Motivating the People of Your Organization: The Fifth Attribute of Positive Leaders

The fifth and final attribute of positive leaders everywhere deals most directly with what powerful positive leaders do on a daily basis. They work hard to create a motivated workforce and they do it not by some grand design but rather by working with individual men and women, whether one-to-one or in groups.

How often have you heard the complaint that “people don’t want to work anymore!” or, “Our employees don’t appreciate their jobs!”? How many times have you heard yourself making similar comments?

We have all felt this way and each of us has experienced the frustrations that result from a poorly motivated workforce and from our apparent inability to turn the situation around.

We categorically reject the hypothesis that people do not want to work, in favor of an alternate idea: that people don’t know how to work and be productive. It is a subtle but important distinction. We submit that people can be taught. The challenge to leadership is to teach these things and to ignite the internal motivation that exists in each of us to learn and to excel.

Human motivation is a complex subject. For all of the attention motivation receives its critical role is underappreciated. As complicated as the subject of human motivation may be, motivating people or, more appropriately, igniting a person’s internal motivation is a relatively simple challenge. The key to human motivation in the work place, or anywhere else, is to make people feel important.

Everyone wants to feel important. Leaders who effectively convey that their people are truly vital to the organization will have a dynamic, energetic, and motivated team of people.

Examine your own experience with your favorite supervisor or teacher. You felt a special relationship with your mentor, a real kinship. You knew you were liked and you did your best work while they were involved in your life. What did they do differently than the other teachers and supervisors who clutter your memory?

These leaders treated you as if you were special. They liked you; they remembered your name; they listened to you; they valued your opinion; they showed appreciation for your efforts; they smiled at you; they treated you with respect; they trusted you; they challenged you; they tried to help you do a better job; they provided you with clear expectations; they gave you continuous and ongoing feedback; they let you make mistakes without fear of retribution or humiliation; they encouraged you to try again; they made sure you received full recognition for your contributions; they expected much from you and so much more.

They worked hard to make you feel important. It was a genuine display of affection. And, it was easy because they liked people. Positive leaders genuinely care about and believe in the capabilities of the men and women in their organization.

There will always be a few unproductive people, no matter how capable their supervisor, but they are the exception, not the norm. The majority of employees can and will be both motivated and productive if you are an effective leader. When they are not, the responsibility is yours, not society’s. You recruited them, you hired them, you train and evaluated them. It may well be that they came to your shop poorly prepared to live up to your expectations but they were the best of the lot. After you signed them on you accepted responsibility for their performance and outcomes.
As a leader, the only meaningful measure of your own performance is how well you take this raw material and mold it into a well-trained, well-focused, and highly motivated work force.

Learn how to be a positive leader and how to create an environment that fosters the internal motivation of your people. It is easy once you acquire the genuine belief that your people are your most important resource and you communicate that fact to them through your words, your actions, and through the rules, structure, and culture of your organization.

Make people feel important!

The “Reign of Error” by Diane Ravitch, Chapter 3 – The 4th Installment of my Journaled Review

This chapter is devoted to a discussion of what Ravitch and others refer to as the “Corporate Reform Movement.” She notes that this movement has its roots in Milton Friedman’s 1955 introduction of the concept of school vouchers that enable parents to choose where the public funds can best be spent relative to the education of their children. Ravitch charts the path of this “privatization of education movement” through President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” legislation, and President Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” initiative.

What has resulted can best be described as a “mob rush” toward privatization of education in which test results are utilized to hold public schools and their teachers accountable. This movement designs to break what they believe to be the stranglehold that unions have on public education in America and create a scenario in which schools and school districts must compete on the basis of the performance of their students in an environment where parents, using vouchers to break down economic barriers, are free to choose what they believe to be the best choice for their children.

Somehow, it is believed, that the magic of the free market will somehow transform public education and, in the process, begin to reduce the poverty in which so many Americans must live. The irony could not be more graphic.
To suggest that competition between schools in a free market environment can somehow cure the poverty that has resulted as a consequence of the imperfections of a free-market economy is nothing short of absurd.

Inevitably, a free market system will gravitate toward the money and making money available to parents through the utilization of vouchers is not sufficient to divert the system from its relentless search for deep pockets.
Free markets require much more than the wherewithal of the consumer. For a free market to function effectively it also requires that the products and service it provides must meet the needs of the consumer (demand). Even this is not sufficient, however. The consumer, also, must be sufficiently knowledgeable to discern which products and services are most likely to fulfill their requirements.

This is where the misinterpretation of the reasons why our systems of education fail such a large percentage of American children comes into play. We mistakenly assume that the greatest problem with public education in America is poverty. On the basis of that assumption we conclude that the poor are motivated to act in what “we” perceive to be in “their” best interests. We envision that parents living in poverty will rush to take advantage of school vouchers to give their children an opportunity for a quality education so that they can enjoy a better life.

The unfortunate reality, to which we are so absurdly blind, is that the problem with public education in America is not poverty. It is the hopelessness and powerlessness of a people who have given up on the American dream. Many parents in our most challenged schools do not elect to take advantage of vouchers simply because they are not motivated to do so. They do not believe in our systems of public education and they do not believe an education will provide any benefit to their children.

As a result, our most challenged schools and their teachers are left with the least motivated students, the least supportive parents, and less resources with which to work with them.

Schools that are the recipients of the voucher boom, on the other hand, find themselves with unexpected revenue that proves to be insufficient to deal with a new population of students with minimal motivation to learn and parents who demonstrate minimal commitment to the education of their children.

This privatization movement will not bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots, it will only deepen the rift. It also gives parents from all but the most influential demographic strata even less control over the education of their children as education will not be truly accountable to the people of a given community.

Diane Ravitch is absolutely correct when she says that “privatizing our public schools is a risky and dangerous project. . . . It will hurt children, shatter communities, and damage our society.”

The Fourth Attribute of Positive Leaders: Mastering the Process of Success

The fourth attribute of Positive Leaders is that they possess an understanding of the process of success along with a commitment to the relentless utilization of that process.

People dream about success and about doing great things. Many young people fantasize about winning the lottery or making millions of dollars as a professional athlete. Few of these young people know how to convert their dreams to plans to action. Many adults think that success is a state of perpetual affluence. These men and women do not realize that affluence is nothing more than a possible consequence and not the essence of success.

The vast majority of you who are reading this page have the ability within you to succeed right where you are, just by doing things differently, by learning the process of success and by rededicating yourselves to positive values. You can improve your performance on the job, enhance your career, have a more satisfying marriage, and get more joy and meaning out of life. These things can happen, now! Success can be personal, interpersonal, or organizational but it is always tied to clearly delineated objectives and is always measured through our relationships with other people.

What, then, is this process of success? It includes a mission in life, rooted in positive, life-affirming values; a positive attitude and approach; passion; a vision of how things can be; specific goals and objectives; an implementation plan; and finally, action. It is that simple but it does not stop there. Action creates change. Change requires that the vision be re-examined, that the progress is measured, that the goals and objectives are adjusted, that the action plan be re-engineered, and that our actions themselves are modified accordingly. The process is repeated until we have converted the dream to reality; until we are satisfied. But satisfaction does not come easily if it comes at all.

The more we accomplish, the more we learn, and the more we learn, the more we imagine. What is vital is that our values, those core principles that sustain us, are not altered but remain rock solid.

It is the positive leader’s propensity for action that distinguishes them from men and women who simply manage. Positive Leaders make things happen. These individuals are at the peak of their art or craft. How do they do it? Well, of course, they have talent – but then lots of people have talent. The world is full of talented people who think back on opportunities in their lives and say, “with a little luck I might have made it!” But, many talented people do not make it and luck may or may not deserve the credit for their outcomes. We all have good luck but not everyone is prepared to capitalize on it when it comes.

It is said that winners make their own breaks and this we have found to be especially true. Those of us who blame everything on bad luck are not accepting reality. If we reflect on the opportunities that have come our way, we discover that they came unexpectedly, often catching us off guard and unprepared. We might say it was bad luck that good fortune, in the guise of opportunity, called upon us when we were not ready. More often than not bad luck is little more than lack of readiness or preparation.

Understand your purpose and mission and re-examine them routinely. Establish goals and objectives for yourselves. Make a commitment to those goals and dedicate yourself to doing everything in your power to facilitate them. Work hard to develop your skills and discipline yourself to a regimen that will maximize your talents and energies toward that end.

Be persistent in spite of the obstacles that present themselves and the setbacks that befall you. Follow the Boy Scout motto and “Be Prepared.” Know that all the work and effort you put forth is preparation for the time when opportunity knocks. When opportunities do present themselves, take positive action using all the skills and abilities in your arsenal and all the energy at your command.

Taking action is the key. Even the ideas of an Einstein or a Jefferson have little value until they are acted upon or communicated.

Positive Leaders employ the tools of success: action plans and action proposals. Action plans are nothing more than a list of the things you plan to do to breathe life into an idea. Action plans may be sufficiently brief that they can fit on the back of a business card or they can require several pages, depending on the complexity of the specific goals and objectives.

An action proposal is a special kind of action plan that is utilized when its originator lacks the authority or power to act on the idea. Action proposals are submitted to the decision-maker(s) appropriate to the specific situation. Action proposals contain, at a minimum:

• A statement of purpose – what do we want to accomplish and why (how does it serve our mission)?
• Specific and measurable goals and objectives;
• A delineation of the specific activities needed to achieve those goals and objectives and in what time frame;
• The resources necessary, which includes the people whose participation will be required, the non-human assets, the estimated cost of the endeavor, and also any recognizable opportunity costs;
• How the results will be measured?
• What next steps are anticipated?

An effective action proposal contains everything the decision-maker will need in order to say “Yes.” In fact, the idea is to make it as easy as possible for someone to say “Yes.” Very often, a “No” is the default response when the action proposal leaves too many unanswered questions and requires the decision-maker to do too much.

Positive Leaders rarely complain about things because complaints are powerless and are little more than a form of whining. Positive Leaders offer alternate solutions – what can we do differently in order to produce a more desirable outcome. If we think back to our fundamental definition of leadership, it is acceptance of responsibility for increasingly more desirable outcomes; for continuous improvement. This is what Positive Leaders do.

Does utilization of this process guarantee success? No! There are no guarantees. It does, however, improve the odds of a successful outcome so dramatically in one’s favor that success moves from possibility to probability. Teach yourself the process and make success a probability in your life!

Do not wait and hope that success will happen in your life, some day. Take action now! Make it happen and “put wings on your dreams.”