48-second leadership lesson

“I can’t motivate people because I don’t control how much they make.” “People have to be self-motivated.” “The work ethic is dead.” “Kids these days…”

Managers often complain about being unable to motivate or get the best out of people. It’s not always easy, but let’s turn it around and think about it a different way.

Is there anything that you could do right now that would demoralized, demotivate, and disengage your employees?

Could you easily lead in a way that would cause them to not want to give their full effort?

If you really wanted to, could you communicate in a way that resulted in confusion, misunderstanding, and mixed messages?

The answer to all these questions is: absolutely YES!

Take a moment to think about all the easy, simple, and inexpensive things you could do to destroy performance. Got it? Good, now go do the opposite.


  1. Broc,

    I think it’s important that managers take a lot of personal responsibility for how well their employees do. While perhaps not everything is within their control (e.g. as you mentioned, their manager or the owner might not let them pay the employee as much as they would like), there is almost certainly a lot that is within their control.

    If a manager has a negative attitude towards the work ethic of all employees in general, I think that’s likely to be exactly what the manager will attract into their experience. On the other hand, I’ve seen great managers that have made the most of difficult circumstances.

    Just a few of the things that managers can do to make the most out of the situation are to praise good work, listen to employees, and lead by example.


    1. Greg, thanks for the comments and insight. I think you’re spot on – managers can’t control everything, yet there is so much that they can control and that shines through when they take responsibility for their employees. Philosophy and attitude drive actions. I appreciate your thoughts, thanks for stopping by.


  2. Brilliant! I do something similar myself when I’m training the topic of motivation. I tell my team that we’re going to start an Academy for Advanced Demotivation Studies, and then give them all 15 minutes to plan the syllabus. What will we teach managers in order to make them into expert de-motivators? At the end of the 15 minutes, we have flip-charts full of demotivating ideas, and none of them to do with money!


    1. Peter, I love your AADS exercise! Sometimes it’s difficult to think about the things we want, but I’ve never seen anyone struggle to identify what they don’t want. Using the negative to compare and contrast also seems to get us to a more realistic idea of what we truly value and want. In your exercise I can see it taking people from pie-in-the-sky ideas about motivation (a million dollars and a pony) to very practical and hands on ideas (quit being a jerk, explain “why” occasionally, etc.).

      Please keep sharing the great ideas!


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