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Stop Driving Yourself Crazy Trying to Hold People Accountable


Susan Fowler, a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies who heads up Blanchard’s motivation and self leadership practices recently flew to New York City to meet with the head of one of the world’s largest wealth management companies. He told her he’d read her book, Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work… and What Does multiple times and was dedicated to using its ideas to change the culture of his organisation.

Pretty heady stuff.

He realised he couldn’t drive people to be more just, client focused, and service oriented. The only way a radically different culture would emerge was through employees working together and making their own decisions to find new approaches for managing people’s wealth.

This powerful executive recognised that only through the power of tapping people’s honest and authentic need for autonomy, relatedness, and competence (ARC) would he be able to achieve the results he was looking for—a high functioning, self-motivated organisation.  He realised that any driving for adherence to new policies and procedures would undermine people’s sense of ARC—and his firm’s cultural evolution.

It was a great bit of insight on his part. And it’s something we can all learn from as we endeavor to build highly motivated work environments.

  • When you pressure people to perform, the pressure you create has the opposite result of what you intended. Pressuring people erodes their sense of autonomy.
  • When you focus on metrics as priorities, people fail to find meaning in the metrics for themselves. When people feel used as a means to your end, it diminishes their sense of relatedness.
  • When you drive for results and declare you are holding people accountable for those results, you are also sending the message that you don’t trust people to perform or achieve their goals. You undermine their sense of competence.

Here are four alternatives.

  1. Encourage autonomy by helping people appreciate the freedom they have within boundaries. What is within a person’s control? What options do they have? Identify areas for creativity and innovation.
  1. Deepen relatedness by engaging people in conversations about their values and aligning their values with the company’s goals. For example, help an employee who has a value for service explore how his service might improve through the company’s new approach.
  1. Build competence by providing opportunities for training, clarifying expectations, and illuminating the unknowns. Don’t assume people know how to cope with change. Don’t try to sell change by sharing how the organisation will benefit. Focus instead on helping people deal with the personal concerns they have for how the change directly affects them.
  1. Teach leaders the skill of conducting motivational conversations. If leaders don’t know how to facilitate people’s shift to optimal motivation, they will default to what they know: driving for results. Leaders also need to practice optimal motivation for themselves. Leaders with suboptimal motivation tend to drive for results from others.

If you want real, sustainable, high quality results, stop driving yourself crazy trying to hold people accountable for outcomes that are not connected to individual needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence (ARC.)  Instead, help people satisfy those needs. When people experience ARC, they thrive—and you don’t need to drive.

About the author:

Susan Fowler is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies who heads up Blanchard’s motivation and self leadership practices.
Susan is also the author of the business best-seller, Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work… And What Does.

First published on Blanchard LeaderChat
24 March 2016