I had the privilege of speaking to Zig Ziglar not long ago. He asked me if I had written a book and I said yes, I had. Next he asked, if the book contained lots of encouragement? I had to think about that. Yes, I think the book is encouraging; after all, it helps leaders succeed at strategic planning and avoid the many models that are hard to implement and often fail. That’s encouraging. But, did I set out to write a book that was full of encouragement? I must admit that wasn’t something I had really thought about.
As I considered that question, it occurred to me it also pertained to leaders. As a leader, are you encouraging? Do you approach others with lots of encouragement? If you understand individual motivation, you know that true motivation is internal, not external. As a leader you cannot really motivate your people. What you can, and must do, is help them realize and act upon their own internal motivation.
Too often leaders and leadership “experts” concentrate on external factors to motivate people. Such things as pay, compensation, time-off, and the great pile of other incentives are held up as the way to really motivate workers. While most people probably appreciate them, these incentives don’t really have the motivational effect many think they do. Only when workers are challenged and provided with opportunities to improve and accomplish can they realize that internal motivation. When that internal motivation is activated, the worker becomes more productive, more engaged, and certainly more valuable to the organization.
That’s where encouragement comes in. If you’re cheap and don’t pay your workers a decent, even competitive wage, then none of this will help you much. But if you do, then I can guarantee you that encouraging workers to improve themselves, accept challenges, and develop new talents and abilities will be more effective than any new benefit package.
I know some of you are saying, look at the news. Everything seems to be about pay and benefits these days. Unfortunately, that appears to be true. Why? I believe it’s because, for the most part, the people screaming about pay and benefits don’t have positive work environments that encourage more than these material factors. Yes, I’m oversimplifying some. Also, some of the current shouting and public angst has little to do with actual working conditions and everything to do with power and politics. If you look at most companies in the country you’ll find the ones that do understand this concept of encouraging internal motivation are the ones which are the most successful.
Take a look at the February 7, 2011 edition of Fortune magazine. It’s the annual “100 Best Companies to Work For” edition. You’ll find a lot of talk about pay and benefits, but if you read a little deeper, you’ll find that many of these companies practice this method of encouraging their employee’s own motivation.
As a leader, you should carefully consider that question: do you provide lots of encouragement?