An organization is only as strong as its employees, and a group of employees will only be as strong as its weakest members, especially among leadership. In order for the employee and collective group to achieve their potential, there is nothing more important than ensuring motivation is high throughout the organization.

During his tenure with the Dallas Cowboys, Jimmy Johnson returned the team to winning form bringing home two consecutive Super Bowl titles. In an interview, Jimmy attributed much of his success to securing the right players and taking time to learn what makes each player tick, appealing to their individual motivators.

This means that a company needs to essentially have a policy for motivation if it wants to have the best results. Good motivation from top to bottom is not something that can be achieved simply by flipping a switch, nor by decree from one boss. Good motivation is achieved from the top down, by team members knowing they are valued within their organization and their work is appreciated and rewarded. Creating a motivating culture starts at the top but must be individualized at every level of leadership. Let’s unpack this further.

The Foundation of a Peak Performance Culture Starts with Hiring the Right People

As Jimmy made clear, motivation that fuels a peak performing culture starts with putting the right people in the right seats on your business bus. Skill and will are fundamental requirements for the right employee but personalities and people skills are just as important. They too must align with the team and culture. Otherwise, it could be a very long and painful experience creating substantial collateral damage to morale. 

When hiring, use several personality assessments to compliment the interviewing process. If you don’t use them, I encourage you to look into them. We use DISC, Motivators and the Hartman Profile to get a 3-D picture of the applicant. The reports offer specific interviewing questions to identify potential concerns.

Focus first on fit with the culture (personality), then their motivation (will) to do the work for the firm and lastly their technical fit (skill). Prioritize the job candidates’ ability to work well with others, provide encouragement or advice, and contribute to a positive working environment. When it comes to skill, people can be trained, and they’ll learn efficiently if they like the work and are motivated to learn (will). 

Hiring the right people with diverse personalities that mesh is the foundation for a motivated peak-performing company. Having a fair share of problem solvers, consensus builders, nurturers, and humorists among others aligns strengths and capitalizes on synergies. As the saying goes, “prevention is better than a cure” so hire the right people and get your high-performance culture in high gear.

Stop Tolerating Toxic Employees and Perpetual Under-Performers that Sabotage Motivation

A wrong hiring decision is costly. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average cost of a bad hire is up to 30% of the employee’s first-year earnings. A report from the CEO of Link Humans put the average cost as high as $240,000. Remember, there are hard costs, soft costs and opportunity costs.

We’ve all experienced it. Observing the problem employee and watching management deal with it is a huge distraction and an emotional drain on the team and leadership. The time leadership spends on remedial efforts with the bottom 10% is time not spent with the middle 60-80% who could be much better with the right motivation and support. That’s opportunity cost.

Do some soul searching. Who are you holding on to that should really be liberated to seek a better employment fit?  Who keeps coming up in conversation after conversation, distracting you and others from the critical work at hand? Tolerating employees who don’t fit in the culture and underperform severely undermines all your efforts to motivate others.

Trust your gut, and stop depriving the organization of your leadership’s time dealing with remedial situations. Let them go and after you see the damage they may have done, watch the morale rebound knowing you’re holding the line of accountability. What’s good for your business will likely end up being good for the person you had to let go of. Around the corner is a better job for them and a better fit for your high-performing culture.

Bottom line, it is important to get people who can do the job, and it is even more important to get people with whom you and others can work. A motivational organization is one in which the employees naturally compliment and encourage one another. It’s the combination of the right people in the right seats fitting in with the rest of the culture (personalities).

Stoke the Fires of Motivation from the Top Down

A policy of creating a motivated culture also speaks to the importance of top leadership casting a compelling vision, mission and goals for the organization. We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves. This common sense of purpose also creates a sense of belonging and camaraderie with others in the company, fueling motivation.

It’s important for leadership to also have a policy of recognizing the contributions and commitment of its employees. Like Sam Walton, use MBWA (manage by walking around) and find people doing things right. Acknowledge them in front of others and let them know how valued they are to you and the company. It’s amazing what employees will do for leaders who openly acknowledge how much they’re needed and valued.

There are also many theories and strategies for stoking the fires of individual motivation. I’m going to try simplifying this complex topic. Two key components must be managed to maximize motivation for each person. The opportunity for more satisfaction is one and the opportunity to reduce dissatisfaction is the other. However, very important, reducing one does not necessarily offset the other equally. 

Someone could be highly satisfied with their role, but one big area of dissatisfaction could outweigh them all. When asking for feedback or even conducting your annual performance reviews, ask those satisfaction and dissatisfaction questions having them rate the importance of each. Now you have key information to appeal to what motivates that person to perform. 

It’s not exactly the carrot and stick model where we think only of incentives and consequences. Many of those strategies are outdated with the younger generation of workers and over-generalized with a one size fits all approach. They may change short-term behaviors but are not often sustainable. Only by understanding what creates the most satisfaction and dissatisfaction for an employee can the employer make decisions to increase the former and decrease the latter from most to least important to them. This creates more sustained motivation.

Action Items

Spend some time reviewing your hiring and interviewing process. Make sure you have it tight and optimized to hire the right people. Write it out in detail if you haven’t already. As part of your hiring process, it can be the key to making the right decision and ensuring a good fit within your business.

We use a three-part assessment that is incredibly accurate and complete, helping you better predict the success of a candidate. It can also accelerate the learning curve knowing what motivates each person on your team once they’re on board. So consider using a hiring assessment if you aren’t already and reach out to me if you’d like to learn more about them.

We’ve developed a powerful and complimentary “Confident Leader Insight Assessment” to help you discover more about yourself as a motivational leader and get a feel for how the new hire version of this assessment could give you an unfair hiring advantage over your competition. Click HERE to take this brief but powerful assessment.

Even though we know your name and email, the system asks for it anyway, but that information will not be shared. The report is immediate and if you’d like a little more interpretation, click the button below to schedule a complimentary laser session to go over the key results and receive a sample new hire assessment report.