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How the Unmotivated Can Become Leaders

Assessment tools were researched to grade the workforce and identify unmotivated employees. The importance of culture is emphasized in order to develop organizational strategies for staffing, training and development. Various tools are discussed to allow organizations to connect with the unmotivated employees and encourage change. The growth of individuals into leaders is elaborated upon; how it is accomplished and what are the key considerations.

Keywords: culture, goals, motivate, training, development, feedback, charisma, empower, collaborate.

How the Unmotivated Can Become Leaders
An organization’s greatly valued commodity is their people. To enhance the chance to succeed in a competitive market, an organization must understand its human capacity, their strengths and weaknesses, and how best to employ them. If companies are incapable of engaging their workforce to produce efficiently, reduce cost and waste with minimal defect while allowing for a cohesive and energizing environment, they will fall behind the competition. The ideal circumstance would be to hire the best individuals in their field to join the company (Fernandez-Araoz, 2014). When this is not feasible, a company must train and develop their employees to not only keep up with technology and changing economies, but to gain a competitive edge in the market (Mello, 2014).

There are numerous technical and psychological strategies utilized to grow individuals within an organization. All have the similar objective of aligning the employee’s goals with the company’s path and culture (Goldratt & Cox, 2004). Challenges arise when an employee is unmotivated to learn new skills and does not have any wish to take on more responsibilities. Organizations should recognize these individuals and promptly react in a cooperative manor to engage and empower them to realign with the company’s macro objectives. Multiple standardized and customizable tools are used to identify unmotivated individuals, but ultimately the true gauge will be how well leaders and peers can communicate with them.

Organizations choosing to develop apathetic employees will implement complex training and development programs that are catered to various individual traits (Mello, 2014). The programs are designed for manager and employee to collaborate towards a common goal and to provide constructive feedback for continuous improvement. To achieve the best results, employees are granted appropriate freedoms to make decisions, innovate and influence peers. Leaders that show charisma and positivity towards their teams observe long-term productivity gains as well as foster cultures that encourage further growth for the organizations.

Identify the Unmotivated
Unmotivated employees show signs of reluctance to grow in various fashions. The most important element to recognize is whether the employee’s values are similar to the organizations. Tools are available specifically to identify this difference, which can be matched with other metrics based on employee output, and understand the full breadth of the employee’s encumbrance. Once the decision makers in the company understand these factors, they can develop corrective strategies. An organization will apply a greater level of scrutiny to job positions that hold more responsibilities. An organization must evaluate certain characteristics of candidates in order to predict their fit within the company’s culture and environment.

Cultural Alignment
The birth of product and service providing companies is driven by the goal to make money now and in the future, with exception of non-profit organizations (Goldratt & Cox, 2004). With a profit, an organization can invest in equipment, land and human capital. Acquiring these elements wisely will enhance the company’s growth. How the company approaches these investments and exactly what they acquire is dependent on the company’s culture. The organization must consider long-term outcomes for their decisions, where the growth of their employees is paramount.

Identifying an employee’s purpose to come to work every day will help clarify the cultural match with the organization. As an example, is the employee incentivized to learn new skills and become a leader, or is the job a secondary source of income? A growing organization is more attracted to the former option as they can aid the employee to reach their goals, which in turn earns a leader for the company, and possibly greater loyalty.

If an employee’s values are misaligned with the organizations, the company must make a decision whether to work towards a compromise where both parties partially benefit, or to terminate the relationship. Cultural misalignment can propagate and grow within an employee and amongst peers. This is damaging to a company’s progress as decisions become more challenging to gain the workforces’ support.

One of the most powerful tool that is used by leaders to assess performance is one developed by Toyota, “Genchi Genbutsu”, (Liker, 2004, p. 223). This strategy refers to the leader or person of supervision to go and see the activity of the workforce. This allows leaders to view first-hand how effective the employees are with the operations, consider process improvements, and identify deficiencies in the process. The observations must be documented, quantitatively if possible, for reference in future performance appraisals.

Papa, Daniels and Spiker (2008) refer to numerous metrics that are used to measure the level of job satisfation an employee holds. Factors that can improve job satisfaction, or “motivators” (2008, p. 275) are defined as acheivement, recognition, advancement, the work itself, responsibility, and potential for personal growth. Factors that dimish an employee’s job satisfaction are policy and administration, technical supervision; relationships with supervisor, peers and subordinates; salary; job security; personal life; work conditions and status (2008, p. 275). This information can be acquired through an assessment quiz that the employees can take in private. As with all private written assessments, the employee has the freedom to be untruthful to either tarnish their supoervisor’s reputation or to avoid arousing attention to him/her or the department they work in. Results from assessments of this sort must be taken on the trusted condition that the employee is candid and benign.

Mello provides an intricate model to develope a performance management system (2014). For the purpose of assessing an unmotivated employee, one can take the concepts of “what to evaluate” (2014, p. 444) and apply it to their circumstances. The model identifies three employee related measureables; the employees skills and knowledge base, their behaviors (with equipemt and surrounding coworkers), and productivity. These factors may have different levels of value to the assessor based on the employees job function and must all be considered during an evaluation.

A cultural misalignment assessment between company and employee will produce largely negative results as the individual is not happy and thus not motivated to succeed. An unmotivated employee can also produce average or above scores as they may be familiar with how the measurements are obtained and they are aware of the processes well enough to coordinate acceptable results. Leaders must to be concious of employee’s body language to be able to pick up negative cues. This can provide further insight to an employees thoughts and opinions of their employment at the compay.

Choosing A-players
In the case where an organization has been able to detect misaligned culture within a candidate, Fernandez-Araoz (2014) identified personal characteristics to evaluate whether that individual can be trained to provide value to the company. Fernandez-Araoz refers to three traits that are developed at a younger age and prove difficult to adjust to cater an organization’s needs; they are IQ, values and motivation. Values can demonstrate an individuals work ethics and how serious and loyal they will be towards the job and company. Fernandez-Araoz mentions “curiosity, insight, engagement and determination” (2014, p. 88) as four qualities that are strongly connected to motivation. When evaluated in a psycological interview, one can identify individuals that can aspire to become leaders and are strong candidates to grow.

Start the Change
Once the leaders and an organization are aware of what is demoralizing and demotivating an employee, an intervention is planned. Cooperative meetings are held to initially provide feedback to the employee and inform them the organization is aware of their indifferent behavior. This gives an opportunity for the employee to provide goals they would like the organization to meet. At this point, one should recognize the importance of documenting the evaluation process and all measurables. It is very common for the employee and company to have a difference of opinions and tangible evidence is the only element that can cure doubt.

Identify Incentives
Based on how the employee responds to certain assessment quizzes, they have a variety of incentives that could pull them out of the negative performance. A primary, and usually preliminary, employee goal is an increase in pay. If satisfied, this can lead to a temporary improvement in performance as the employer can return to complacency over time. Monetary incentives are a valuable tool and should be considered, but are most beneficial when coupled with other options. Consider cross training in another department as an example to expose the employee to a different, new environment with coworkers that may have a positive effect on them.

The “motivators” mentioned above (Papa, Daniels, & Spiker, 2008, p. 275) are options to employ based on the individual’s behavior, personality and goals. However, an organization must be weary of offering such rewards after evaluating poor performance. As the word implies, these elements of growth are incentives for improved performance, thus must be earned. Gifting the unmotivated employee can negatively affect other coworkers, as they may feel unfairly done. This could instigate improvement dormancy among the coworkers as they recognize below average performance is endowed with rewards. It is imperative that the apathetic employee must positively react to management feedback, improve their assessment grade in an allotted time, and earn the appropriate reward. This positive reinforcement will be recognized by coworkers and can expect similar rewards if their performance is similarly improved.

Set Goals
After discussing incentives with the apathetic employee, productivity measurables need to be identified that connect with the incentives the employee most desires. Limits are to be set on each measurable and these will be the employee’s goals. Goal setting is essential in performance management systems. Employees do not have adequate direction without clear goals. Blanchard and Johnson have summarized goal setting in six steps (2003, p. 34):

  1. Manager and employee must agree on the goals
  2. Demonstrate good behavior as an example to follow
  3. Write out the goals within 250 words on one page
  4. Read and re-read each goal
  5. Take a minute often to gauge ones performance
  6. Compare ones performance with the goals

To avoid ambiguity, the goals are set by both the manager and the employee. This involvement allows the employee to control his/her own destiny and work towards improvements that they feel are best suited. If the measurables have significant variance, observing examples of good performance can further reduces any ambiguity. Actions can be recorded and repeated. If the employee replicates correct behavior yet does not achieve their goals, then the goals need to be re-evaluated, the employee’s responsibilities need to change, or an upstream department will need to minimize their varying outputs. Continuous and repeated review of the goals is good practice for both the leader and employee to memorize them and keep them as priorities to work towards every day.

At a certain point, the employee may earn enough of the manager’s trust to measure and track their own performance. This not only educates the employee how to measure their goals, but also allows the individual to create their own immediate feedback loop.

Leadership Styles
As employees attempt to achieve their goals, they will require guidance from their leaders. Employees of different skill level and personality are best matched with different leadership styles. Blanchard, Zigarmi, and Zigarmi define this dynmically changing leadership style as situational leadership (1985). Situational leadership guides leader to adpats to the employee’s needs; whether they require constant coaching and positive reinforcement, or if the employee can accomplish their goals with sufficient delegation. In reference to apathetic workers, it is in the best interest of both the employee and organization to apply a “coaching” leadership strategy (Blanchard, Zigarmi, & Zigarmi, 1985, p. 47). A coaching style allows the leader to provide clear and concise direction on how to approach the employees goals and encourages the leader to constantly be available for any questions. With enough of the right coaching, an individual can directly improve their skills and grow their indpendence.

Depending on how quickly and frequently the employee obtains their goals, the leadership can evolve to less direction from the manager. An employee may continue to require management support if he/she lacks the confidence to complete the required tasks. However, due to the original unmotivated nature of the employee, leaders are advised to cotinue encouraging the employee through positive reinforcement. This develops the relationship between employee and leader and can improve morale. Repetition and feedback of the job will allow the employee to gain confidence in a given task and be able to master it and create availability to learn new skills.

The above leadership strategy can be considered transactional leadership; a more progressive form of leadship style is known as transformational leadership (Bass, 1990). Transactional leadership is a reactive technique by which leaders reward or reprimand employees in response to the level of performance. This method can be effective when a lack of discipline exists within the workforce and prompt corrective action or positive reinforcement are required. Transformational leadership is a more personal technique by which leaders influence people by charisma and empowerment. This style can produce more lasting and effective results over the transactional technique.

Throughout the entire development process of an unmotivated player, management must involve them in decision-making meetings where their future is discussed. The product of this inclusion is the empowerment of the employee. This involvement does require a certain level of discipline by the employee as their input can affect others within the organization. Employee involvement can occur throughout the hierarchy of an organization and can prove equally valuable. The requirement is for that employee to show strong acumen in the skills required for their job.

Set them up for Success
As employees grow their skills and show interest in earning more responsibility, it is wise for the organization to allow for that. Placing employees in positions of new opportunities (to them) expose them to new environments and present challenges that encourage intellectual and psychological growth. Enthusiastic workers with the thirst to acquire more skills and knowledge are strong ingredients for leaders. Bennis provides examples of individuals found in situations a little out of their confort zone yet due to their qualities and willingness to work with others, were transformed into leaders (2009, p. 180).

Placing individuals in challenging situations can present failures. Failures can carry a siginificant price tag to an organiztion but it is the companies responsibility to identify the risks and return of investment for any new business endeavour they pursue. If a program were to fail, the company is structured well enough to accommodate for it. Nonetheless, failures are not all sunk cost and loss. Individuals involved with projects take valuable lessons from the experience. Thorough studies of the program to reveal the root cause of the failure will provide valuable feedback that individuals can evaluate and generate solutions and fail-safes for future ventures. In a competitive business environment, failure is a necessary evil. It is wisely put, “there can be no growth without risks and no progress without mistakes” (Bennis, 2009, p. 182).

Organizations as Mentors
Just as effectively as humans can be mentors for their children, organizations can mentor their employees. With a clear cultural direction within an organization, employees can adopt the strategic, tactical and personal visions of the company to become immersed and follow the macro goals (Bennis, 2009, p. 183). Organizations make decisions based on these three visions, and employees can use the same strategy. Employees will continue to require human interaction, whose cultural vision is similar to the companies. The consistency between an organization and its staff provide a strong development tool for new team members that need to learn the culture.

Lead by Empowering
One of the key elements to transformational leadership is to empower the employees. Leaders do this by using charisma, inspiration, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration (Bass, 1990, p. 22). Charisma instills people with excitement and a sense of pride for the leader and the organization. Inspiration is impart to the employees by providing value to the jobs and responsibilities at hand and by setting elevated goals which people are motivated to reach. Intellectual stimulation encourages innovation and creativity amongst teams. The leaders urge employees to put existing assumptions aside and think without boundaries. Individualized consideration is the most personal aspect of transformational leadership, by which customized feedback is provided to each employee to enhance their chances of achieving their goals.

Transformational leadership is the next level of development for employees as it encourages people to lead by empowering rather than through power. Employees and leaders communicate on a more personal level where leaders tend to show a genuine concern for the employees well-being and success. Transformational leadership is a dynamic training tool by which the pace and delivery must be customized by the leaders judgment. It is a harder technique to master but can produce more powerful results than transactional training.

Keep the Culture Alive
Richard Branson is considered a transformational leader by his enthusiasm in every business endeavor and endless passion for success (Branson, 2007). He constantly chooses to challenge himself to explore new ideas and have fun doing it; this is how he continues to grow. He greatly values his friends and family as they have inspired his development. The values he grew up with and nurtured throughout his business career are building blocks to each one of his companies’ cultures.

Maintaining culture for Richard Branson is of paramount priority. Virgin Atlantic Airlines grew to a point where a new training and development strategy was required to accommodate for the influx of new employees and potential leaders on staff. Virgin decided to incorporate their own leadership development program where they could control the training material and its method of delivery to assure the alignment with the company and Branson’s culture (Mello, 2014, p. 395).

Branson recognized the value of sustaining the original culture of his business and was prepared to protect it through grew. Maintaining the original culture allows the organizations to consistently train and develop individuals. The premise of Branson’s culture was built upon the drive to boldly innovate, act promptly and have fun (Branson, 2007). This culture cultivated employee growth and leaders, which is why it was so important to protect it.

Harnessing all the skills of the workforce is one of an organization’s primary goals. Recognizing unmotivated individuals or unused talents early is essential before the negativity starts to affect the surrounding peers; that hidden talent could be leadership. An organization must identify the employee’s reason to come to work, their goals. If these goals mismatch the company’s goals and culture, corrective action must be taken.

Elements within an employee’s job that relate responsibilities, future opportunities, relationship with peers and supervisors and the general work environment can be assessed to evaluate job satisfaction. With the employee’s frustrations highlighted in these assessments, an organization can identify areas of improvement that can boost an employee’s morale and motivation. Leaders that work with unmotivated employees must arouse their curiosity and start a dialogue to uncover their insight on matters of interest.

Care must be taken to cooperatively set clear goals that can be measured regularly. The goals should strive to improve the employee’s optimism towards their jobs and the company. Initially, leaders must be heavily involved to coach the employee on how to reach the goals and simultaneously encourage them with positive reinforcement. Leaders can adjust their involvement based on the employee’s technical abilities, but should continue to encourage the employees, which creates an environment where the employee feels well informed and on the right track.

Collaboration between employee and leader is crucial in inducing a problem solving environment for critical thinking. Leaders should expose employees to different situations that can help them grow their skills and knowledge base. Leaders should recognize employee’s strengths and choose departments that are best suited for successful growth. If done well and within the right time span, employees are better suited to develop into leaders.

As discussed earlier, differences in culture between employee and organization are some of the main reasons that prevent employee success. Organizations can become mentors to their employees by acting through their culture and encouraging cooperation. With the right culture, veteran employees can propagate it and just by being immersed in the working environment, new employees can follow.

Transactional leaders lead by setting goals and reacting accordingly to the performance of their team. Transformational leaders lead by empowering people to take charge and make decisions. The transformational leading technique tends to be more of a proactive approach and builds upon individual psychologically; whereas the transactional leadership technique is suitable for technical training. The pillars of transformational leadership can bring out strengths in employees that were not exercised before. Leaders can apply it to grow employees into leaders themselves.

Ultimately, organizations and leaders are to evaluate each scenario and apply appropriate strategies based on their goals. To take concepts from situational leadership, no one technique is ideal for all circumstances. The key is to foster cooperation through the organization and encourage open communication and feedback. Organizations will find success by allowing their employees to take chances and make decisions that push the capabilities of the people and the processes. This will not only engage the workforce and create a positive environment; it will also lead to constant expansion of the organization.

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