If you can motivate others, you have a talent others would give their eye teeth to possess. We're all looking to free the genie who will give us the ability to help others excel. It's a continuing challenge for leaders in all disciplines. Look around you and watch managers trying to get the most out of their people. Some do it with aplomb while others fall flat on their faces. Some people have that certain ability to get others to go the extra mile. Others, in their attempts to motivate, only turn people off. If you think you're in the latter category, I suggest you get a copy of Unleash the Potential-Unlocking the Mystery of Motivation by David Zimmerman. The author has been around healthcare for 30 years and is chairman and chief executive officer of his own consulting firm in Milwaukee. He has also written 10 other books on a host of diverse subjects relating to healthcare. His latest work hits home for all of us trying to do more with less.
We all like to be inspired. It's simply human nature. The absence of inspiration can lead to boredom, dissatisfaction and poor morale. Many companies experience this problem and don't know why. Zimmerman explains it this way: "It is human nature to be dissatisfied with the status quo. Dissatisfaction gives rise to desire. Satisfaction is actually the absence of motivation. As Lawrence Miller has observed in American Spirit, `I have never met an excellent executive who was satisfied.' Author Dean Spitzer has said: `I would go even further: I have never met an excellent human being who was satisfied. People may become accustomed to mediocrity, but they are never motivated by it."'
People want to reach higher levels of performance. It's our nature, but without motivation something in us withers and dies. Often it's the way we are led. For instance, Zimmerman points out that in a recent survey from Young Executive Magazine, these 10 annoying habits of managers were highlighted: "Is a poor communicator; lies; is indecisive; favors `suck-ups'; does not listen; procrastinates; is forgetful; withholds information; belittles employees publicly; talks too much." Obviously, anyone who embodies even some of those habits is going to come up short in motivational ability.
Zimmerman then quotes a fellow consultant, Dennis Moore, who shared his personal experiences in dealing with hospital executives and their inability to motivate others. Moore cites three attitudes that seem to get in the way. He describes one such attitude this way: "I'm more knowledgeable about what should happen in this area than anyone else; that's why I was made the manager!" Another blocking attitude is this one: "It took me a long time to get to this point where I have the authority to do things my way, the right way, and I'm not about to give up that power." And I bet we've all run into this one: "If I let others do the job, no matter how well I explain it, for some reason they never do it just like I would. This ineptitude forces me to do more things than I would like, but in order to get them done right I have no other choice." Leaders who exhibit any of these self-defeating attitudes just won't cut it when it comes to motivating others.
Zimmerman is very clear about what he sees as essential traits for effective motivators. They include being humble, being a good listener and celebrating the triumphs of colleagues. The key here is making others feel important. There should be no greater reward for leaders than to see others grow and advance, knowing that without their encouragement and mentoring, their colleagues might not have attained such success. Zimmerman also shares another valuable insight: If we hope to have the ability to motivate others, we must be motivated by being passionate about everything we do. Zimmerman offers a blueprint for any leader who's willing to learn.
Charles S. Lauer