How is it that a person who came highly recommended as a star performer in their previous company joins your team only to lose their spark and fizzle out? Why does someone who has been an average performer one place move positions or change bosses and reach surprising levels of success? This week’s blog offers some insight into this puzzling performance dynamic and how motivation matching can help you bring out the best in your employees....before someone else does.
From years of working with clients on both sides of this story, we’ve found that the cause for this perplexing change in performance frequently boils down to an incompatibility between the values of the individual and the values of their leadership. For example, all salespeople are motivated by money - right? And everyone loves to be recognized in front of an audience - right? Tell that to the employee who would rather under-perform than risk having to endure public recognition again. Recognition that doesn't match the values of the person being recognized can backfire or have little to no effect at all. Leaders often overlook the importance of identifying the unique motivational needs of each employee in order to assess if their organization, as well as their personal leadership style, has what it takes to fulfill them – a process we call motivation matching.
How does one motivate someone else? In order to answer that question, you need to consider all of the factors that influence someone’s drive to achieve. Exceptional performance is the alignment of skills, passion, feedback, management style, measurement, rewards and culture. We each have a unique pass-code that unlocks our inspiration, potential, and desire to achieve. Before assuming your employee “just isn’t motivated”, consider these questions to determine if it may instead be a result of a motivation mismatch:
- What skills do they possess that give THEM the most satisfaction?
- How is their job drawing upon their strengths AND interests?
- What rewards do they respond to best?
- What kind of feedback (written, oral, public, private, broad, detailed) and at what frequency do they need?
- What management style brings out the best in them?
- What message does our company’s culture send about performance?
Start by making an educated guess and then test your knowledge by sitting down with your employees to ask them these questions. True motivation matching must include both observation and validation. Without it, it's merely assumption and leaves you with the burden of trying to hit a target you can't see. Let them tell you how to bring out the best in them.
Motivation matching requires a realistic assessment of the strengths and limitations of your organization and yourself, the insight to better understand your employee, the willingness to make adjustments that bring out the best in them, and the courage to admit when you can't offer what they need and releasing them to find it. As involved as that may sound, it is painless compared to the hours wasted struggling to solve performance problems or wondering who went wrong – you or them?