Here is an excerpt from an article written by Ron Carucci for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.
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When I speak to large groups about leadership, one question I often ask is, “How many of you have ever received a compliment from your boss that actually offended you?” Without exception, more than two-thirds of the people in the room raise their hands. When I probe further on what people found offensive about their boss’s praise, the most common responses I hear are “It wasn’t sincere” and “They didn’t know what they were talking about.”
When leaders look like they are just applying some “motivational technique” they read about, people see right through the superficial, obligatory effort. It looks like they are checking off the “I motivated someone today” box. Motivation is not something you do to people. People ultimately choose to be motivated — when to give their best, go the extra mile, and offer radical ideas. The only thing leaders can do is shape the conditions under which others do, or don’t, choose to be motivated. But the final choice is theirs.
Unfortunately, too few managers understand this, and so there is a gap between managers’ efforts and the results they’re getting. A 10-year study of more than 200,000 employees shows that 79% of employees who quit their jobs cite a lack of appreciation as a key reason, and according to Gallup’s 2017 “State of the American Workplace” report, only 21% agree their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work. Here are three of the most offensive forms of “motivating” I’ve seen managers employ, and three alternative approaches I’ve seen work wonderfully.
Drive-by praise. Busy managers often have to squeeze in their recognition efforts to already crowded schedules. So they’ll pop their heads into people’s offices on the way to other meetings and say things like, “Hey, great job this morning at the pipeline review.” Or they’ll send a text message saying something like, “Hey, sorry I wasn’t able to catch you before I left, but just read through the updated analytics and they look great. Thanks!” On the surface, these efforts seem innocuous, perhaps even positive. But to recipients, it can feel impersonal, uninformed, and inadequate if these drive-bys are the only form of recognition the manager offers.
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Here is a direct link to the complete article.
Ron Carucci is co-founder and managing partner at Navalent, working with CEOs and executives pursuing transformational change for their organizations, leaders, and industries. He is the best-selling author of eight books, including the recent Amazon #1 Rising to Power. Connect with him on Twitter at @RonCarucci; download his free e-book on Leading Transformation.