If there’s one thing that absolutely destroys employee motivation, it’s when you as a leader are inconsistent. When you say one thing yet do another. When you send mixed messages. Inconsistency not only demotivates your people, it kills your credibility. And it undermines performance.
We’ve all seen it: The leader who promotes we yet acts me. The leader who trumpets excellence yet tolerates mediocrity. The leader who points to the moon yet won’t provide the rocket. These leaders raise our hopes then snatch them away. That’s massively demotivating.
Less obvious, yet equally destructive, are the subtle inconsistencies that bedevil countless strategic initiatives. Consider the typical software implementation. You select a leading product from a reputable vendor. You put everyone through training. You communicate expectations. Yet if you don’t monitor adoption of the software, provide your people with feedback and support, hold accountable those who don’t get on board, and recognize those who do, the implementation will fail. Why? You’re not being consistent. Some of your actions are aligned with success; others are not.
The solution to all of this is ruthless consistency. What does it look like? It’s when everything you say and do is aligned with success. It’s when you create an environment in which everything your people experience continually and consistently points them in the right direction.
So how do you know when you’ve created the right environment?
The Right Environment
When your people …
… have a strong sense of purpose
… understand the organization’s goals
… know specifically what is expected of them
… are equipped with the knowledge, skills, resources and authority required to succeed
… are supported by the organization’s processes, policies, structure and infrastructure
… are provided with feedback and guidance to help them improve
… are reinforced and held accountable as needed
… feel respected, valued and cared for as individuals
What makes this so difficult is that any single factor misaligned could cause you to fail. Consider this: If you communicate a goal but don’t provide the resources to achieve it, how are your people going to feel? Frustrated. If you provide resources but don’t communicate a goal, what will happen to the resources? They’ll get squandered. If you send people through training but don’t give them the authority to apply what they’ve learned, how will they feel? Not trusted. If you give them authority but don’t give them the skills to use that authority wisely, what kind of decisions will they make? Poor ones.
It’s critical to think of the right environment holistically. Everything needs to be aligned. You can’t piecemeal it. Align most of the factors that impact your people and one misaligned factor could still cause you to fail.
And there’s more.
All of this assumes that you have the right team. Yet if you put the wrong people in the right environment you will fail just as surely as putting the right people in the wrong environment. Which is why recruitment and selection are critical, strategic processes. Are you aggressively working to attract people who are highly capable and driven to win? And are you applying a rigorous selection process through which the right people will stand out?
Building the right team and creating the right environment. It’s a never-ending effort. And it’s absolutely necessary if you’re committed to winning.
Make it happen.