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Don't waste time motivating staff

29 February 2008

Don't waste time motivating staff

Flying in the face of mainstream belief, sports coach and trainer John Shackleton says it's not a manager's job to motivate their staff - it's up to employees to motivate themselves.

"What would be the point in me motivating you right now?" he asked 180 finance, accounting and human resources professionals at an Auckland business breakfast hosted by Robert Half Finance & Accounting. "If I'm paid to motivate you today, then somebody else is going to have to pay me to motivate you tomorrow.

"If Graeme Henry has an All Black who's not motivated, what does he do? He gets rid of that one and finds one who is. I suggest you adopt that management principle.

"If you have to motivate somebody all the time, that's half your day gone."

But, he said, that didn't mean managers should immediately cut unmotivated staff loose. "If they are not self-motivated, teach them how to do that. Provide some stuff for them so they can work and provide their own motivation."

Managers and their staff could learn a lot from the techniques athletes used to motivate themselves, he said.

"Athletes never have to be motivated for the big stuff, the important stuff. The concept is how do you motivate yourself to do the boring, mundane stuff? Athletes train themselves to control their thinking ... the rest of us don't do that, we allow thoughts to come to us.

"Let's admit it, we get fearful. People seem to think that athletes don't have fear in their body when they are about to perform. That's ridiculous. There's a huge amount of fear. But they don't get rid of the fear, they learn how to use it."

The way to get over fear, or just the boredom of doing mundane, everyday tasks, was to set small achievable goals, then reward yourself once you achieved them, he said. "If you set yourself small, achievable goals and then reward yourself for doing it ... what happens is your self-esteem grows very slightly.

"It's not about I'm going to be a millionaire next Wednesday, it's about tiny, tiny steps. Building self-esteem is about taking small steps and then congratulating yourself for doing them. Do that 10 times a day and your self-esteem will be higher at the end of the day than it was at the beginning."

Robert Half Finance & Accounting Auckland division manager Megan Alexander said Shackleton's message that we all had to take control of our own motivation and set our own goals was important for managers and staff alike.

"Inspirational leadership is important in today's business environment, but everybody needs to realise that they are the only person who is going to make them achieve what they want.

"It's an especially important message for young Gen Y workers - if they want quick recognition and promotion, they need to motivate themselves to perform to a high level, so their managers will recognise and reward them."


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