Innovate Mississippi

Point Innovation Magazine Winter 2013

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INNOVATION WORKS Understanding Your Motivational Drivers Martin Willoughby I have made my fair share of mistakes as a manager of people. In my first business out of college, I co-owned a company that managed private and public tennis complexes. One of our key staff members was the head tennis professional and a leading tennis teacher in the area. He had students lined up to take lessons from him, which was great for our business. In my brilliance, I went out and hired a second tennis professional without consulting our longtime head pro. Within a few months, my longtime employee left and went to work for a competitor, taking all of his students with him. In his exit interview, I learned that he enjoyed being the sole head professional and that he did not get along well with the person I hired. Ouch! This was a painful lesson in managing people and learning to communicate better. Later in my career, I was apparently not much wiser. I personally don't like much supervision or micromanagement when someone is managing me. Just point me in the right direction, and let me go. Therefore, my default is to manage that way as well. Unfortunately, that style does not work for everyone. I had a very talented law clerk I hired to assist me with my law firm. I would share some big-picture ideas with him and turn him loose to work his magic. Unfortunately, when we would reconvene, I would be very disappointed in the work product. After several failed attempts, he finally said, "Could you please just tell me exactly what you are looking for, and I will be glad to do it!" I needed to hear these words as a good reminder that many people need clear direction and want more detail on how to accomplish a project. I do have my occasional good moments as a manager, however. In one work setting, I shared an assistant with a coworker. She was a very nice young lady who worked hard. The colleague I was working with had a very different management style from me. My colleague had a stern approach and would become very upset if the work product was anything less than perfect. I watched my 8 Pointe Innovation assistant leave this person's office many times in tears. I personally believe you "catch more flies with honey than vinegar," and I tried to be an encourager and challenge my assistant in a positive way to be her best. What I learned from that experience is that my assistant would expend extra effort to get projects done for me, but would do the bare minimum not to get in trouble with my colleague. In other words, she cared enough to give me her discretionary effort. That lesson has stuck with me. How we lead and inspire others in the workplace matters. Gallup has some very interesting research on our workforce in the United States and the impact of employee engagement versus disengagement. They have been tracking employee engagement since the late 1990s and have administered more than 25 million employee surveys to measure employee engagement. In their most recent report, they found that only 30 percent of the United States workforce is engaged in their work, and the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is roughly 2-to-1. For work groups with engaged employees, the results are phenomenal – "higher productivity, profitability and customer ratings, less turnover and absenteeism, and fewer safety incidents than those in the bottom 25 percent." In addition, Gallup found that "Organizations with an average of 9.3 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee in 2010-2011 experienced 147 percent higher earnings per share (EPS) compared with their competition in 2011-2012." In contrast, those with an average of only 2.6 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee experienced two percent lower EPS compared with their competition during that same time period. Gallup also estimated that active disengagement costs the United States $450 billion to $550 billion per year. These disengaged employees are more likely to steal from their companies, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays and drive customers away.

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