You’ve probably heard the old saying, “What gets measured is what gets done.”
The attitudes and actions you reward today will become the habits and character of your team tomorrow. The inverse is also true. The attitudes and actions you ignore today will become the habits and character of your team tomorrow. What those habits are and the character they define is largely up to you as the leader.
It makes the art of the atta-boy an important resource in both your strategic and tactical leadership development tool chest.
For most leaders, there’s a great temptation to get caught up in the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’. While ‘why’ may motivate, ‘what’ points the way. More than this. ‘What’ defines those values that set us apart from other organizations. McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A both provide fast, affordable food in a family-friendly atmosphere, but the ‘what’ behind their ‘why’ sets them apart from one another as clearly as the clown that represents one and the cow that represents the other.
Many leaders see themselves as visionary masterminds driven to fulfill the destiny of their dreams. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. It’s this drive and vision that separates leaders from followers. But at the same time it’s is easy to forget that old cliche’, “A leader without followers is simply someone taking a walk.” It means that every leader has a responsibility to those who follow. It’s not enough to point they way. An effective leader will meet people where they are in order to take them where they should be.
Some people drain. Some people energize. Some people get it, others don’t. Either way, part of the leader’s job is to meet the follower where they are and try to take them where they should be.
There are only two ways to motivate this kind of change. You can beat people with a stick or prompt people with a carrot. Certainly the numbers of ways to accomplish either of these is limited only by the scope of your own imagination, but whatever you think up to motivate people toward growth will always fall into one of these two broad categories.
I’ve heard it said that people don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are. In other words, we interpret life through the filter of how we think. We respond to each situation and circumstance based on our own worldview. Or said another way, “What we see is often what we get.” The glass is half full, not because the resource hasn’t been fully allocated or because we’ve already begun using it. It’s half full because that’s simply how I see things. My boss expects the impossible, not because the task is challenging but because I undervalue my own skills, underestimate my resources and simply can’t see how I can possibly achieve the outcome they want. So the old cliche’ again too often rings true, “What you see is what you get.”
The leader’s challenge is to meet people where they are and redefine their worldview. One carrot we’ve used successfully to reshape the worldview of our team has the added value of involving the entire team while challenging everyone to go above and beyond the call of duty when working with others, whether they be other team members, customers or potential clients.
We ask team members one question, “What do you sSee?” Yes, the double ‘s’ is intentional. If what you sSee is what you get then challenge everyone to look for and provide ‘Service with a Smile that Exceeds Expectations‘. On a regular basis, we recognize and reward one team member who’s been sSee(n) providing service with a smile that exceeds expectations. But there’s more to it than reward and recognition. The leadership or management team may provide the incentive, but it’s the team itself that offers up the names of team members worthy of the honor. The leader gives out the atta-boy, but only because the team has recognized the attitude and effort of the team member receiving it. As often as you want to reinforce the value, one team member directly benefits and becomes the example while all the others are challenged by the idea and constantly looking for the value you’re trying to train. Slowly, methodically, it changes what people sSee. It causes a subtle shift in their worldview that challenges them to look beyond themselves as they are challenged to serve beyond themselves.
Try this carrot with your team and see if the way they see things begins to change. Ask them what they sSee and challenge them to look for ways to provide service with a smile that exceeds expectation to one another and your clients as they look for others who are doing the same.
If what you sSee is what you get then begin finding ways to reshape the way your team sSee’s themselves and those with whom they work.
- What are other ways you meet people where they are and motivate them to move to where they should be?