For the past few months, I was writing about quantum physics and business research to explore the correlation between the science of consciousness and patterns in the business world, to suggest innovative ways of using this wisdom to lead and succeed in a business environment that is constantly evolving at a rapid pace. Once we reach a greater understanding of how the thought energy in an organization, in addition to actions, is influencing our results, many of our focuses will change. Today, we place a huge emphasis on monitoring how employees perform, as far as the actions they take, but we place very little emphasis on understanding the thoughts behind their actions. Today we only care that an employee is motivated to perform, but in the future we will care about why an employee is motivated to perform, because this will determine the target of their intentions.
When employees are motivated to perform because they intend that the company is successful, rather than because they desire self-preservation or self-promotion, our businesses will be more successful. This is because the energy of their intentions has an impact on business outcomes (see earlier article on Intentions.)
It has been proven scientifically thru experimentation, when groups of people intend that a particular outcome is achieved, the intentions themselves have an impact on events, so that the outcome is more likely to occur in the direction of the intentions. An intention is a conscious desire for a particular outcome. See my earlier articlefor a premise on how thought energy leads to business success.
It is not a foregone conclusion that employees of a business have a conscious desire, or intention for the business to succeed. I remember one time I was talking to a prospective client who has never worked for a company. I was talking enthusiastically about the importance of employees’ intentions for the success of a business, and he looked at me with a quizzical expression and said “Why do you think this is such a revelation? All employees intend for their company to be successful.” Those were definitely words of a person who was never employed in the corporate world. Based on my experience, it’s not a stretch to say that most employees in corporations don’t have high levels of intentionality for the success of the company, but rather their intentionality is focused on their own success.
So the question for leaders and managers to ask is “Are employees striving to do a good job because of self-preservation/promotion, or do they care about the success of the overall organization?” The answer to this reveals the object of their intentions.
Here are some reasons why the object of most employees’ intentions is their personal success. Typically, we have caused this by the way we run our multinational businesses.
First, most employees see that winning requires they look better than their fellow employees. That’s how they get promotions and raises that are larger than their co-workers, and that’s how they protect their job security. It follows that their personal success is more important than the success of the overall company and is therefore the object of their intentions.
Secondly, employees will focus their intentions on the realm that is top of mind. They naturally have an active awareness of the success of their particular job function or the project they are working on, but most don’t have an active awareness of the overall success of the company. I like what I have read about how Herb Kelleher kept the employees of Southwest Airlines connected to the affairs of the overall business, by emotionally engaging them in the issues and the company’s strategy for tackling them. This helped focus their intentions on overall business success, but most companies are not nearly as adept at this.
Finally, employees will focus their intentions on the realm where they believe they can influence success. This means they’ll focus their intentions on the realm that they control, which is their personal success or the success of teams of which they are a part of. Most companies aren’t proficient at showing employees how they personally contribute to the bottom line.
The traditional method that leaders use to get employees to be invested in the success of the overall business is to tie the wealth of employees to the wealth of the business through profit sharing bonuses or stock ownership plans. I won’t say that these methods are ineffective, but I will say they are of limited value as long as employees are more motivated to achieve personal success.
Most employees have a high level of intentionality for their own success but not for the success of the entire company. Even employees who are highly engaged and excellent performers will likely intend for their personal success to a far greater degree than the success of their overall company. Causing employees to have strong intentions for overall business success is multi-faceted and the subject of other articles, but we can start with simply paying attention to the current source of motivation.
Law of Unfulfilled Potential
One can see aspects of this law working in such areas like, for instance, in neurophysiology, humans use only a fraction of their brains’ capabilities; in technology, superconductivity is not yet widely available; and in medicine, the harnessing of the body’s abilities to fight cancers is only just beginning to be understood and realized.
But the Law of Unfulfilled Potential is particularly dominant in the business world – and especially in operations. Operations is the blocking and tackling of any organization, the fundamentals that create the foundation for consistent success.
It’s such an important function that in many companies the Chief Operating Officer is usually the next in line for the job of CEO. If a company is not doing operations well, all of its other functions are diminished.
Having worked with operations leaders in a variety of top companies for over two decades, I have seen that many are unfortunately strict adherents to the Law of Unfulfilled Potential – for one main reason: They have neglected an all-important results-driver, motivation.
Clearly, many factors further operational excellence: capital, cycle time, technological advancements, quality, efficiencies, etc. But motivation is the most fundamental, operational determinant of all, for it drives all the others.
After all, operations is the sum of people doing many jobs; and when skilled people are motivated to accomplish those jobs, great results happen.
But many operations perceive motivation as “soft” – as opposed to the “hard” factors of cycle time, quality control, etc. – and so either ignore it or struggle with actualizing it on a daily basis.
I see motivation, however, as a “hard” determinant of operations that can be a concrete, a practical results-producer.
I am going to provide four imperatives that you can use right away to achieve consistent increases in operational results. But before I do, I’ll offer a working description of motivation. Leaders often fail to motivate others because these leaders misunderstand the concept of motivation.
The best way for me to describe it is to describe what it is not.
Motivation is not what people think or feel. It’s what people do. Look at the first two letters of the word, “mo.” When you see those letters in a word, such as “motor”, “motion”, “momentum”, “mobile”, etc., it usually means action of some kind. Look at motivation as action too. If people are not taking action, they are in point of fact not motivated.
Motivation is not something we can do to somebody else. It is always something that that someone else does to themselves. Look back over your career, and you will see that the motivator and the “motivatee” were always the same person. As a leader, you communicate, and provide an environment for your members to thrive but the people whom you want to motivate must motivate themselves.
Motivation is not a dispassionate dynamic. It is an “emotional” dynamic. The words “motivation” and “emotion” come from the same Latin root word, which means “to move.” When we want to move (motivate) people to take action, or in truth have them motivate themselves, we engage their emotions. Put another way: People will not take action for more results faster continually unless their emotions are engaged.
Finally, the best way to enter into a motivational relationship with people is not by distant communication but the kind of face-to-face talk that has people make the choice to be committed to your cause. It is called the ‘leadership talk’.
Those are descriptions of what motivation truly is. But descriptions alone won’t help you meet the challenges of Unfulfilled Potential. You must follow clear imperatives to help you transform descriptions into results.
Here are four that will help you cultivate motivational operations.
1. Give leadership talks not presentations. The difference between a presentation and a leadership talk is what Mark Twain said the difference between the almost right word and the right word is. “That is the difference,” he said, “between the lightning bug and lightning.”
Let’s understand the basic difference between the presentation and the leadership talk.
Presentations communicate information; but leadership talks have people believe in you, follow you, and, most important of all, want to take leadership for your cause. (The best example of such a talk is the one given by George Washington in 1783 to his field commanders who were on the verge of a revolt in the history of American Revolution.)
My experience has taught me that 95% of all communication in business is accomplished through the presentations. However, if 95% of communication were accomplished through the leadership talk instead, leaders would be far more effective in getting results.
So, before you speak to people from now on, and by the way, leaders speak 15 to 20 and more times a day, ask yourself if you are simply providing information or are you motivating those people to motivate themselves to take action for results.
2. Create motivational systems. Most operational leaders are good at systemizing quality initiatives, cycle time, efficiencies, etc. But few understand that some of the most important systems they can put into place are systems that help people make the choice for motivation.
A particularly effective motivational system is one that saturates operations with “cause leaders.”
Unquestionably, people accomplish a task better if they are not simply doing it but taking leadership of it. When we are challenged to take leadership, we raise our performance to much higher levels. With that in mind, create systems that identify cause leaders, challenge them to take specific leadership action, and support those actions through systematized training and resource allocations.
3. See results not as an end but as a motivational process. Clearly, you have to get results. But many operations leaders misunderstand what results are about. I teach leaders the concept of achieving “more results faster continually” – not by speeding up but by slowing down and working less, by putting the motivational imperatives into practice. Leaders understand the “more results faster” aspect – but they often stumble when it comes to the “continual achievement” aspect.
We can usually order people to get more results faster. But we can’t order people to do it on a continual basis. That’s where motivation comes in. Instead of ordering people to go from point A to point B, say, we must have them want to go from A to B. That ‘want to’ is the heart of ‘continually.’
When we understand results this way, understand that we must achieve “more, faster” on a continual basis, then we begin to make motivational operations a way of life.
4. Challenge people to be motivational leaders. The imperatives are powerful when you use them consistently. But they are even more powerful when you have your leaders use them and teach others to use them. After all, you alone can’t create motivational operations. You need others to help you do it, especially those mid-level and small-unit leaders. If they are not putting the imperatives into practice every day, your attempts to raise the standards of operations to a consistently high motivational level will falter.
Define the success of your leadership by how well your leaders are leading, and you are well on your way to making motivational operations a reality.
Once you begin to institute motivational operations by applying the four imperatives, the Law of Unfulfilled Potential becomes your competitor’s worry, not yours.
Dr Surya M Ganduri, PhD. PMP. is the Founder & President of eMBC, Inc., an international firm specializing in strategic and executive leadership development processes that Help People Succeed in an Evolving World. Dr Surya has over 28 years of business experience in management consulting, leadership development, executive coaching, process improvements, organizational development and youth leadership. For more information visit www.eMBCinc.com or contact eMBC, Inc., directly at (630) 445-1321.