Lift me up – How to motivate an employee.

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Coaching is about reaching new hightsDid you know that you have a potential that rest somewhere within you just waiting like kerosene for a spark. I believe that 80 % of all employees, maybe including you have the potential of producing about 20 % more. How can you ignite that spark necessary to get your boiler boiling? I have 40 employees in my department, 32 of these could increase their productivity with 20 % or more. “This again means that my department has the potential of answering around 300 more calls a day! I am shocked! “– This is my thoughts tonight as I am reflecting around my own performance as a manager.

What keeps me away from turning the ignition key?
I wrote about the motivation engine in this post, for sure I have the key, and I am obliged to put the pedal to the metal to gain full speed on this engine. What keeps me from starting the engine? I am actually as I am writing this post reflecting on this very subject.

Time!
I do not have time, was the first thing that popped to my mind. The first counter argument is: What!? No time to increase production overall by 30 %. Jeez I must have messed up my priorities.

Focus!
What is my current focus? What impact does my focus have? Does my focus disturb my co-workers? If I have the wrong focus how can I expect the rest to have correct focus?

Chemistry!
I just can’t reach some of them. It seems like we are talking in different languages, as I cannot get some of them to realize the importance of high productivity.

Ability!
If I continue to follow the 80/20 rule that was my initial base for this article, 20 % of my employees that is underachieving won’t be able to evolve to a higher efficiency level. They just do not have the ability? Personally I do not believe in this. I do believe that all have a potential to perform great. But alright I will agree to that some might not be receptive.

How to motivate an employee!
To get the best out of someone can be a real challenge for anybody. All people are individuals. And some need a little tuning and some need a shock. I once increased the efficiency of one employee by almost 100 % just by removing a note book and a pen, as she was writing everything down as a backup. On the other hand I have fired an employee, and to get him motivated to produce at some level his final days, I told him to do his best to have some hope for a good reference. He ended up as a star player, producing among the top three every single day, resulting in me withdrawing the dismissal, and he continues to produce of a high quality still today. These two are the outer edges of the scale. I would like employees that self motivates to high performance, but to get those I must first teach them.

A good coaching tip that works!
On a scale from 1 to 10, how good will you say your own performance is? I use this question a lot. If the employee answers 7, you should follow up by saying, why did you not say 5; forcing the employees to focus on the positive aspect. “Because I arrive early in the morning”, “Because I am a real good salesperson”, “Because I motivate others” – The answer will be positive.

The next question from you should be; what does it take for you to become a nine the next time we talk? The answers would be; “Increase productivity by ten percent”, “Manage to get here on time”, “Be more involved”, “learn more about…” – This would get them to think about their weaknesses and focus on what they want to be better at. Then pick one or two of these comments and write them down on a commitment paper. As a coach you should also get the employee to think about how to achieve whatever improvement that comes out of this session.

Follow up after a couple of weeks to see if there is any progress.

Since time is your tight spot.
Select a few persons at the time, as a good coaching session might be four or five half hour sessions. I once learned that you should focus on the 60 % in the middle, as the top 20 % percent require a lot of time resulting in only a marginal improvement. And the bottom 20 % is time consuming as they should rather be considered for replacement. I do agree about the top 20 %, but my experience with the 20 % at the bottom proves different as I have managed to see great improvement in a lot of persons that could have been fired long time ago. I like to focus on the bottom three, and give them a chance to get of that list. If coaching does not help, replacement might be the next solution. I have a lot of examples where sediments have flourished to become star players.

Adjusting the focus!
There is a long term and a short term way of focusing. The short term may be in conflict with long term. We see it a lot in economy where it might be important to save a buck right now, even if it might prevent you from earning money in the future. What is your long term focus? What is your short term focus? Can you put it down on paper? How can you achieve the long term goals? Would the long term goals override some of the short term goals? The long term should be the king of the hill and all short term goals should be decided with the long term goals in the back of our minds. If the long term is to create high producing employees, a short term goal should be to increase one or two people’s production during the next weeks, even if this would result in a short term lower production level as you’ll need to take them out of production to improve them.

Experimenting with the chemistry set!
Some people just understand each other on the fly; other does not get along at all. Chemistry is important when you want to coach someone to a higher performance. Trust is important and you’ll need to find the right formula. The only thing I know work to a certain degree is to get to know them better. You’ll need to know what they like and dislike, you need to know how they want things to be presented to them. Some like details some like visionary dreamy thoughts. Some are impulsive and some like to plan. And if you find your way, chemistry might improve. You need to be open and nonjudgmental. (Goes for both the coach and the employee.)

Believe in abilities.
To be able you must first believe, and when you believe you will have hope, and then you will try. Suddenly you will succeed. That’s why you must first get your employees to believe in their own possibilities. If they believe that they can be a star player they have the chance to become one. As a coach your task is to help them to take good care of this chance, and guide them. But you need to believe that it is possible, as an employee and as a coach. If either of you lack the faith you’ll end up wasting time. So when selecting whom to coach to higher performance find those open enough to accept that you can guide them to this level. If I would climb Mt. Everest I would need to trust my Sherpa or I would not be able to get to the top.

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