Monday, September 16, 2013

What’s the Best Way to Motivate your Employees? Give them Freedom.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
- Nelson Mandela
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

- Thomas Jefferson (The Declaration of Independence)

"Fight and you may die. Run and you will live at least awhile. And dying in your bed many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here as young men and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take our freedom!"
- William Wallace, from Braveheart

“Freedom, so I can live; Freedom, so I can give; Freedom, yeah  Freedom, that's what I need”
- Jimi Hendrix

Freedom is a universal, basic human need. America’s founders even declared that it’s a God given right.
Although some take our freedom for granted, most of those that have it cherish it, and those that don’t are willing to fight and die for it.

So why is when it comes to managing employees in the workplace, so many managers still think it’s their God-given right as a boss to micro-manage every aspect of their employee’s work?
They tell them what to do, where to do it, when to do it, and how to do it.  

They reward them for doing their jobs their way (sometimes unknowingly), and punish them for coloring outside the lines and doing it in any way that’s different than their own.
Everyone hates to be micromanaged! It’s the number one complaint I hear about bosses. It just sucks the life out of employees.

Look, I get it – the workplace is not a democracy. We get paid to do stuff, and to do as we’re told. The Declaration of Independence was never meant to apply to the workplace.
However, as a manager, you’ve got the ability to tap into one of the most powerful motivational tools available to you – giving employees freedom and autonomy in how they do their work! It's magical, it doesn't cost you anything, and it WILL increase productivity and job satisfaction. It's money.
Daniel Pink presents one of the most compelling, research-based cases for the power of autonomy in his book “Drive- The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.” If you’ve never read it, at least please watch his Ted talk (over 6 million have) – it’s compelling.

What about the need for consistency? Sure, it’s important to get a consistent cup of coffee every time you walk into a Starbucks. However, the Starbucks Baristas each have their own unique way of engaging with a customer. I never feel like they are reading off a script ("would you like fries with that?").
Same with Southwestern Airline attendants – I’ve never seen two attendants do their inflight announcements the same way – and they truly seem to enjoy it when they do! With other airlines, they read that damn announcement as if they are performing a eulogy. As far as I know, a Southwestern plane has never crashed because a flight attendant got creative with their oxygen mask instructions.  

As a manager, it’s hard to let go. As human beings, it’s hard to let go of our “right” way of doing things.  Relationships have been ruined over fighting over which way to load the toilet paper (of course, we all know the right way is under).
Just give it a try. Fight that urge to tell your employees how to do their job and check over their work. Yes, they may make a mistake. That’s OK - mistakes can be powerful learning opportunities – and an opportunity for you to coach. Not TELL – coach! But that’s a subject for another post.


Anonymous said...

Would it be helpful if we all kept management and leadership separate? I think so. Here's why.

My belief: lead people; manage stuff.

Micro-MANAGERS are simply trying to get stuff done. Leaders are trying to edify their people so that what gets done is a reflection of good leadership and good team-work.

Pretending that leadership and management are the same thing is the basis of much angst and unhappiness.

Dan McCarthy said...

Kathy -
Thanks for your comment. I agree – leadership and management are not the same. However, managers need to manage and lead people, and they often will be going back and forth many times in the course of any day. For example, in one meeting, they may be establishing a shared vision (leading), then establishing goals and plans to achieve the vision (managing).

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Dan, and yes, I think we agree for the most part. Leaders go back and forth and back and forth between leading and managing, as part of their daily activity.

The only part of your response I'd have issue with, and perhaps one day we can talk through our differences, is the statement that "managers need to manage... people."

It's my contention that people are never managed. Ever. But perhaps I've misunderstood. If the sentence is meant to read something like "manage [stuff] and lead people..." then I'm all in.

Dan McCarthy said...

Kathy -
Thanks for following up. Yes, it sounds like we are on the same page - managers to both - one is not good or bad. And yes, leadership is all about people. I hate the term "people leadership". what other kind is there? Organizations are nothing more than lots of people.

Nizam said...

Hi Kathy here's a great article on Leadership and management,

Dan McCarthy said...

Nizam -
Thanks - I love that article!

Anonymous said...

Nizam, thank you! Terrific article. Just terrific.

The comments give me reason for optimism regarding the need for a renaissance in leadership--they were completely clueless about "lead people, manage stuff," and all leaders must manage, but not all managers are leaders.

Can't thank you and Dan enough for stimulating thought on this topic.