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Management Help - Find Your Staff's Motivation

Updated on July 5, 2010

I studied management at college and thought that I knew every trick the day that I graduated. I had read all of the books and theories about motivation and the art of proper management. My first corporate job showed me that theory means nothing when it comes to actual people. It is easy to try and apply cookie-cutter ideas to everyday situations, but these often fail because people are not all cut from the same cookie! Everyone is unique, and this is a wonderful and extremely frustrating thing! This is the first part of what I plan to be a lengthy series on management help, from someone who has found that real-world situations are better teachers than any theory or managerial thesis. I hope that others can learn from my mistakes, and from my successes!

One the the best questions to ask yourself as a manager is, "what motivates my staff?" The first answer that always pops into your mind is money, but that is usually not an option. Is it respect? Of course it is! But how do you give it to them? You can tell your staff members every day that their opinions matter, that they are not being ignored. If you do nothing about it, if you do not become an advocate for them, then their opinions DO NOT MATTER and they ARE being ignored. No matter how much you tell a staff member that you understand or that you feel their concern, if you do nothing, you are lying and they will eventually come to the same realization. Now, I understand, that a lot of the time your staff members' requests or desires are not going to ever be taken seriously, but YOU have to take them serious. You have more pull with the powers that be than they do, and they know it. By placating them, or simply ignoring them, you are distancing yourself from the people that you should be the closest to. If your staff member wants a golden stapler, then explain to upper management that they want a golden stapler. You have just become an advocate for your staff and can explain to them why upper management cannot comply. This builds loyalty. Now don't make upper management out to be the bad guy, just pass on their reasons and concerns.

OK, we all want to climb to corporate ladder, but how do we do this? If you focus solely upon becoming a member of upper management by focusing your efforts on appeasing them, you will completely lose your staff and their production will suffer. Now, looking at this from what simply helps the business the most, your staff needs to be as productive as possible to help the greater whole of the company to succeed. If you do right by your staff and their productivity is improved, you will get noticed as a manager

I had a staff member who was responsible for packaging and mailing out the startup kits that our company sent to each of its' new members. Each package was unique to their industry and required a lot of attention to get right. This particular staff member was over 6 feet tall. He had to bend over to fulfill each order and he had a few hundred a day to get done. The company decided to move its location and in the planning meeting for the packaging/shipping area, I stepped up to ask that we allow my staff member to help design the new area. This was greeted with some concern, but I won them over by explaining that he was the only person that fulfilled orders, so it was his area of expertise. I asked my staff member to help me design the new area to his height. We spent about a half an hour trying different workspace heights and finally came up with the right one. He was extremely pleased to have been involved, and I was very happy about the outcome. It may have cost the company a few hundred dollars more to build the counters in his area two inches higher, and I had to spend an extra half hour working with him to determine the right height, but he became one of the best employees that the company had ever had. Why? Because his input mattered and determined a very real and noticeable outcome.

Now I am not telling you to run to upper management every time your staff complains. You have to realize which requests are legit. This requires having a honest back-and-forth with your staff members. You need to be able to show them that your job is to make sure that they are productive, safe members of the company and that they are important. Do not let them walk on you, or take advantage of you ever. 


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