Book news

I just got the word from McGraw-Hill: My book, The 36-Hour Course on Organizational Development, went to the printer today! Although the official release date isn’t until mid-October, pre-orders should start shipping by the end of September.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

Why Are They So Unmotivated?

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard about some “impossible to motivate” employee who is busily training for a marathon or something else that requires a tremendous amount of dedication, focus, energy, and, you guessed it, motivation.

What you’re looking for are those employees who approach their jobs with the same level of dedication and focus that they approach training for a marathon or other activity. It’s very hard to find those employees. It’s easier to create them.

Motivation comes from many sources. It starts with the culture you’ve built, the vision you’ve created for your company, the goals you set, and your hiring process. Those elements make up your foundation.

Ultimately, motivation is a strong desire to do (or sometimes not do) something. That desire can be imposed from without, or it can come from within and be supported from without. You want the second.

Remember, no one becomes an Olympic athlete for the money, although some Olympians might end up making a great deal of money. Top athletes succeed because they are driven to perform at a high level. The money and the adulation only reinforce that drive. The ones who are out solely for the money are the ones who are most likely to give up.

Push, Pull, or Get Out of the Way

In the Japanese martial art of jujitsu, the practitioner learns to not respond to a push with a push or a pull with a pull. Meeting force with force only creates opposition. While you might be strong enough to win some conflicts, eventually they take their toll. When someone pulls, you push. When someone pushes, you pull or you get out of the way. You don’t oppose.

In jujitsu, the harder you make it for someone to stay on his feet, the harder it is for you to make him fall down. The goal is not to make it hard for your opponent to remain standing; the goal is to make it easy for him to fall down. The workplace is not all that different. Force creates opposition. Threats, fear, even many incentives, only lead to resistance. The very act of trying to force people to do something causes them to become suspicious and reduces their willingness to do it. It doesn’t matter how much they might want to do it.

To be fair, I do hear from managers who insist that force works: they make sure their employees know who is boss and what will happen if they don’t toe the line. There are problems with this approach. Constantly pushing people means that you can’t see where you’re going. All of your effort is going into the act of pushing. Sometimes they’ll feel like you’re going too fast. Sometimes they’ll mistake an attempt to change course as a shove and resist, or they’ll go too far and step to one side, leaving you to fall on your nose. The more you push, the harder it is to hit that moving target.

You want the employees who know where to go and why they should go there—and who understand how to get to their destination without you constantly having to force them to do it. You want a team so dedicated that if you don’t get out of their way, they’ll run you over.

Understanding motivation is the first step to getting such a team.

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