Going Out on a Limb

Posted on 10/09/13 No Comments

I recently wrote about the importance of inspiring excellence in employees.  Someone took exception to it.  Maybe a lot of people took exception to it but this particular person felt strongly enough to call me.  She is the owner of a small business and, as she sees it, she pays her employees to be excellent on their own; she shouldn’t be responsible for inspiring them to excellence.  What do you think?

I know I am going out on a limb here because I don’t want to offend any clients, potential clients or otherwise but, simply stated, she, and anyone who agrees with her, is wrong.  Period.  Owning and operating a company successfully is not about ego.  It is not about people doing what you tell them simply because you told them.  It is about leadership.  It is about inspiring excellence. Maybe it will help if I not only explain why but HOW to do it…


  • What is your level of productivity when you are excited about a project?  When you wake up and can’t wait to get started because you believe in it, you know exactly how you will achieve it and the only thing between you and accomplishing the goal is your ability?
    • Probably close to 100%
  • What is your level of productivity when you are less than enthusiastic about a project?  When you wake up and dread the prospect of undertaking it because you’re not sure you believe in it, you don’t know exactly how you will achieve it or you do know exactly how you would achieve it but know that you won’t be allowed to do it your way or, no matter what, someone is going to tell you you should have done it better, faster, different…?
    • Probably closer to 20 or 30%

Okay, set that aside for a moment.  As a CEO/business owner/manager, your job is NOT to DO things but to GET things DONE through other people.  If you’re the CEO/owner, take ALL of the activities of the entire company, take out those that only you can do; the remainder are the things you must rely upon other people to do.  If you’re a manager, do exactly the same except only consider ALL of the activities of the division/department/team for which you are responsible. If you are doing 100% of the work, you’re DOING, not MANAGING.

Now, if everyone is like you, and your level of productivity is _____ % (whatever percent you came up with above) when you are demotivated, then your effective productivity is:

Percentage you DO 20%
Percentage you MANAGE 80%
YOUR level of productivity 100%
DEMOTIVATED employee productivity 30%
Company/Department Performance 44%

Of course, you can put in all of your own assumptions but there can be no question as to the fact that when you are demotivated you work at less than 100% of your full potential.  And so will your employees.


The number one inspirational factor in the workplace is a sense of accomplishment.  This sense of accomplishment can be magnified by acknowledgment for that accomplishment. Money is a motivational factor but not even number one.  No one will work for free but it is not the number one motivational factor.  It is not an inspirational factor.  Bottom line (pun intended), the number one manageable means of increasing productivity (and thereby profitability) is to give employees an opportunity to realize a sense of accomplishment and to magnify it by acknowledgment of that accomplishment.

But how do you give employees a sense of accomplishment? Give them absolutely clear goals. Give them the authority to complete the goal on their own. Welcome problems or questions as long as they present several solutions and answers from which you can help them discover the best option. Empower them.

In order to make sure that their sense of accomplishment tracks with business profitability, however, make sure that their goals are critical to the execution of the business strategy.  Share your vision with them. Gain their buy-in but inviting them to participate in the development of the strategy.  Allow them to negotiate their goals. Give them a sense of purpose. INSPIRE them to Excellence!

…or stay frustrated and stressed out while continuing to beat that dead horse by cracking the whip and demotivating them thus leading to decreasing productivity and profitability as you prove who’s the boss.

 What do you think?  Your comments are welcome!

 Next Up: Hiring the RIGHT People


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