus and academies have been studying "motivation" for decades. In 1932 a famous study conducted at the Hawthorne works of the Western Electric Company. The results are still discussed today.

Maslow, McGregor and Herzberg

In 1943 Abraham Maslow, proposed the Hierarchy of Needs. He suggested that human needs ranged from survival needs such as food and shelter as a foundation to "self-actualization" as the highest form. It’;s been widely applied in corporate motivation applications.

In the 1960′;s Douglas McGregor of the MIT Sloan School of Management proposed that employees reacted to how managers perceived them. It became known as Theory X, Theory Y.

Frederick Herzberg published "One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees?" in 1968. He suggested people are influenced by what he called motivation factors and hygiene factors. It became known as Two Factor Theory. Herzberg became a very influential person in business management.

There are many other theories and approaches. Studies continue. Gurus make new recommendations frequently. The jury is still "out". But studying "employee motivation" is not new.

The Issue Is "How"

These studies and many like them suggest alternatives to the "to them" approach. The problem is "how". Most attempts to motivate staff are behavior based. It’;s one thing to talk about employee engagement, empowerment and participation. It’;s another to determine "how" to create it.

The Motivation Mindset Question

Like so many other issues in management, motivation is a mindset. At the core of this mindset is the question. "What can I do for my staff so that they’;re proud of their work and their contribution to improvements to my business? What can I do to ensure that they see themselves as major contributors to business success?

"Giving To" v. "Doing For"

It’;s a simple process. It revolves around two simple questions. "What do I want from them?" "What do I need to give them so that they can give me what I want?" There’;s no "oughta" here. Do not say "they oughta be motivated because of what I offer them." That will not motivate anyone.

Commonality With Marketing

Steve Jobs is regarded as an outstanding marketer. But he did not undertake customer surveys. He tried to anticipate what clients expected and provide it for them. Most people have forgotten that Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple to design a home computer. There was no demand for such a machine at the time. We all know where that led them … and the rest of the world "What can I provide?" is a very important question in both motivation and marketing.

Misled By Maxims

You’;ll never create highly motivated employees by rattling off maxims like "Good training does not cost, it pays", "Staff are our most important asset", "" our people are our lifeblood " . These are nothing more than trite slogans. They may or may not be true. They are no substitute for actually achieving improved business results through superior staff management.

A Core Business Issue

Motivation is a business improvement and sustainability issue. Without "highly motivated" staff, you can not have a truly successful business. But that means that motivation is more than "just a people matter". It’;s a core business issue.

Challenges To Conventional Wisdom

The Do For approach challenges many conventional wisdom about staff performance. Please remember …

  • Unless you’;re a qualified psychologist, do not try to "get inside their heads": seek to "engineer" perform rather than coerce and manipulate employees
  • Employees take far more notice of what you do than what you say: "showing" will always work far more effectively than "telling"
  • You need effective teams more than you need effective individuals
  • Employees do not have to relate well to each other in order to work together effectively
  • Training, of itself, will not improve performance. Training is essential. But well trained staff does not automatically lead to high performing staff
  • Staff need to be well informed about business issues. Lack of information stifles enthusiasm about effective performance

The Essential Do For

1. Have a clear business focus and a narrow, specific target market. Employees must know exactly what you’;re trying to sell and who you’;re trying to sell to.

2. Make very clear to employees the precise performance goals you expect them to achieve and how you’;ll measure their success.

3. Establish systems that will automatically guarantee that staff will be able to reach the performance goals. Give employees the authority and autonomy to modify the systems to achieve the goals.

4. Provide the resources necessary to build effective systems.

5. Build effective feedback mechanisms into your systems so that employees will be able to measure their own performance and provide you with the information you need for business management purposes.

6. Work towards an overall system that enables employees to effectively operate the business on a day to day basis without your intervention except in very unusual circumstances.

Rewards And Incentives

Your rewards and incentive systems can not be effective unless they support your "Do Fors" . The "Do Fors" institute the basis upon which to set rewards and incentives. But without the systems your rewards and incentives will certainly be window dressing at best and demotivating at worst.

Demotivation By Incentive

A client consulted me about an incentive scheme that was not producing the expected positive results. It was a generous scheme. I discovered that to earn the incentive, the workers concerned had to work at such a furious pace that

  • they made major demands on their co-workers’; co-operation,
  • they were forced to work in conditions so uncomfortable that it was painful to stand up straight at the end of the shift.

I see similar problems where the same salespeople reiteratedly win sales prizes, largely because their territory contains predominately long-standing, loyal and supportive customers.

The Contribution Culture Perspective

The Do For approach makes a clear link between staff motivation and business results. The purpose of having highly motivated staff is to produce better business results. This connection must be clear to both managers and staff.

This means that as manager, you need to see your business differently.

  • Your staff are effectively you business partners
  • Utilizing the skills, insights, experience and opinions of your staff will create greater business success
  • If you want to fully utilize staff insights you must keep them fully informed
  • You need systems that encourage staff to make suggestions, offer opinions and develop appropriate skills and systems for you to consider
  • Your job is to determine business focus and target market, set performance goals and standards and let staff "get on with" meeting goals
  • You may need to change the organization structure and responsibilities in your business to make the Do For approach work for you
  • Do For requires an ongoing commitment to less formal management control and more staff responsibility and control. It’;s not a temporary measure to meet an emergency.

The Employee Perspective

When you practice Do For motivation, you’;ll create a work that

  • readily offers their opinions and insights
  • expects to share the benefits of business success
  • values ​​their role because of their enhanced contribution
  • requires greater freedom to act autonomously and independently
  • has high expectations of the performance of their co-workers
  • may need some mentoring and advice as they learn to develop themselves.

Above all, they’;ll be far more committed to their own effectiveness and business success. They’;ll be "highly motivated".


Please allow me to remind you of what Ricardo Semler said. "As a leader my job is to motivate them to go home proud of their work ." Semler is an extraordinarily successful business manager. We should take notice of what he says.