The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Unmotivation …

A while back I wrote about how some companies offer incentives and bonuses to their staff to try and boost morale when the reality is all the employees actually want is the company to act in ways they can be proud of and believe in.


The most depressing part of this is that in many cases, the companies know this but just think it’s easier to try and ‘buy staff off’, than to change how they act.

But if you think that’s bad, there’s some who are even worse.

The ones who believe their staff will be inspired and impressed by any gesture the companies shows towards them … even if it is an act that shows how little they really think of them.

Acts like this …

Or this …

Seriously, what on earth were they thinking???

Even if they were giving away a bunch of bananas rather than a single one, it would still be bad … but a postage paid envelope, that reiterates this is a ONE TIME act of generosity.

Either the people behind these ‘gifts’ are evil or utterly delusional … which is why the best leaders I’ve ever worked for have been the ones who are transparent and honest, whether for good news or bad.

There’s something really reassuring of knowing where you stand. Where there is constant dialogue with where you’re at and where things are. That even in bad times, you know what is going on, what needs to change and some suggestions how to do it … because the person telling you genuinely wants you to succeed. Not simply to make their life easier, but to help make yours bigger.

While there are a lot of benefits to management, it can’t be denied it’s a tough gig.

You’re dealing with a bunch of moving parts all at the same time.

Team development.
Individual growth.
Client satisfaction.
New business requirements.
Company reputation and profit.
And then your own, personal satisfaction and growth.

In some ways, each of these moving parts can act as a barrier to the other being successful … and that’s when a manager can get into real trouble, because pressure means they can end up choosing what ultimately makes their life easier rather than what makes everything better.

Now I am not saying I am a great manager.

While I think I am OK, I definitely have my failings.

However over the years – and with some excellent mentors and role models – I’ve definitely learnt there are some ‘rules’ that I believe can help companies ensure managers create an environment where good things happen can happen, for the work … the clients … the individuals … the team … and the company as a whole.

1. Stop promoting people simply because that’s the only way to give them a pay rise.

This is more than just about managing staff cost ratios – or keeping salary bands in line – it’s the reality that some people are just much better at doing their specific job than managing other people doing their specific jobs. Often they know this, but feel they have to accept the promotion ‘opportunity’ to get the money they want. The great irony of this approach is it ends up costing everyone more in the long term. Because the promoted person ends up stopping doing the work that made them – and the company – stand out and other talented people leave, because they are being badly managed. Until the day the company realises their mistake and lets the person go who didn’t really want the job in the first place, but did it as it was the only way to get fairly valued for their talent and experience.

2. Stop thinking being good at the job means you are naturally good at managing

Being good at a job doesn’t automatically mean you are going to be good at managing others doing it. Not only that, being good at your job doesn’t mean your approach will – or should – translate to how the entire department operates. Sadly, too many companies don’t think this way. Instead they promote without consideration to the ways of the individual or the needs of the department and company. Of course, sometimes the reason for that is because it’s a way to ‘keep’ talent from going to another company or because doing it makes things more ‘convenient’ for the company when someone has resigned. What makes that approach even worse is they then place huge expectations and judgement on people so that when things don’t go exactly as planned, they start adding additional stress and barriers. The reality is you don’t make good managers through a title, you do it by giving them training and time.

3. Every level needs training

It doesn’t have to be formal. It doesn’t have to be academic. But it does have to happen.
Not just in terms of learning the company processes and org charts … but in terms of learning how to actually manage. What to look out for … how to engage … how to encourage and motivate. Not from a book. Not from an online course. But proper training with people who have done it very well rather than people who just hold the title. There are so many great managers who never got to realise that simply because they were thrown in the deep end and then kicked out because they weren’t given the support and time to train for their new position.

However I know the things I’ve suggested won’t be common, because too many companies see personal training as an expense and judge success as getting stuff done, regardless of the cost. Which is why after all the years I’ve had doing it, I still rely on 4 huge lessons I learnt from Dan Wieden and Chris Jaques.

+ When your focus is the work, every decision becomes easier.

+ Brilliant work sorts out almost every problem,.

+ Honesty and transparency is the greatest gift you can give someone.

+ The best way to stop complicity is to create an environment of openness and debate.

Sure, none of these are as easy as giving a banana or even a paid-return envelope … but I guarantee the positive effect will last a hell of a lot longer.

17 Comments so far
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This is really good Robert. Great points but I am finding it difficult to accept anyone would think giving a banana to employees would be a morale booster.

Comment by George

I know. And a single banana … just to really rub in how tight they are.

Comment by Rob

amazed no fucker gave peanuts.

Comment by andy@cynic

Hahahaha … that would be ultimate evil.

Comment by Rob

have you forgotten the shit meals you used to force us to eat as your way of saying thank you? id take a banana over that shit anytime.

Comment by andy@cynic

I can still taste that sunday roast pizza in my mouth.

Comment by Bazza

Me too. It was revolting. Of course that made Rob love it even more.

Comment by Pete

im very fucking alarmed i agree with your 3 lessons. what the absolute fuck?

Comment by andy@cynic

Even Mr Burns isn’t that mean.

Comment by Bazza

Good advice in this post Rob. But it’s the CEO’s who should be listening to it not the employees.

Comment by Bazza

Good point. And we know they won’t … because as I wrote, their perspective is success is getting the job done, not getting the best out of their people to create even better success for their clients.

Comment by Rob

Well said Robert. Those 3 points are classic mistakes and ends up costing the company in the longer term. The only reason it continues to be adopted is that management tend to have left the company before the folly of their approach hits the organisation.

Chris and Dan sound very smart and excellent teachers.

Comment by Lee Hill

They were/are. You weren’t so bad yourself Lee … I learnt a lot from you that I still do. Except I obviously claim it as my own, hahahaha.

Comment by Rob

I’ve just seen your team won 1-2 in the 90th minute. Will you be turning that in to a post about motivation?

Comment by Pete

It’s amazing. Normally we are the ones that let a victory turn into a defeat in the final minutes, so this is a very pleasing – and rare – occurrence.

Mind you, a month ago, we were bottom of the league with 1 point. 4 weeks – and 4 wins, 1 drawer – later, we’re up to 12th and just 4 points off the playoffs thanks to a new manager instilling confidence and enjoyment into the same players.

It won’t last, but I’ll take whatever I can get. Haha.

Comment by Rob

My agency doesn’t even hand out bananas or paid envelopes.

Comment by Danny

Hi Danny, I don’t think you’d be alone in thinking that.

Comment by Rob

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