Paul Falcone, Vice President, Human Resources, MPTF
Organizations just like yours are facing a massive dilemma throughout the nation: employees continue to feel less engaged in their work and less loyal to their companies. To understand this concerning trend, it’s important to understand some of the macro challenges that we’ve faced as a nation since the turn of the millennium. Stock market swings, tech booms, and mortgage meltdowns have led to tectonic crashesthat have left corporations—and individual workers—scrambling for cover. Disengagement, disenchantment, and disconnectedness have led to upheaval, from economics to politics to social norms.
Where does this leave you—the senior executive, middle manager, or frontline supervisor who drives the vast majority of your organization’s success? You’re the bread and butter, but you’re also an employee yourself. How do you motivate yourself in light of these many changing priorities and demands, how do you assume responsibility for your employees’ wellbeing, and how can you insulate them from the vagaries of the global marketplace that have made your local workplace so much more demanding, exacting, and challenging?
It all boils down to what you believe about yourself. Who are you in light of this concept known as “corporate leader” and “people manager”? Who do you wish you to be in terms of influencing others to do their best work every day, inspiring them to thrive in their careers, and building a cadre of future leaders who will ultimately thank you for the opportunities you’ve given them through the gift of your time? No, there’s no “one size fits all” approach to motivating and inspiring others.
Motivational leadership stems more from true care and concern for others than just about anything else—after all, people will always go above and beyond if they feel recognized and appreciated for the contributions they make
Like many of life’s most difficult challenges, it all boils down to how important this is to you and what you want to make of it. But it’s also easier than you think: your new tomorrow is right at your fingertips when it comes to leading and inspiring others. It will only take a few twists and tweaks to your sponsoring thoughts about who you are and who you choose to be in light of the challenges and demands that corporate America may throw your way at any given time.
The blueprint for successful leadership and communication will always base itself on human relationships and getting to know your employees more intimately. Becoming someone’s favorite boss is a noble goal because it helps your staff members fall in love with your company. At its core, delegating to your team as a means of professional development and ultimately preparing others less experienced than you to replace you at some point in the future, both for their own good and for the good of your company, is the whole point of succession planning. It encompasses motivating team members when you have little budget on hand to do so, preserving restless top performers, and recognizing burnout and engaging in turnaround situations to help your employees get back on the right track. Finally, it boils down to becoming a leader who puts people’s needs ahead of your own. As it turns out, selfless leadership, or “servant leadership” as Robert Greenleaf coined the term in early 1970s, is still very much alive and well because of the compassionate nature of human relationships.
Top performers—your top 20 percent—will always be resume builders: Challenge them to reinvent themselves and find new ways of adding value. Your greatest opportunity will always lie in “moving the middle”—the 70 percent who perform consistently but not necessarily with distinction. Help them build their resumes and Linked In profiles by developing an accomplishment mentality at work that can be shared via a Quarterly Achievement Profile for all to see. And whatever else you do, don’t get bogged down managing the bottom 10 percent who appear to be plagued with performance or conduct challenges. Instead, partner with HR to address substandard performance to turnaround and, when necessary, discipline and/or terminate those who continue to struggle to the minimums.
Finally, remember that motivation is internal: your role as a leader is not so much to motivate others but to create an environment where they can motivate themselves. And you’ll only know about that by asking. As it turns out, motivational leadership stems more from true care and concern for others than just about anything else—after all, people will always go above and beyond if they feel recognized and appreciated for the contributions they make. Be the leader you’d want to work for yourself: then allow everything else to simply fall in place from there.