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Don�t Motivate Your Workforce!

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Don�t Motivate Your Workforce!
Contributor:  Peter Hunter
Posted:  03/24/2011  12:00:00 AM EDT  | 

In a hospital ward, I once overheard the ward sister saying that she knew she was supposed to motivate her staff, but just did not have the time.

Like most managers, she believed that nothing would happen without her input and that she was responsible for absolutely everything. The problem was that while she was perfectly happy to accept responsibility for the good things that happened, she was never prepared to admit she was responsible when something did not turn out right.

She talked about employee motivation as if it was her job to hand it out in measured doses to each and every one of her needy staff. But in her mind, she was so busy running the ward that it was unreasonable to expect her to take care of the needs of every single staff member. She was quite comfortable with the knowledge that she was not doing it, but still believed it was part of her job.

This is a very common attitude. Many managers become comfortable knowing that they don’t do anything for employee motivation because they feel that they cannot spend all of their time holding the hands of their staff.

What these managers do not realize is that their employees are already motivated. It is part of our human nature: when they drew their first breath, they had the motivation to draw another soon after. And then another. Soon, their whole lives actually became about getting better at what they did.

What really motivates and engages us is simply being born! We are born into the collective human unconscious which drives our desire to be good at what we do. After we are born, our personal consciousness develops and we respond by trying to do what we do well to satisfy our collective unconscious need. By doing things well, we know that we are creating the best possible environment in which to raise the next generation. 

The strength of this desire and our ability to do well varies from one individual to another. Our own desire to do well is modified by the environment in which we find ourselves.

We all want to win the race. If we find ourselves pitted against an Olympic athlete, we know that we are unlikely to win – so we look for other ways to create the environment in which we can be acknowledged for our own contribution. We may end up coaching the athlete and therefore take some of the credit for their performance. Finding that we are not physically suited for athletic competition, we may pursue a career as an academic, an artist, or raising a family. We find a way to compete in an entirely different field of endeavor to satisfy our need to be valued.

Whatever we do, we will be looking for a way that we can make the most of our own abilities in order to best provide for the next generation and our own families. Without any outside stimulus, without any input from management, our collective unconscious has hardwired our desire to be the best we can, to be motivated and engage with what we are doing and the resources we are given.

When employees first turn up at a job interview, they bring this natural desire to do their best. They are prepared to share that desire to help the organization to improve, earn more money, and to increase that organization’s share of the market – and therefore, satisfy their own desire for stable long-term employment.

It does not usually take very long for a new employee to realize it if the organization is not capable of listening to his or her ideas. If the employee learns that his input is not welcome, he proceeds to pack away all of his education and experience that he had been prepared to share so freely. He reverts to the mindless automaton who responds to direct orders, but does nothing more.

When this happens, management blames their workforce for being unmotivated and moans about having to motivate their employees. Because time is always an issue, they often spend valuable resources paying for someone else to do it for them. They send the workforce to attend employee motivation courses without realizing that no matter how pumped they get, the staff will be coming back to the exact same environment that de-motivated them in the first place— an environment that was probably created by the same manager who is blaming them for being unmotivated.

Don’t waste time trying to motivate your workforce. They are already motivated.

Find out what you are doing that is de-motivating your workforce, and then stop doing it.

First published March 2011 in the Cranfield Express.

Contributor:   Peter Hunter

Peter Hunter is the author of the book Breaking the Mould, a collection of stories about what happened when employees were allowed to become engaged with their work. Their performance becomes so amazing that grown accountants have been known to weep.

Hunter has over 20 years of leadership and team building experience as an officer in three different Navies.

In the 70s, Hunter joined the Merchant Navy. Qualifying as a Navigating Officer, Peter spent the next six years circling the globe in oil tankers carrying everything from heavy crude oil in super tankers to jet fuel and kerosene in smaller ships around the coasts of Europe and the Mediterranean. Hunter took his first degree at Sunderland Polytechnic, then a Masters in Underwater Technology at Cranfield Institute of Technology.

He spent several years in the Royal Naval Reserve before finally joining the Royal Navy as an Instructor Officer.

Based initially in Portsmouth, Peter soon gravitated to the Royal Naval Submarine Base in Faslane, Scotland, where he spent the remainder of his naval career as a rocket scientist teaching at the Royal Naval Strategic Systems School.

After leaving the Royal Navy, Hunter settled on the west coast of Scotland from where he spent the next eight years commuting to South America and the North Sea as a management consultant working with crews on drilling rigs.

This experience formed the core of his first book, Breaking the Mould.

Peter took the lessons from those stories and created the repeatable process called "Breaking the Mould" that allows others to create the same performance by engaging the employees in their own organizations. Peter is now based back in Cranfield and spends his time writing, speaking at seminars and delivering training programs, allowing others to benefit from this same remarkable insight.

The "Breaking the Mould" process is currently being rolled out in Canada, the USA and India. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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