Don’t Ever Motivate Your Workers. Ever.

_RDL9185 LR  From the desk of Kamahl Barhoush.

In the ever quickening pace of the modern workplace, our workers seem to feel overloaded with responsibility, are stressed into underperformance and suffering from ‘presenteeism’ more and more.

Essentially, they’re at work, but they’re really not at ‘work’.

The interesting irony with this, is the fact that employers are paying more than ever before, have perks and privileges for employees above and beyond any wage standard and at the same time, those same employers feel like they can’t get any more performance from their team even though they’ve done “Everything for them”.

Then I get the call.

Kam: “Barefoot Business, this is Kamahl”.

Prospect: “Hey, I heard you’re really great at motivating teams, can you motivate my team?”

Kam: “Nope”

As you can imagine, this scratches a record.

While there is a very interesting and thought provoking psychology around the overuse, and uselessness of motivation, I’ll attempt to summarise the 2-300 hours I’ve spent studying this phenomenon into 3 words.

It’s short term.

Imagine you’ve been eating junk food every meal for 5 years, while reading health books.

You know deep down that what you’re eating isn’t serving you, and you try and try different strategies (eating the same shitty foods at different times, or eating them while standing instead of sitting, or maybe even skipping one meal of crap and having a double hit at the next meal).

And even though you have the resources (health books) at hand, and you know it’s what you need to be doing, no-one has shown you how to actually IMPLEMENT your new learnings (the 2nd stage of mastery).

So what do you do?

Typically, like 97% of overweight people who eat crap foods but know better, they go and get themselves MOTIVATED.

They turn to page 38 of the health book, make the smoothie listed, chew it down with a grimace (the smirk on the face grimace, not the purple, obese spokesperson from McDonalds Grimace).

This takes place for 5 days (the ACTUAL average health kick length of the obese).

Then its on the scales, to read the number they THINK is important, and, when it doesn’t add up, they delve even deeper into the spiral of poor habits that hurt them even more.

Most businesses I work with have suffered the same (some very small businesses, and some turning over $200m+ and everything in between).

They over-compensate their workers before performance is proven (feeding their business burgers and fries).

Their team goes well for a while, but overall they are slowly going backwards in performance.

They say “we need more stuff… pay us more and we’ll work harder for you”, so the employer goes to his health books (his business books on motivation or on what happens in the Google office), and makes a smoothie.

This time, the smoothie is a weekend away for everyone who makes target.

You’re beginning to see the issue right?

What’s really happening here, is that staff who are paid to perform (i.e. make target), are now being compensated above what they are already compensated for to do the same job they had been paid to do in the first place.

“I’ll pay you $100k to make target.” says the employer

They miss target.

They miss it again.

You sweeten the deal “Make target and its a weekend away… hooray”

They make target for the extra carrot.

Here’s the killer: the next month, they don’t even attempt to make target because “Why should I… we don’t even get a holiday if we do”.

Coming from the most sincere possible place, the employer inadvertently kills his culture of excellence.

He picked a smoothie from the book, rather than first learning why we should drink smoothies, then how, then when.

The great General Sun Tzu explains this well:

“All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.

So calling on someone to help motivate your team is akin to asking someone to pick a random smoothie for you (because you’ve picked 5 before and they haven’t worked).

The key to long-term, sustainable growth and productivity, is through first developing your ‘Environment Of Excellence’ (coincidently the first of our 4 pillars at barefoot).

More than just culture.

Every business has culture.  Every. Single. One.

That doesn’t mean it’s a great culture of productivity and accountability.

So what is the first step forward?

Firstly, if you are going to call me, say something like “Hey Kam, not sure what’s going on but we need to take a solid look at our organisation to get back to the growth that we know we can achieve” – NOW we have something to talk about.

What I would do in that conversation is firstly get a clear picture of where your business is currently at.

To go somewhere, I first must know exactly where I’m starting from.

There’s no use me using a map to plan a yachting trip to Tahiti if I don’t know where my starting position is.

We have developed a sensational tool to give you these Optix into the state of affairs in your business.

It’s called the 60-Point Diagnostic and you can access it here free.

Yes it’s 60-points.

Yes you have to make time to sit down and do it completely (or make time to enjoy an early, unplanned retirement from your business – your choice).

Once you have completed the 60-Point Diagnostic, you’ll have a clear vision of your current business.

A screenshot of what’s happening right now.

I want you to have it for free because its THAT important.

We’re even going to follow it up with a 15 minute call to make sure you really understand your results… this is the IMPLEMENTATION phase that is so important.

Then we’re going to recommend coaching.

I don’t care if it’s with our team, or another company all together.  You simply MUST have a coach.

Like the best athletes in the world are surrounded with specialist coaches, so too are the best businesses.

If your business is not a good fit for us, we’ll introduce you to some other great coaches who we think could really help you (no kick-backs for us, I simply believe in coaching that much).

We have a huge network and we’re not afraid to use it!

I’m a professional business coach… and I have more than 1 coach myself!

Don’t use the tool if you don’t want to implement (it’ll just be a smoothie for your business).

Use the 60-Point Diagnostic if you’re awesome and you want to see your team kill it in the marketplace!

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5 thoughts on “Don’t Ever Motivate Your Workers. Ever.

  • Yes. You must consider motivation in the workplace.

    Motivation can be designed to act to be BOTH short term and long term. Kamahl draws upon the concept of incentivizing and the belief this only has short-term benefits. However, the effectiveness of this is really depends on organisational conditions – some cases financial incentives bring about behavior modification and improvement in task performance, in some cases this diminishes over time, in some cases it remains (i.e., pay-for-performance in the financial industry) and in some organisations this doesn’t work at all. It’s also only one dimension of motivation.

    Motivation is complex. It’s also important.

    From an evolutionary perspective, motivation has been around since the dawn of time. People had to remain motivated to learn to hunt, to hunt for food, to adapt to the environment around them, continue the species etc. In our current day, motivation is still important as it underpins our actions, desires and needs – in life and at work.

    My argument is that people need BOTH opportunities for short term motivation and for sustained motivation. Rewards don’t have to be extrinsic (i.e., performance bonus, offer of a holiday etc) but they can be intrinsic (sense of achievement, personal mastery and control). How good did you feel when you had a difficult task and tight deadlines, but handed in a solid report and your manager complemented you on it? You probably felt pretty good. Interestingly, the area of neuroscience

    At times ‘programs’ (those designed to bring about a certain behavioral outcome such as motivation) focus on the individual and/or the team. Generally agreed upon programs for motivation include those designed around financial incentives, goal setting, increasing employee participation and job design. Behavioural/psychology economic literature strongly suggests factors programs aren’t necessarily needed and that employees motivation can be changed through: promotion opportunities, opportunities for personal growth, recognition/feedback, responsibility, autonomy, skill variety, task identity, achievement and development of a healthy sense of self-regulation. While some factors get in the way of motivation include: quality of supervision, pay, company polices, physical working conditions, interpersonal relationships (colleagues, subordinates, supervisors etc), job security and supervisory issues. It is not unreasonable at this point to raise how when motivating a team we must consider concepts of perceived fairness, trust, stress, job involvement, organisational commitment, effort, task complexity, task significant etc which can influence the desired outcomes/motivation.

    Along with this comment comes the acknowledgement that each person/organisation is complex in its own right and what may be a facilitator or barrier in one person/organisation, may not be so in another. Hence, the application of motivation needs consideration.

    We’re already starting to get the picture here that motivation is a multi-dimensional construct. It also becomes sensible to suggest that motivation plays an important role in business development and should not be ignored.

    Indeed, I know many individuals in consultancy firms who would answer the call for help with “yes, I can motivate your team”. Sure, they’d need to know some fundamentals about the organisation and team, and how they are working etc. But a skilled practitioner can motivate – and do so without drawing upon that extrinsic reward/financial incentives.

    So, let’s please consider the role that motivation has in workplaces.

    • It’s awesome that you took so much time to express your sentiments on this topic, thank you.

      One of the biggest barriers to organisational change is that people (consultants mainly) see the issue as complex… or… worse, they bring complexity in where complexity is not needed.

      The mastery comes from the simplification, not the complication of a workplace issue.

      I have literally had 3-5 minute conversations that created a paradigm shift in the culture of organisations from $200k to $23m turnover, from 2 staff to 130 employees.

      Motivation is short term.

      Drive and passion are lasting.

      Whoever you are, if you find yourself writing this from a place of disgruntled employee, then I feel for you, I truly do. If you are a ‘consultant’, then perhaps asking questions about effectiveness rather than attempting to discredit the author of a private blog may improve your own ability to elicit change for clients.

      My clients come up with the same arguments initially.

      Then they start making more profits.

      While their teams start loving them like family.

      And everyone wins.

      Then they say “Wow man, you were right. I need to introduce you to my friend, another business owner who needs your help”

  • Happily involved in the administrative side of the healthcare industry and not in consultancy.

    Not discrediting your blog. Just providing a different perspective to motivation. Saying ‘no’ is very black and white. The article also goes counter to a lot of literature (academic, peer review, non-peer review) which finds tangible cause-and-effect as a result of manipulating motivation.

    Yes, certainly there’s the whole discussion about research to practice. But, there’s something to be said about “evidence based practice” and working in this paradigm.

    We’ve had good employee experience as a result of attending to motivation while undergoing organisational change (and let’s face it, the healthcare industry does a lot of this).

    ps. drive and passion are both related to motivation (if not used as measures of motivation)

    • While I get that you were offering a different perspective I am also very well aware that my opinion on this matter (and most of the coaching I do within businesses) is counter to the majority of literature (especially academic), and usually goes against the grain of evidence based practice.

      The trouble with evidence based practice is that businesses doing this must first wait to see what the leaders in their field are doing that works, then attempt to replicate that in their own business.

      By the time that happens, and the numbers come in, the leaders trend has already passed and the new ‘best practice’ is forming.

      Any article, report, case study or balance sheet for that matter is based on the past – what already has BEEN. My clients must lead the way so others can write best practice reports based on the way they shook up their industry.

      From a profitability perspective, is it the leader or the follower that makes the most money?

      From a personelle perspective, is it the forward thinking, disruptor that has the most solid, satisfied and dynamic work teams, or the super large, super systemised company that invests in culture because the union told them they had to?

      Extreme examples of both… paints a very true picture though.

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