Motivated or Lazy?

4 Tips for being a better leader

Motivated or Lazy?

You don’t lead by hitting people over the head—that’s assault, not leadership. — Dwight Eisenhower

How do you see people, naturally motivated or lazy? Do you think the average person inherently dislikes work and will avoid it at all cost or do you assume that if people are treated fairly and positively that they will perform at a higher level? The way you answer these questions may tell a lot about how you manage people and the likelihood of your success.

These two different approaches to management are often referred to as Theory X and Theory Y based upon the research of Douglas McGregor at the MIT Sloan School of Management. In his book titled The Human Side of Enterprise he identified two fundamental models of management contrasting the differences in workforce motivation applied by managers.

Theory X is based on an authoritarian or perhaps more traditional style of management. These managers assume that people are lazy and are not motivated on their own to work. This type of manager sees it as their role to force or coerce the worker to perform work and people are largely viewed as a cost to the business. Managers who subscribe to this approach tend to see people as the following:

  1. The average person is lazy, dislikes work and will avoid it if at all possible.
  2. Most people have to be intimidated, controlled, directed or threatened to get them to work toward organizational goals.
  3. The average person needs to be overseen, will avoid responsibility, is not ambitious and simply seeks security.
  4. Workers will take every opportunity to slack off, will not achieve their potential and require close supervision.

Managers who practice Theory X are often autocratic and controlling and believe they need to drive people to make them do their work. These managers tend to micro-manage, are extremely task oriented and not largely interested in developing relationships with their subordinates. Little effort will be expended toward developing a positive work environment and recognition and appreciation is rarely shown. Workers in this environment tend to be motivated by fear and feel unappreciated.

A significant aspect to Theory X management is that people are the first to blame, not the process. If something is not working as expected it is assumed that the employees are at fault and should be observed, reprimanded and perhaps even have their employment terminated.

Theory Y on the other hand is based on a more enlightened view based on a model of human need for higher order achievement. These managers believe that if workers are treated fairly and positively with respect for them as individuals that they will perform at a higher level. Mangers who subscribe to this approach see people as the following:

  1. People are naturally motivated to achieve as more of their basic needs are met.
  2. People will exercise self-direction and self-control to achieve organizational objectives.
  3. The average person is willing to accept and seek responsibility as part of their quest for self-fulfillment and seeks recognition for accomplishments.
  4. Most people have the capacity for imagination, ingenuity and creativity and produce more when engaging these skills.

Managers who practice Theory Y are often more participative when making decisions. They value input and the results of collective thinking and value relationships. They tend to see and treat people as individuals and encourage each person to fully apply themselves to the situation at hand. These managers tend to empower their people and trust them to do good work. They tend to see employees as important assets to be invested in and important to the business. Employees in these environments tend to feel appreciated, motivated and part of something larger than themselves.

A significant aspect to Theory Y management is that when problems arise the manager and the employee attempt to examine the issue together as a team and examine where both people and process could improve.

Current research and common experience indicates that Theory Y management will lead to better results. People feel that they are part of something larger and are encouraged to achieve more for the benefit of the business and their own self-fulfillment. They are encouraged to engage the more positive side of human behavior and focus more of their energy on accomplishing the mission.

At times there may be a role for Theory X management when in an extreme turnaround situation or something of that nature, but generally this approach produces inferior results. That is not to say that people should not be held accountable for their results. Quite the opposite. However, with appropriate structures in place Theory Y will outperform Theory X on most occasions.

So here are a few tips for being a Theory Y manager:

Perform at Our Personal Best

4 tips for achieving our personal best

Perform at Our Personal Best

The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence. — Confucius

Do we perform at our personal best everyday? Are we keeping track of our personal best in the areas that matter most to us? Are we familiar with the concept of setting a personal best? These are great questions to ask of ourselves and great food for thought. To perform at our best we need to keep track of our performance so we can celebrate our success and learn from our challenges.

Part of accomplishing our goals is tracking our progress against those goals. As important as it is to create our goals so that we have direction for our activities, it is equally important that we keep track of our progress toward those goals. When we created goals we made sure that they were going to lead us in the right direction and we probably used a technique such as SMART goals to identify them.

If you are not familiar with the SMART goals process, here is a quick overview:

Specific – Exactly what we want to achieve
Measurable – Set a metric that can be tracked
Actionable – Stated to take action like run 3 miles in less than 30 minutes
Realistic – A stretch but not something impossible
Time-bound – Identify a time that it will be accomplished by

Using the SMART technique we will create goals that we can actually use and ensure that we are making progress in our intended direction.

A key part of the SMART goal is making it measurable. With this we are able to understand our starting point and how we are progressing toward accomplishing this goal. Since it is measurable we can track our progress and use that progress as a motivational tool to encourage our performance. We can see if we are succeeding and celebrate our success or challenge ourselves if we are behind in our progress. With this we are able to see how we are progressing and adjust our approach as necessary.

A great technique for measuring our progress is to create a spreadsheet or create a grid on paper that identifies the starting point for our goal and then provides space to update our current status. Using the running example, if my overall goal is to run 3 miles in less than 30 minutes, then I might setup a calendar and write the number of minutes it took me to run the 3 miles each day. I could convert that to a chart if I am analytical in nature and see my progress or I could give myself a star every time I achieved my goal.

Another great technique and a quick way to see how we are doing is to identify our personal best in our tracking log. Our personal best is the best time or highest level of achievement that we have had so far on our journey to our goal. We could circle or highlight it in our log but also just put it on a sticky note or on our desktop as a reminder of our accomplishment to-date. By doing this it gives us a great target for our next attempt.

Our progress will not always be linear meaning that todays performance may not be better than our last attempt. We may be trying some new technique or approach or just not be able to deliver a better performance than our last time every time. It does however give us a target that is just a little better than last time and something obtainable with just a little better performance. Beating our target keeps us motivated and provides the sense of accomplishment that we need to push ourselves into ever better performance.

Here are some practical tips for achieving our personal best:

Do Our Best Every Time

5 Tips for Doing Our Best

Do Our Best Every Time

The pursuit of excellence leads us on a journey of self-improvement that can be simplified to doing the best we can and doing better with each chance we get. Excellence demands that we fully apply ourselves maximizing the use of our abilities and knowledge and always strive to produce something better than our previous efforts produced.

Our results at first will only be slightly better than the standard of ordinary as we measure our surroundings at the time. With each opportunity to apply our abilities and expand our experiences we move ourselves step-by-step to a higher level of performance. Just like using our muscles in our exercise program, the more they are used the stronger they become. It is the same with our pursuit of excellence. The more we add to our experiences and learn how to more deeply leverage our talents, the greater the outcome we produce.

In doing the best that we can do, we can fully apply ourselves to see what the best we can do really is. If you are like me, there are many times I have given something less that one hundred percent subconsciously on purpose as a guard against failure. My misguided reasoning would go something like, I will give this a good shot, but not really everything I have so that if it fails, I do not have to face the reality that the best I could do was not good enough. This is a trap that does not serve us well. It does not protect us from failure, but in fact creates a greater likelihood of failure. Not doing our best cannot produce our best results. It will at best produce ordinary results.

One of the biggest challenges is to put aside our ”risk buffer” and actually attempt the very best we can do. We often rationalize our ordinary performance by leaving something on the table so that we do not have to deal with the realization that our best effort was not good enough. The problem is if we hold on to that buffer we never really find out what we can do and we lose the opportunity to make larger strides in our progress.

The idea that somehow not doing our best protects us from risk is just an illusion. Anytime we do not do our best we are by definition producing a lower level of output than we are capable of producing. With a lower level of performance we have increased the likelihood that someone else will produce a more effective result than we have and actually increase our exposure to criticism.

In order to pursue excellence we have to put it all on the table every time. We can not leave something behind to protect our ego from the true reality. If as part of our pursuit we position ourselves to learn from every experience doing less than our best because it might not be good enough seems laughable. All that we truly risk when we do our best is dealing with the reality of where we truly are when compared to the ordinary.

However, in the past ordinary results have been good enough. It was safe (so we thought) being good enough as there was always somebody worse and ordinary was good enough. In fact, occasionally good enough was rewarded sufficiently to allow us to believe we were exceeding expectations without having to do all of the work. Compared to someone who is on a journey of excellence, we will be falling behind as the standard continues to be raised. Not giving one hundred percent will become a self-fulfilling formula for mediocracy, leaving us exposed and conditioned to underperforming and overall not driving our personal satisfaction.

We might surprise ourselves that we are more capable than we thought, or discover that we are not much better when fully engaged than when we did not fully apply ourselves. In the worst case at least we know where we stand and in the best case at least we know where we stand. The only difference being our own self-perception, which we control anyway.

There is no other sure path to excellence than to take the risk of doing the best we can do. We are not trying to be perfect, just better than last time, every time.

Here are some tips to be sure we are doing our best: