Leadership and Motivation


Written Transcript/Summary – Leadership and Motivation

AYL Podcast #2 Summary

Leadership – Motivation in the Workplace: Meeting the Basic Needs of your Employees

Model: The ERG Theory of Motivation by Clayton Alderfer takes into consideration Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

This model is easy to explain…I will present it in a linear fashion…but it is a continuum. It absolutely has relevance in our personal lives and today I use it in the business context. I find this really valuable for the leaders I work with. It has great meaning for employee motivation.

Moving Through the Stages

There are 3 stages – in our workplace context – Why do people join companies/organizations? Lower level need of existence (Stage 1) is of our survival – We need to provide for ourselves and others, a home and food on the table. We need to meet lower level needs to be able to move along to the other levels or stages.

Stage 2 is our need for relatedness. This is a need for being part of community, to have common goals that we collectively work towards, for engagement with others.

Stage 3 is about our need for growth and development – in our humanness we want to grow and develop. Learning can be highly motivating. Having growth opportunities gives us something to work towards. This is about motivation and reward.

Declining Motivation

As in the other stages, when the opportunity does not present itself for the higher level needs we tend to illuminate the focus on the lower level needs.

An example, if growth and development (Stage 3) is not available to the workplace then the focus will go on to community (Stage 2). Not all companies have a training and development budget. This really shifts the responsibility of growth and development to the leader – what learning activities can the leader create that builds great competency and opportunity for each employee.

With the absence of growth and development opportunities an employee will seek their motivation through Stage 1 and Stage 2. Some may not be satisfied to do so and may well be looking to exit the organization.

Should growth and development be waning and if community (Stage 2) breaks down, then the focus goes on to survival needs (Stage 1), in other words, self-preservation, such as, let it be them not me that loses my job. Community will generally break down with major changes of a negative note such as significant terminations, layoffs. Community may also break down with major senior leadership changes that support a more dramatic/impactful leadership style that is a big shift from the current norm.

Compensation, benefits are what will meet the survival needs (Stage 1). Should compensation not meet survival needs obviously the individual needs to make a decision. Do I need to move on? Something we
may hear from one who is heavily weighted on the survival component of this model is – They don’t pay me enough to stay here!

Is employee motivation at a healthy level in your company/organization?

What goes on in your company/organization to ensure engaging community in the workplace culture? What goes on in your company/organization to ensure growth and development?

Do you have an HR or OD department that supports growth and development…as a leader you have a role in this…don’t leave it up to HR or OD.

If you are in a smaller company you won’t have the luxury of these professionals for sure….you will need to lean in to this leadership activity to support the fulfillment of the higher level need. What could you do: how about opportunities for people to cross training for positions – this is good all the way around for the office, you the leader and the employees, rotational positions, special projects, opportunities to sit on committees, research projects, rotate who will lead your team meetings, let employees create upcoming agendas for meetings.

What can lead to the breakdown of any one of these needs with in your company/organization?

Let me share 2 stories with you to demonstrate what can happen.

Story #1 – The downturn in 2008, 2009…..where some big industries had massive layoffs.With extreme cost measures in place before employee cut backs happened, you can be assured growth and development opportunities and budgets would have been reduced significantly. Often we hear about hiring freezes, elimination of positions prior to reducing the workforce through de-hiring processes. Employees start to worry…..stress will be pulsing throughout the organization. While growth and development has deteriorated, the pressure on community is high….the community starts to suffer some cracks. The engaging community now wains….self-preservation has become a reality. The workforce knows something is up….and now it is about saving your own job. Massive cuts happened to many…..some stories shared with me were about seeing almost all of one’s colleagues let go in one afternoon….in one case that meant 60 people from one department gone within hours. Who is left standing…..one with a job….yes….but one incredibly demotivated and worried survivor. What will it take to re-engage and motivate the remaining employees so that they can truly be effective and productive under such conditions?

Story #2 – Rumor was out that a company was struggling, there already were cuts to training and development budgets……and rumor had it there would be cuts to employees. The Director, who truly cared about his employees, didn’t miss a beat with regard to training and developing his people.

  • He already had a robust plan in place and for years had a significant role in ensuring the growth of his people without a reliance on an HR department, they were a smaller company …..HR didn’t exist in this firm.
  • His people were loyal and terrific team members.
  • The thought of having to let people go in the near future made sleep elusive for him.
  • The directive to cut 6 people from his team became reality…that was 1/2 of his people. Beyond
    thinking about…how will we get the work done….his concern for people was greater.
  • Not just who would be gone….but how would he keep those who were left engaged and motivated.
  • This is the Hallmark of brilliance as a leader.
  • He engaged those who would be the surviving members of the cuts to come up with a plan to
    support those who would be leaving.
  • They were there in spades for those who lost their job.
  • They were the shoulder to cry on and the pillar for those who needed to vent.
  • They continued the Friday lunch with their team members who had been let go.
  • They looked for job opportunities for them….some called friends who were in the position of hiring
    for other companies to promote those who needed work.
  • They helped out with resume creation and references.
  • They kept up communication, they kept up the engaged community.

The then intact team had a greater workload now that they were leaner….but this team was highly motivated…they felt good about who they were and moved forward seamlessly.

What can cause deterioration of the higher level needs…?

As we have heard in the stories I shared…clearly a downturn of business was at the root of both stories. But….here are some other thoughts for you:

  1. Smaller companies who don’t have the budget for trainings and development opportunities.
  2. Mergers and Acquisitions can quickly change the climate of an organization, cultural differences in
    companies coming together can dramatically impact community and may well impact growth and development of people….people are often de-hired in the company that is acquired….and sometimes in both companies
  3. A change in top leadership in a company….generally we see significant changes in a company when a new President/CEO comes in.
  4. Budget allocation changes and vital training and development dollars move to other needs.

As a leader of others…..you can see that a critical function of your role, regardless of the complexity of your portfolio is to ensure a collaborative engaging community in the workplace and opportunities for growth and development…during good times….and bad.

  • But….you as a leader, need to ensure your motivation and drive in the tough times to keep you at your peak!
  • Many leaders want to hide behind closed doors or react to conditions with paralysis which delays decision making and sends stress rippling throughout a company.
  • You can be exceedingly worried about the company if you are an owner….and/or worried about your position’s viability if you are a key leader in the firm.
  • Find a way to manage your own emotions and stress that allows you place your concern towards others who look to the leader for guidance and certainty in stressful times.

Thanks for being with me today! To Better Leadership, Always!

Leadership and Motivation

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