businessmen who what when where why

Understanding Their Why – Part 1

Recently, a friend approached me and requested my help. The goal?  Speak to the organization’s leaders to try and motivate them to greatness, encourage leaders to show a better attitude, and minimize the noise coming from those that aren’t showing a better attitude.  As with all speaking engagements, I needed to take time to understand what they perceived the problems to be, and why they were occurring.

As we spoke about the challenges facing the organization, one question stood out ahead of all others:

“Does each leader – whether first, second, or third line and above managers, understand what truly motivates each member of their team?”

I’m not just talking about knowing the basics.  For example, if an employee is asked “Why do you come to work?”  I promise you’ll hear a response that includes what I call the FAB 5: “I have a family to support, I need health insurance, I’m the sole provider, I’m saving for college or retirement, I have mouths to feed, etc., etc., etc.”

LEADERS:  LISTEN UP

Look, nearly everyone has the exact same set of needs or some variation of those listed above.  But how many do you know have heard the words, “You’re Fired!”

 

Helping leaders understand their employees

 

Not just any firing, but fired for non-performance!  Each person you know who’s heard those words have had those same five obligations/needs or a combination thereof!

As a leader, I would argue that many of those firings or performance slackers could have been avoided had the next-level leader done his or her real job.

UNDERSTAND THEIR WHY

I have spent years helping various organizations see the value of Leaders taking the time to understand the “Why” of each of their employees.  When that happens, an organization will achieve greatness.  This in my opinion, is one of the first steps that must be taken and regularly affirmed by each and every leader.

At first it’s uncomfortable. At first you feel it’s too personal. At first, even your employees may not like it. But in the end, YOU must take the time to understand what truly motivates each of your employees!  In other words, you must take the time to understand each person’s “Why.”

Understanding your employees

Leadership is directly correlated to, and is synonymous with helping your team achieve their personal Why.  This is especially important when you are trying to invoke a change in culture – the way people think, individual behavior (especially negativity), and introducing new systems and/or processes.

The most common mistake organizations make, is giving tools or processes their primary attention to drive change, when their primary attention should in fact be on the people.  Every day, you and each of your employees come to work for many reasons.  Those reasons could be as small as a handful, or as big as a mile.

As leaders our job is to understand all of those reasons, and to help facilitate each employee accomplishing their personal why.  It builds loyalty.  It builds trust.  In turn, it creates a performance-driven loyal culture!

DON’T BELIEVE ME?

Let’s test it out. Today, ask one of your employees the following question:  “Why do you come to work every day?”  The answer usually encompasses a puzzled look with a reply of, “What do you mean why do I come to work every day?”  Then ask them again. “Yes, why do you come to work?  Obviously for a paycheck, but what truly is your motivation for why you come to work every day?”

In their reply, you’ll likely hear the Fab 5:  “I have kids to feed, college funds to save for,  saving for retirement, health insurance, or the best one is: “I love what I do.  I enjoy doing…”

It’s Simply NOT Enough

While all of those things may be true, those items ALONE are not enough to motivate people to excellence, to maintain excellence and/or invoke rapid change within an organization.  It’s not enough to motivate people to give their all.  It’s not enough to distill negative thoughts and/or cancer-spreading attitudes within a team or department.  It’s also not enough to keep people from giving up at times and losing site of the prize (their personal prize).

What prize?  The real prize.  Which is whatever it is that is truly and really important to them.

How do I know this?  We’ve all seen those individuals who have identified the Fab 5, yet still get terminated because the Fab 5 were not enough to keep them performing at peak levels.

Our job as leaders is to understand an employee’s “Why,” and this means understanding what really motivates them.  Don’t get me wrong, a mortgage, car payment, health benefits, retirement, college fund are all things we all have to pay for and certainly add to our motivation to come every day. But…

Does it motivate them to dream?

Does it motivate them to see how what they do at work, can help them achieve their own personal vision?

Think for a moment about the things you don’t know about employee so-and-so.  What about the fact that this employee might have a hidden talent, and aspire to be a vocalist or a concert pianist?  Maybe he has dreamed of traveling to ten exotic locations in the world, or even just one!  Or she dreams about purchasing a fancy car!  Maybe the employee’s spouse has been begging for them to learn to ballroom dance, or he wishes to be a sports coach for their kid’s soccer team, pursue management, or maybe even open a Bread & Breakfast!  You get the idea now?

What’s the Result?

Imagine if you were to help your employee develop a plan to achieve one, two three, or all of those items on their personal Why list (aka vision boards).  Then set a TIMELINE to help them accomplish it?  Imagine how much loyalty you would achieve not only to you, but to the organization?  Imagine if you did this year after year. You’d have a friend, top performer, and a former dreamer who is seeing their dreams come to life!!!

 

Helping your employees succeed

 

Understanding these things can help a leader learn what truly motivates the players on their team, and at all stages of the game become the coach to help them achieve their personal “Why” (aka Vision Board). When employees see and feel that their leadership team wants to take an active role in helping them achieve personal success and greatness, it breeds corporate and department-level success.

Most importantly, it builds a positive work environment – strong loyalty where each of your players on the team will go to the ends of the earth for you and the organization.  When the going gets tough, you now know why each employee is waking up every day to come to work.

You now also have the ability to truly motivate them as you help them accomplish their personal Why(s).

How do you go about implementing a program around “Understanding Your Why?”

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for Part 2 of this article!

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