“Why do you do this work?” I asked them. As the members drilled into the question, their answers seemed detached. They were describing their personal motivations through the third person.
Third person answers to personal questions are a useful way to distance ourselves from the risk of being vulnerable. If I answer that question with, “I need the money” then I risk exposing a part of myself to others. So instead I’ll say, “financial reward”.
Financial reward is a concept. Whereas “I need this money” is personal, but not near as personal as “I need this money to prove to myself that I’m successful” or “To prove to my family and friends that I’m successful.”
Why is this distinction important? In these cases, money isn’t the motivation for working; it is a means to an end. That’s why money, as a motivator, is thin. However, there’s more here to learn.
As our dialogue continued, one member shared that they are financially top stopped at their current level of income. This member went on to describe his motivation as, “the freedom to just do good work.” This was personal.
Trying to stay safe means, we distance ourselves from what matters to us and our motivations become powerless. When we talk about our motivations in the third person, we rob ourselves of the emotional attachment to our work and our peers. We lose connection with others and ourselves!
Employee engagement is an individual, emotional phenomenon. It’s also the raw material of morale, which is a group phenomenon. When an individual is emotionally engaged with their work, it’s because they get something they value – “the juice”. An engaged employee affects group morale positively, while an unengaged employee affects their group negatively. One type strengthens connection while the other destroys connection.
Group dynamics drive your business yet most leaders struggle to calibrate group health. By themselves, individuals accomplish little, but if our group is learning and growing in their willingness and ability to risk accomplishing important things, then connection grows and so does the business.
Normal businesses have groups that are stuck. They talk in the third person, they point to external circumstances as the problem and they disconnect with reality. As a result, they create stress and tension for themselves and others. When work groups or individuals stop learning, they are boring!
So how do you change this? Ask yourself these questions – Do you hear staff talking about what they are learning about themselves and their competencies? Do they share their disappointments and adjustments?
If these are absent so is “the juice”!
You can dramatically improve the personal connection your staff has with each other and your business. When you become transparent with your aspirations, disappointments, learning, and above all, demonstrate your adjustments consistently, I guarantee that others will eventually follow and change too.
Leadership is the wise use of power and power is the ability to translate intentions into reality and sustain it! Where is your juice?
I’d love to know your thoughts? Jim@peer-place.com