Bosses - and individuals - need to instill a positive attitude.

A couple of times in past articles I’ve stated that five of the important pieces to Human Resource Management are: 1. Hire the best; 2. Train the best; 3. Communicate the best; 4. Motivate the best; 5. Compensate the best.

I truly believe that if you work very hard to achieve each of these “bests” that you put yourself and your business in the position to be the BEST. In this article I want to concentrate on the motivation part. It’s one of the easiest to accomplish, but is an area that too often is ignored or at least doesn’t get the attention it should.

I recently was doing a consulting job for a client who owns five showrooms. I was having dinner with the owner and his five store managers. The topic of motivation came up and I asked the owner how he thought he did in this area. He said, “I think I’m a good motivator!”  I turned to the five managers and they all gave a thumbs down. The owner was stunned. We talked more about it and came up with a program to help the owner and his managers become better motivators.

Another client called me last week and said team morale was bad. Folks were complaining that all the company meetings were negative, i.e., business is down, showroom traffic is slow, margins have slipped. etc.  The mantra was, “What are you salespeople going to do to help make it better?”

This showroom business has been experiencing hard times just like everyone else. The owner, a very talented person, has been trying to encourage the four salespeople to get out of the showroom and call on tradespeople that aren’t now doing business with them. The salespeople have been slow to respond to this and the owner is frustrated. I asked the owner if she was doing any positive motivation actions or was it all “things are tough and we all have to do better.” The owner said that when there’s a good reason for a “pat on the back,” she does it - but other than that she doesn’t give out a lot of “atta boys.”  I suggested that employees need good strong positive motivation in good times and in bad. She said, “That just isn’t me!”  I respectfully suggested that maybe she read a couple of books that I recommended and get a CD or DVD on the art of becoming a better motivator.

Great expectations

Most owners and many bosses set very high expectations for their employees, and this is fine. They just have to remember that employees are just that: employees. For many of them it’s just a job. They’re working because they have to. That’s why making the workplace a fun, warm, inviting - even exciting - place to come to every day encourages folks to work harder, smarter and longer.

So just what is “motivation”? Dwight Eisenhower said that “motivation is getting people to do something becausetheywant to do it!”  Another book suggests that “motivation is inspiring people to work - individually or in groups - in ways that produce the best results.”  It’s learning how to influence people’s behavior. Some bosses are great motivators - day in and day out. Many are not, and those that are not fall into two classes: those that know how to motivate but get too busy or forget to do it; and those who just don’t know how.

Learning to be a really good motivator is an art and a skill. It must be learned. There are various techniques to it and these techniques must be learned and then practiced. You’ve all heard the term “different strokes for different folks.” This is very true when it come to motivating employees. We are all different. We have different needs. A challenge for every boss is to be able to determine what will motivate each of the people working with them.

A famous psychologist by the name of Abraham Maslow developed what’s known as the hierarchy of needs. This states that we all have different needs and we continually strive to achieve them. The Maslow chart looks like this, from top to bottom:
5Self-actualization - realizing individual potential, winning, achieving;

4Esteem - being well regarded by other people, appreciated;

3Socialization (love, belonging) - interaction with other people, having friends;

2Safety  - a sense of security, absence of fear;

1Physiological needs - warmth, shelter, food, sex, enough money to live on.

Maslow suggested that we all have varying degrees of all of these needs. It starts with #1: physiological needs, and as they get satisfied we strive to attain #2, a sense of security, and so on. The more ambitious and satisfied the individual personality is at each stage, the greater the potential his/her contribution to the organization will be. In essence, employees don’t just need money and rewards; they also need and want respect and interaction. So - all you bosses out there - when you’re designing jobs, working conditions and organizational structure, bear in mind the full range of needs in the Maslow hierarchy. Learn how to stroke all those different needs that your people have.

Okay, that’s enough psychobabble! If you’re a boss, you have an obligation to yourself, your company and your employees to become a great motivator.

But, I don’t want to put the whole burden of motivation only on the bosses. Each individual has an obligation to make a serious effort atself-motivation. That means YOU learning how to motivate yourself to help yourself move up Maslow’s ladder.

Power in positive thinking

When I facilitate the all-day workshop of Showroom Selling Skills, I stress how important it is to have a positive attitude. That means bouncing out of bed in the morning knowing that  today is going to be a great day; looking forward to going to work - and letting that enthusiasm for your life and job show through every day.

I know, you’re thinking, “Hank, you’re out of your mind. It just doesn’t work that way. Life’s tough - at home and at work. I’m lucky to get to work and make it through each day, let alone do it with enthusiasm.”  But, if you truly want to enjoy life and your job more, then learn how to be positive and excited as much of the time as possible.

One of my best friends hated going to work the last 12 years of his work life. (He retired early and has finally put a smile back on his face.) Sure, he made great money, but he didn’t enjoy the pressure that the big conglomerate kept him under day in and day out. His unhappiness at work affected the way he managed his employees and his relationships with family and friends. The moral of the story is:  If you’re not having fun at work, if you’re unhappy in any aspect of your life - DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Nobody has a gun at your head saying you have to continue to be unhappy. YOU are in charge of your life!

If you’re a showroom salesperson there are three things that you need to be superior at:
1Have GREAT product knowledge.

2Learn and practice selling skills (attend my ASA workshop - or better yet - bring it to your place of business).

3Have a GREAT attitude - toward life, your job, your family, etc.

Here’s your challenge! Make a commitment to work on self-improvement. Spend 15 minutes a day (work days only) listening to a CD or watching a DVD, reading a book, attending workshops on subjects that will make you better, at home and at work and play. Fifteen minutes a day times 220 work days equates to 55 hours a year of working to better yourself. This small commitment will help you realize a huge return!

If you’re one of the bosses I keep referring to and you’re not sure how good a motivator you are, then email me and I’ll send you a copy of a short self-appraisal test titled “Are You a Good Motivator?”

All of this has been easy for me to say because I’ve always been highly motivated in almost everything I’ve done (including just completing my bicycle ride across America). I do bounce out of bed every day knowing it’s going to be a great day, and I’ve rarely been disappointed. But not all of this came naturally. I’ve worked hard, very hard, at self-improvement and at learning how to be a good motivator of others. I’ve been reading books, listening and watching programs and attending workshops almost my entire working life.

Let me leave you with two thoughts:
  • If you’re not having fun in your current job, find out how to change that - or go do something else.

  • If you’re a showroom salesperson, or a boss or owner, why not do everything in your power to be the very best you can be? Make a commitment today to help make yourself better.

    We only walk through this life one time. Make it the best it can be.