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Motivating Employees Through a Shared Vision

Posted on January 12, 2016

Creating a Highly Motivated Workforce

Liz Ryan, in a recent column on LinkedIn Pulse, confronts a common question among successful entrepreneurs, “How do I keep employees motivated and passionate at their jobs?”

A woman named Victoria clearly outlines the problem in a letter to Ryan. It seems Victoria’s team is no longer as motivated as they were six years ago when she first started the company. Back then there was a much stronger team spirit and a pervasive “can-do” office culture.

But as the company has grown from scrappy startup to achieve $10 million in revenue, many employees now treat the job as a typical 9-5 clock puncher. It seems to Victoria effort is lagging and a dial-it-in attitude has taken over. For example, when she leaves at 6:15 she’s dismayed to find nearly everyone else has already left. She is always one of the last half-dozen to call it a day.

Victoria wants to correct this bad attitude so the company can continue to shine. In pursuit of this she recently told managers to incorporate “effort” in annual employee performance reviews to separate the wheat from the chaff. By rewarding the stars and discarding the underperformers, Victoria hopes to continue her company’s successful run.

“Trust or Manage Into The Dust”

According to Ryan, just as this apathetic employee attitude is a common problem among successful companies, so too is Victoria’s attempt at correction. Ryan is unflinching in her response and spells it out clearly – Victoria’s approach is the wrong one and it is time for her to instead step up and lead.

Rather than relying on performance reviews (which are being scrapped at a growing number of companies including Google and Microsoft), Ryan counsels Victoria to focus efforts on bringing back the earlier feelings of trust and collaboration. As she memorably writes, “When you don't trust the people you hired, you manage them into the dust.”

Ryan urges Victoria to rekindle the team spirit with a shared vision and a real connection to employees. As we’ve shown on this blog again and again, productivity and performance is much greater in organizations where employees are treated as trusted collaborators rather than as replaceable hired hands.

It turns out managing by threatening consequences for non-performance is a lousy motivator. While command-and-control systems may be a good method of dog training, they consistently produce lousy results in humans. The best outcome is workers doing their job with a grudging compliance, performed with all the zeal of a teenage boy ordered to clean his room.

A better course of action for creating a positive work culture staffed by engaged employees is by establishing a shared vision and goals. In pursuit of this, Ryan urges leaders to “Ask your employees what they want from the company instead of telling them what you want.” Armed with this knowledge, leaders can then establish meaningful incentives to motivate employees to tackle company challenges.

Once freed from the shackles of fear and coercion, employees nearly always rise to the occasion whether by driving innovation, increasing profits, saving money by introducing efficiency, or establishing a good overall team dynamic. This shift to a more collaborative mode also has the side effect of reducing turnover.

Ryan’s overall message is excellent and one we share at Vocoli. Our employee suggestion software is designed to build trust and encourage collaboration among team members and management, just as Ryan counsels. If you are interested in creating a high performance organization staffed by engaged employees, contact us for a free demonstration.


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