December 2, 2018

Are you appreciating enough?

Thank you noteWe teach our children to say “please”, “thank you” and “you are welcome.” We teach these things to instill a lifetime practice of showing appreciation and respect.

Deep down, that is what we all want from the people in our lives, including our co-workers. I was recently asked what tools I use to motivate people. I believe that the two most powerful tools are appreciation and gratitude. I know they are the best way to motivate me and I have seen how well they work to motivate others.

When to appreciate

It is very easy to get tied up in the everyday “must dos.” We work diligently, often feverishly, to manage our own “to dos.” When our team does big things, it is right in front of us to appreciate the accomplishment. For example, when a big obstacle has been overcome, or a high-pressure deadline has been successfully met, or when we have completed a project under budget, we know to say “well done” and “great job.” But there are ever present things that we can appreciate about our co-workers and team.

Think about Frank who gives you consistent, strong performance. Think about Juanita who is always ready to step in and fill the void when something needs done at the last minute, or when her co-worker gets overloaded. Think about Isaiah who always has an encouraging word for others. Think about the team that always comes through, always shores each other up. These kinds of things that really make a difference in the workplace can get taken for granted because they are ever present. As a leader, it is up to you to show continued appreciation for the big achievements as well as the ongoing acts of your employees.

How to appreciate

Appreciation has the most power when it is sincere. It goes a long way with a person when you thank them in a heartfelt way for what they do. Think about how you react when someone appreciates your expertise, your attitude, your willingness, your extra effort. It feels good. It is the same for everyone.

When you want to offer more than words, you can amplify your appreciation by individualizing it. That comes down to knowing your employees. What rings their bell? For some, it will be doing something that improves their work space, like giving them a plant or something fun to have around. For others, it will be public acknowledgement, so a nice certificate or token they can display. Some people feel most appreciated when you give them the opportunity to learn and grow (think seminar or workshop) or when you give them time off to do charitable work. And, while money isn’t the motivator for most people, it is for some, in which case, a small gift card works wonders.

Just the fact that you know the special thing that motivates each person is in itself a form of appreciation. Because then they know that you value them. And that brings us back to what we are taught as children, to appreciate and respect others.

Motivating employees is one aspect of leadership that we include in our training and coaching programs. Let us know how we can support your managers and teams.

April 4, 2018

Three critical tools to resolve any conflict

How long has it been since you got into conflict with someone?  This morning? Last night? Five minutes ago?  We walk into conflict situations constantly. Sometimes we know in advance that the situation we are about to enter is filled with landmines.  But sometimes, conflict takes us by surprise when we were expecting to sail smoothly through the situation.

There are lots of reasons why that happens. Most often, it is because we either haven’t set the stage well enough, or we don’t know the people involved well enough — including ourselves.

Here at Ignite, my partner Deb and I often have conflicting ideas or approaches about how to work through a problem or achieve a goal. Because we use the following three tools when conflict arises, we have a strong relationship. When conflict arises, we take it head-on.

First, we both always try to “start with heart.”  This is the foundational idea of the book, Crucial Conversations (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler).  The authors suggest that in a crucial conversation, which generally is a conflict situation, you first have to get clear on what you want for yourself and for the relationship when you get to the other side of the conversation/situation.  As partners, Deb and I know that on the other side, we want to still be partners who love working together, so we do what it takes – asking probing questions, stepping away to cool off or contemplate, and remembering to trust – to protect ourselves and the relationships.

Second, we each know how the other prefers to communicate.  I like to work fast, check things off, and move on to the next thing.  Deb, however, is more reflective.  She likes to spend a bit of time thinking through the different aspects as well as the process that needs to be involved.  Early on, I’ll admit this caused some tension. But now, we keep this at the forefront of our thinking and try to accommodate each other’s preferences.  Knowing this about each other helps us avoid some unnecessary conflict.

Finally, we respect each other’s WHY, and fortunately, there is a lot of similarity between the two of us in what drives us.  We both like to have lots of information about, well — everything.  We both love new ideas and out-of-the-box thinking.  But Deb is much more collaborative than I am. I am a “Let me be in charge” person.  Also, Deb focuses on ROI (which is great for our business), while that is not a real driver for me.  Knowing these things about each other when conflict arises means we know how to give and take so that we aren’t going up against what is fundamentally driving the other person. Instead, we can negotiate based on what we know the other person needs in order to thrive.

What it really all comes down to is knowing ourselves, understanding the other person, and deciding what we want for the relationship.  Those three things are essential to us as we navigate conflicts that inevitably arise.  They are key to you as well, to have success in any conflict situation.

July 26, 2017

What did you expect?

photo of man holding sign that says "manage expectations"A friend of mine recently marked a significant work anniversary — 15 years. These days, that a pretty good record of longevity at one workplace. In fact, only two employees at the organization have been there this long.

She telecommutes. So when she was asked to come into the office for a staff meeting around the anniversary date, she figured there was going to be an acknowledgement, maybe some cake. And she was right, sort of. A certificate, with her name misspelled, and no cake. The CEO said thanks for the service and moved on to the next item on the agenda.

I will admit, I was shocked. The employees in this organization are its only asset. They sell nothing. I started thinking about the other folks around the table who were watching this. I have to imagine that they took note of how little their colleagues service was valued.

Would it surprise you to know that employee retention is a big problem for this organization? They bungled an easy opportunity. By celebrating the long service of this employee, they would have demonstrated to all that they are valued. Just a little cake, a small amount of fanfare, and a little quality control (get the name right, for heaven’s sake} could have said volumes. Instead, this big miss likely sent a very negative message throughout the organization.

Are you missing opportunities to value your employees? If you aren’t sure, you probably are. Let’s talk about how Ignite can help.

March 27, 2017

The Value of “Being Nice”

Let’s define some common ground around the word “nice,” especially in the workplace.  I believe that niceness is a huge motivator for employees. The thing is, you have to know what “nice” equates to for each employee, because remember, you are a great manager, and great managers motivate employees individually.  beingnice

So let’s take a quick look at what you need to do to be “nice” to employees. First and foremost, you can’t be authentically nice to an employee if you don’t know what’s going on in his or her world. To know that, you have to actually talk to them. That’s why we consistently encourage managers to have frequent one-on-one meetings with employees. Not only can you monitor work progress, but you also keep tabs on your employee’s well-being. You learn what is important to them and what they value. You can gauge whether they are doing work that is important to them and achieving things that fulfill their values. If you are listening to employees and supporting their values, you can score huge “nice” points.


Do your employees consider that where they work is a “nice” place? You know that means different things to different folks. In those regular one-on-one conversations you are having, you should make it a point to learn what working in a “nice” workplace means to each employee.  For example, some people will consider the place they work nice if they are paid well. For others, a nice work place is one that allows them to achieve, to move up the ladder. For some, it will be all about the experience of their physical space. And for still others, it is going to be about whether they have the opportunity to do research and solve problems, or they are allowed to be giving and helpful, even outside their own specified tasks. What does that mean to you?

It’s all about what they value.  If you, as a manager, or as an organization, are not acknowledging and supporting their values, they won’t see you as “nice.” If that’s the case, they likely aren’t going to work for you very well, or very long.

Our 12 Driving Forces™ tool helps managers identify what their employees value, what drives them.  We use it with teams to help build engagement.

May 25, 2016

The “Ins” and “Outs” of Motivation

twins on trampoline1What if we could still be like these two tiny terrors on the trampoline?  Bouncing through life, motivated by the moment and by the possibility of what’s next.  As adults, motivation works a little differently than it did when we were children.

Sources of Motivation

We all have two sources of motivation — internal (intrinsic) and external (extrinsic).  Internal motivation, or self-motivation, is a part of our emotional intelligence. It is what drives us to excel, to meet and overcome challenges, to get up in the morning when things are less than rosy. It is part of the interpersonal continuum of EI: self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation.  The good news about EI is that we can improve it. Low self-motivation can be strengthened.

External Motivation

Then we have external motivation.  I will tell you that the two girls bouncing on the trampoline are motivated by cookies, Barbies, and playing outdoors.  That’s what they value, what motivates them.

In adulthood, we have refined our values a bit. Wherever you are in your life, either just starting out, or at the end of your career, the things that motivate you most strongly are the result of your life’s experiences.

Our external motivators, our carrots and sticks if you will, are the things that drive all of our decisions — from the kind of car you drive, to who you choose as a significant other, to the music you listen to and the books you read. Generally speaking, we don’t change these at will. You can’t go to a self-help book and learn how to have different motivators.

Using Motivation

What you can do, though, is understand what yours are. And you can learn what motivates the people you work with and live with.  In doing that, you can speak to others in terms of what they value.  You can even teach yourself not to roll your eyes when someone is talking about things that are total “de-motivators” for you.

Great managers have learned this. They know that motivation is unique to each individual employee.  They understand that not everyone is motivated by the next raise.

When you look at your team, your family, your friends, do you understand what they value? What motivates them?

February 1, 2016

Keys to Motivate Your Team: It’s About the Money

(Part 3 of 8)

“Money, money, money, Mon-ey.” People with a strong utilitarian motivator, or drive, are all about the ROI (return on investment) of resources. Immediately, the concept of money comes to mind, but people who are driven by this think about more than just their money.  They also watch their investment of time and talent.The utilitarian motivator

Any team or organization that has a utilitarian involved will be much more likely to succeed. These folks will use their drive to guard the resources of whatever organization they are involved with. That doesn’t mean that they don’t want to invest. On the contrary, they are very willing to invest but they have to know the “what’s in it for me” answer, which better be very clear and resonant with their goals. In addition, folks with a strong utilitarian drive will be the ones who come up with creative ways to leverage resources.

These are your most practical thinkers. When they come to the table, “self” is always part of their agenda.  They aren’t going to let you squander their time or their talent.  And they expect a reward for a job well done … a reward that they deem sufficient to their investment.

Want to learn how to negotiate, to barter? Watch how a person with a high utilitarian driver gets what they want.

If you are dealing with someone with a strong utilitarian motivator:

  • Always be able to identify what’s in it for them
  • Tell them how you expect to measure and prove the ROI
  • Communicate in practical terms.

Look around your team. Got a utilitarian on board?

January 20, 2016

Keys to Motivate Your Team: Knowledge Lovers

(Part 2 of 8)

Who do you know, or have on your team, that is always researching or always looking for things to learn? Who has lots of books and magazines in their office that they actually read?Motivators wheel highlighting the theoretical motivator

These are the folks who are theoretically motivated.  They are knowledge seekers. At work, they are always asking you for training, possibly for professional memberships, or for subscriptions.

In meetings, if someone is unsure about something, your theoretically motivated person will jump on the internet and “Google” for an answer. They love research, finding the cold, hard facts, and just knowledge for knowledge’s sake.

My husband, Bill, and I both have strong theoretical motivators.  But they play out very differently in each of us. For me, I have an alphabet soup of letters I can put after my name, from MS with my master’s degree, to the things I am either accredited or certified in. Show me some sort of new knowledge I can master (that is relevant to my work or life) and I will study it until I master it. How many books do I read at once? Sometimes three or four, and I am forever adding new ones to my Kindle. (Yes, I read hard copies too.) And I love to solve problems … as do most people with strong theoretical motivators.

Bill, on the other hand, is always more about gathering lots of knowledge in lots of areas.  I wish you could see his computer. His browser will have 20-30 tabs open constantly.  I’m not kidding.  He hoards knowledge resources. If we are in a room together when a question arise that no one can answer, Bill will be automatically on his phone, finding the right answer.

And don’t get me started on trivia (especially science fiction glitches in movies). The man’s mind is like a warehouse for that stuff, because he loves it.

So yes, knowledge for knowledge’s sake is a driver for many people. But be wary, all you theoreticals — not everyone cares about the research or the background. So watch yourself about going off on tangents.

Want to find out the strong and indifferent motivators of your team? Contact me for an assessment.

December 2, 2015

Keys to Motivate Your Team: “The Why”

(Part 1 of 8)

Engaged employees are motivated employees, right? But who’s responsible for that motivation — leaders, managers, or the employee? The answer is all three.

Leaders and managers who successfully incentivize employees are able to do that because they understand that reward and recognition are very personal, very individual. They can look at the world through the employee’s eyes and understand what drives them, their very “why.”

We are talking here about external motivators, which are the things that cause us to make major decisions. We begin forming our motivators, or drivers, early in life and refine them as we grow older. These motivators are the basis upon which we decided what to study in college, the type of jobs we take, who to choose as our life partner, and even what purchases we make.motivator_wheel

These external incentives are different from the internal motivation we looked at in our emotional intelligence series. Our internal motivation has to do with our innate ability to overcome setbacks and obstacles, to strive for excellence, regardless of the reward. Meanwhile, external motivators are the things we work toward in life. For some of us, it is a search for knowledge, for others it is about ensuring that everything we do either has a return on investment, or propels us into a position of power and influence.

There are actually six of these motivators:

  1. Theoretical
  2. Utilitarian
  3. Individualistic
  4. Aesthetic
  5. Social
  6. Traditional

In the next few posts, we will examine each one and what they mean for engaging employees and creating a successful team. As you read the posts, look for yourself and look for your team members. What you find may surprise you.

November 13, 2015

Be a Great Manager: Motivate Me

Topping the list of why people change jobs is that they have issues with their manager. Digging a bit deeper, we find that those “issues” boil down to five core items: lack of accountability, communication, feedback, motivation, and support.

Traits of great managersThese correlate quite nicely to the five traits of great managers Gallup identifies in State of the American Manager.  In terms of the managers’ role in motivating employees, Gallup suggests “[Great managers] motivate every single employee to take action and engage employees with a compelling mission and vision.”

What does that really mean? It is up to the manager to understand what external incentives drive each employee on their team — and to understand the level of internal motivation each employee is capable of exhibiting.

Managers, like parents, must be able to draw that fine line between internal and external motivationIt is critical that managers understand that the thing that motivates them to stay engaged with a company may not be the same thing that incentivizes anyone else on their team. Managers who have grasped that concept are able to engage individually with their team members. They can provide incentives to the employees that enhance job satisfaction and also build a stronger team.

For example, if you have an employee who is incentivized through personal advancement, the manager’s responsibility is to create a clear career path. In small companies, where upward advancement is limited, managers can incentivize these employees by having them lead projects/tasks and by allowing them to build skills that expand their knowledge base.

Employees driven by the need for advancement who don’t see a clear upward path will eye advancement with other companies.  When that happens, the manager will be left with a vacant position and the need to start from scratch, working through the recruiting and hiring process while dealing with reduced productivity while the position is vacant. Then, when a replacement comes on board, there’s a learning curve.  And throughout the process, the team’s culture, their balance and flow, have been disrupted.

Talented managers find the right incentive for each member of their team.

October 28, 2015

The motivational side of EQ: Seven tips for achieving passions and goals

[Part 4 of a 6-part series]

Internal motivation is the third and final aspect of intrapersonal emotional intelligence (EI). We’ve looked at self-regulation and self-awareness. Right up front, let’s be sure to clarify that motivation, as it relates to your emotional quotient (EQ), is all about your passion to strive for excellence, to achieve goals regardless of obstacles, and to EQ-motivationstay persistent regardless of external rewards. This has nothing to do with those external incentives we might be offered in the workplace. This is all coming from inside you.

EI guru Daniel Goleman talks about motivation as our master aptitude. Fundamental to strong motivation are:

  • Developing strong levels of impulse control and ability to delay gratification
  • Controlling our emotions so they don’t negatively affect our thought processes
  • Maintaining a level of persistence that enables us to overcome obstacles and setbacks.

An added factor comes from Stanford psychologist Albert Bandura, who finds a direct relationship between our belief in our own abilities and our level of achievement:

“People’s beliefs about their abilities have a profound effect on those abilities. Ability is not a fixed property; there is a huge variation in how you perform. People who have a sense of self-efficacy bounce back from failures; they approach things in terms of how to handle them rather than worrying about what can go wrong.”

Bandura is talking about people who lean toward the optimistic, hopeful side rather than stewing in fear and worry. They have goals that are underscored by their passions. They are looking for the lessons in their failures, and how to get back on course to achieve their goals.

Following is a list of seven steps you can take to gird up your internal motivation and raise your EQ in this third and very important aspect of the intrapersonal dimension:

  1. Define what you are truly passionate about and set goals based on your passions.
  2. Set specific goals in writing with dates for achievement and post them where you can see them.
  3. Clarify why your goals are important to you by asking yourself, “Why are they my goals?”
  4. With a trusted advisor, develop a detailed action plan to reach your goals.
  5. Spend time visualizing how it will look and feel to actually accomplish your goals.
  6. Ask a trusted friend to be your accountability partner to help hold you accountable for reaching your goals.
  7. Always celebrate accomplishments that bring you closer to your goals.

In our next post, we will take up empathy, one of the two aspects of interpersonal emotional intelligence.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in learning about your own EQ and where you could stand to make improvement, shoot me an email and we’ll schedule an online assessment for you.

(Continue to Part 5: Five Empathy-Enhancing Tips to Strengthen Your Team)

(Return to Part 3: In Control or In a Mess? Regulating Your EQ)

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