Exercise, Discipline and Affection

Michael ScottIt kills me, just kills me, when I read about HR-related issues in BusinessWeek magazine.  I know  it is a business-related sheet and all, but they don’t always make me feel all warm and fuzzy when they start talking about the human side of things.  It’s not often that an article will catch my eye, but in this case one did and so is the inspiration for this week’s blog. 

The October 5th article, “The No-Cost Way to Motivate,” by Patrick Lencioni who also wrote The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, focuses on the fact that no matter who you are or what you do, everyone wants someone to be interested in them, both personally and professionally.  Lencioni says:

                “One of the greatest causes of misery for employees is the feeling that the person they work for isn’t interested in who they are and what goes on in their lives, personally or professionally. Regardless of how much money people make and whether their jobs suit them, if they feel anonymous they’ll dread going to work – and return home deflated…a manager needs to be interested in employees from a professional standpoint too, not only in job details, but also in motivation. And a big part of this is helping people figure out why their job matters to someone, somewhere in some way large or small.”

The famous Hawthorne Studies of 1924 found that if managers paid a more attention to employees and seemed to care about them, it raised morale and increased productivity.  That was followed by an additional 80+ years of research that essentially told us the same thing.  Then in 2008, Towers Perrin did an employee engagement study that found that  firms with the highest percent of engaged employees increased income 19% and earnings per share 28%. 

So it seems everybody is getting on the bus.  Even BusinessWeek.  So why don’t we see it in practice then?

As the HR Whisperer, this particular concept is one that I have been preaching about for years.  To be motivated at work, everyone needs what I call the EDA:  exercise, discipline and affection.*  You’ve got these, then you’ve got engagement.

Want to motivate employees and get them engaged?  Then use EDA:

Exercise – Give employees the opportunity to improve their skills and capabilities.  There are a ton of ways to do this, such as through education and training,  job enrichment or enlargement, coaching and feedback.  Provide opportunities for folks to have input into decision-making and to be innovative in their thinking or problem solving.  Exercising the brain keeps people interested and involved.

Discipline – Work with employees to set goals and strategies to achieve those goals.  The discipline of planning the work and working the plan creates that line of sight for achievement.  Additionally, provide challenging work assignments that not only broaden skills, but can serve as career advancement opportunities.  This will demonstrate to employees that stick-to-itness will reap rewards.

Affection – Employees continually tell us they want senior management interested in their well being and good relationships with their supervisors.  Lack of a good supervisor relationship is the number one reason people leave their jobs.  In Social Intelligence and the Biology of the Pack Leader, I talk about the importance of the supervisor-employee relationship.  To me, this is the biggie — and Lencioni agrees.

Of course there is no sure fire, quick fix.  Motivation depends on the individual’s perception of what is a valued motivator to them.  But even BusinessWeek tells us that if we pay attention to our employees and work to meet their needs, we’re going to get a pretty decent return on our investment.  And that’s a no brainer.

*I must give credit to Cesar Millan, whose catch phrase for creating a balanced canine is “exercise, discipline, and affection.”

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