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The keys to motivation (part four)


If your team isn't performing, perhaps the problem isn't with them but with you...

There’s an old saying that people join organisations but they leave managers.  One of the interesting thing things about motivation and performance is the extent to which it can be suppressed - sometimes by the organisation’s HR policies and procedures, sometimes by events outside of work but most often by the individual’s manager.  This leads us on to our final factor to consider:


While you, as the individual’s manager, have a lot to do with the preceding factors, the fourth factor largely lays squarely on your shoulders.  If the individual appears motivated, if they have the ability and opportunity to do the job but still aren’t performing at their peak, it’s time to ask what you’re doing to stop them.

Managers interfere with the people in their teams (if you’ll pardon the expression) in a lot of different ways.  It may be that they constantly change priorities and expectations, pulling the team this way and that.  It may be that they play favourites, building people up and then dropping them unexpectedly.  It may be that they’re inconsistent or capricious.

Whatever it is, remember that your team is a reflection of you.  If you’re not getting the performance that you expect, or your team isn’t performing at their peak, it’s got something to do with you.

Now that sounds like I’m saying that any problems in your team’s performance are all your fault and I’m not, I promise.  Everyone is individually responsible for their own actions and their own choices.  However, as managers we have to accept that we have an impact on the way people perform – that can be a positive influence or a negative interference.

You can look at this like a chemical formula, if you like; performance is a mix of motivation, added to ability, added to opportunity and filtered through interference.  If maths floats your boat, you can see it as an equation: P=(MxAxO)-I.  If you want a more picturesque way of remembering it, did you know that the giant statues on Easter Island are called maoi?

However you remember it, take away from this the fact that performance is never the result of one thing - it’s a balance of a number of factors.  The people in your team aren’t machines and they don’t have buttons that you can press that will get them to do what you want or perform to the level you expect.  Whenever you see people who aren’t performing at their best, ask yourself which of these factors is at play?

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