How to Crush an Employee's Enthusiasm
In addition to demotivating talented workers, an opaque and dictatorial leadership style can silence innovation from below, leaving the leader in charge of coming up with all the great ideas.
What’s the Big Idea?
Employees aren’t children (by law in the United States, at least) but unsuccessful parents and bosses have one thing in common: they are expert demotivators. Skillful leadership is always a matter of nudging people in positive directions while respecting their ideas and autonomy – of empowering them to do what they’re good at in the service of something bigger than themselves. And for parents and CEOs alike, there’s a lot to be learned from that ancient teaching tool, the cautionary tale.
Jim Collins, New York Times bestselling author of Good to Great and (with coauthor Morten T. Hansen) Great by Choice, sees a lot of cautionary tales in his line of work. A former teacher at the Stanford Graduate School of business, Collins now runs a “management laboratory” in Boulder, Colorado where he conducts research into what gets and keeps companies significantly ahead of (or behind) the competition. Collins has closely scrutinized the management practices of hundreds of businesses and served as an advisor to CEOs nationwide. The best leaders, he says, don’t worry about motivating people – they hire passionate employees and don’t extinguish their passion.
What demotivates workers?
1) Hype: a failure to acknowledge the real difficulties the organization faces.
2) Futurism: Always “pointing down the road” at distant goals and not at the tangible results of employees’ recent efforts.
3) False democracy: Inviting people’s input when you’ve already made up your mind.
What’s the Significance?
Successful leadership does not require company camping trips or casual Fridays. It does, however, demand a basic grasp of human psychology. As a leader, you’re striving to achieve grand goals. But you can’t do it on your own. You need people (employees) to help you get there. It’s in your best interest, then, to facilitate their eagerness to play their part. And to recognize that they have goals of their own.
Here the parenting metaphor breaks down. You don’t choose your children. Their goals are not necessarily compatible with your own. Still, you are responsible for their safety and progress. The right employee, however, wants many of the same things her employer wants, and if allowed to pursue her own goals in her own style (with some direction, of course), she will improve the business in completely unexpected ways.
And that’s a key point: in addition to demotivating talented workers, an opaque and dictatorial leadership style can silence innovation from below, leaving the leader in charge of coming up with all the great ideas. Nobody’s that good – not even Steve Jobs.
This post is part of the series Inside Employees' Minds, presented by Mercer.
Photo Credit: Einar Muoni/Shutterstock.com
Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.
No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.
A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.
- Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
- The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
- Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, explains his plan for success.
- Jeff Bezos had a clear vision for Amazon.com from the start.
- He was inspired by a statistic he learned while working at a hedge fund: In the '90s, web usage was growing at 2,300% a year.
- Bezos explains why books, in particular, make for a perfect item to sell on the internet.
It's one factor that can help explain the religiosity gap.
- Sociologists have long observed a gap between the religiosity of men and women.
- A recent study used data from several national surveys to compare religiosity, risk-taking preferences and demographic information among more than 20,000 American adolescents.
- The results suggest that risk-taking preferences might partly explain the gender differences in religiosity.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.