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Engagement 2.0: Motivation isn’t enough

Engagement 2.0: Motivation isn’t enough | Cultural Trendz |

By Tim Houlihan, Vice President, Reward Systems, BI WORLDWIDE

It’s no secret that to maximize results you have to drive focus, support personal goal setting, and facilitate emotional commitment in a system with transparent measurement and relevant feedback. Motivation isn’t enough.

Experts estimate disengagement in the workplace costs $300 billion in the United States alone every year. On the positive side, studies show that engaged employees produce more than 20 percent more revenue, are 43 percent more productive, and are 87 percent less likely to leave. What’s most surprising is that only one of three employees is engaged.

Motivation: Moving the Middle

It’s likely that your organization is made up of a small group of people who are intensely engaged and a large group of people who are either ambivalent or genuinely disengaged. While we cannot be certain that all top performers are among the intensely engaged, it’s likely. What we know about the top performers is that they are producing more results than anyone else in the enterprise, and it’s important to keep them doing that.

To get the middle and lower parts of the curve to move to the right, behavior and cultural change often are required. The standard distribution curve suggests that a relatively equal number of top and poor performers balance out a weighty group of average performers in the middle. The concept and graphic in Figure 1 (download at end of this article) are familiar to many. It represents a standard distribution.

However, performance metrics from more than 850,000 sales professionals in North America, Europe, Asia, and South America indicate that this standard curve under-represents the impact a global recession has had on sales organizations.

Employees who once occupied the lowest positions are gone—fired, laid off, and weeded out. That sways the shape of the curve to look more like that in Figure 2, which can be downloaded at the end of this article.

The Engagement Elevator

Engagement is not an all or nothing situation. Engagement allows for degrees of expressing commitment to the organization.

Try to visualize engagement as if it were an elevator in a 10-story top floor. Some employees will be willing and able to rise to all the way to the top floor. But not everyone will get there. In a typical organization—even one with well-designed engagement initiatives—some employees will only make it to the seventh floor, or the fifth, or the second. To maximize motivation and engagement, an organization must tailor communication and feedback to the right floor. A message that resonates with a second-floor employee may not be meaningful to someone on the seventh floor. Helping people move to higher floors requires commitment and transparency, as well as relevant rules, rewards, feedback, and communication.

Of course, any upward movement requires a solid foundation. Without meaningful work, competitive pay, opportunities for growth, and adequate working conditions, the elevator will never get off the ground.

Rather than trying to get everyone to the top floor right off the bat, aim instead to provide opportunities for moving up a floor or two at a time. Supplying tools for recognition and motivation are critical. Short-term-focused incentives, spiffs, bonuses, project recognition, and relevant feedback make an environment motivational. These tools send the message that the company acknowledges and rewards incremental effort. Just remember that a motivational environment needs to be relevant to the employees you’re trying to motivate, so tailor the tools to their situation and goals to maximize impact.

Above and beyond simple motivation are the floors where engagement happens. These are the levels where employees are living and flourishing in the culture and are contributing more because their desires align with the firm. On the lower engagement floors, the employees are starting to see the connection between what they do and their successes as defined by the firm.

In the old economy, the middle group was commonly thought to occupy 60 percent of the workforce. Today, it’s closer to 75 percent. And it’s by no means homogenous with levels of engagement varying between high-mid, low-mid, and middle-mid. This group needs support connecting their ability to engage (beyond simple motivation) and the environment in which they’re engaging (your company).

The top floors are reserved for those who combine the tools of motivation and engagement while delivering excellent results. Their performance typically has reached high levels because they have internalized the way motivation works in their lives and their jobs and for your company. They’ve gone beyond the basics of motivation and figured out how they can engage at superior levels in a work environment that reciprocates in a way that allows them to thrive.

Bridging the Gap Between Engagement and Results

Engaging employees is a significant initiative, but it’s not the final step in moving toward results. The final step is to understand how to both leverage and focus engagement to produce tangible business results. Engagement does not automatically produce tangible business results. Employees can be engaged but not focused—perhaps they want to help but don’t know how. Employees also be can focused and motivated but not engaged—perhaps they’re driven solely by personal ambitions and not at all by a desire to see your organization succeed.

Delivering results on a consistent basis requires focused engagement, emotional commitment, and individual goal setting. There are three keys to move the needle from the merely engaged to the results side of the equation. Here’s how you get more employees to ride the engagement elevator all the way to the top.

    Help employees set goals. All organizations are looking for employees who go above and beyond for both themselves and the company. When goals are missed or things don’t go according to plan, how do your employees react? Are they indifferent or do they seek a solution? If your employees were truly engaged, the latter would be the case. One way to accomplish this is to give your teams the ability to set specific goals. Allowing your team to self-select their goals (often short-term goals in support of the larger, strategic initiatives) will enhance their execution every day.t them emotionally engaged.

    Get employees emotionally engaged. Every organization has a few top-tier employees who are engaged and regularly go above and beyond. Where business can dramatically affect overall productivity with engagement is to “move the middle” by exporting engagement tools to the majority. With mechanisms such as regular feedback, objective measures, and reminders of the big picture, organizations can export the mentality of engagement the same way a good Super Bowl ad keeps us talking for days after the event: by resonating with the emotions of the audience. Emotional commitment to the task, the team, or the organization leads to engagement as the norm rather than engagement as the exception. . Measure for success.

    Measure for success. Metric-based engagement applies these concepts not just to overall job performance but also to specific metrics that make employees truly successful. The most effective measures include two elements: objectivity and relevance.

First, objectivity often is defined in terms of transparency, which is a good thing. Trust in the measurement metrics affects performance: The higher the trust, the more likely an employee is to push a little bit harder.

Next, relevance affects the organization and its people. Measures must be known to be relevant. If no one knows about it or isn’t familiar with it, it isn’t relevant. It is critical to link metrics to the strategic objectives of the business unit or corporation and communicate them clearly.

Last, don’t hesitate to use rewards and feedback to recognize those who achieve. Motivation with incentives can drive remarkable results. It’s not enough to simply communicate the value of one’s role within an organization anymore. Employees must understand how their daily actions contribute to overall corporate success. They’ll do best when they’re reminded regularly through reliable, transparent feedback mechanisms. Help them focus on good measures, fair goals, and the emotional currency of the enterprise. These tools allow employees to jump up a floor in the engagement elevator—knowing their objectives and that their efforts are recognized.

To move the middle section of average performers (on the bell curve) to the top, address them first. Develop and implement systems that give them the opportunity to move up the engagement elevator with challenges and rewards that are relevant to them and not just the top performers.

Bring engagement from an abstract concept to a relevant level that is both measurable and achievable, and you’ll turn the concept of employee engagement into tangible business results.

Tim Houlihan is vice president of Reward Systems at BI WORLDWIDE, whose mission is to produce measurable results for its clients by driving and sustaining engagement with their employees, channel partners, and consumers. For more information, visit

Vilma Bonilla's insight:

Good thoughts on developing and implementing systems that produce measurable and achievable business results.

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Long Way 2 Go | Cassie

Official Music Video for 'Long Way 2 Go'
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Four roles to improve team collaboration

Four roles to improve team collaboration | Cultural Trendz |
In today's increasingly complex business world, most work gets done within a matrix of internal teammates and external partners, some of whom report directly to you and others who do not. Gone are the days of traditional functional structures, particularly for businesses with multiple products, services and locations. Today, organizational charts have more dotted lines than Los Angeles freeway. As a result, collaboration is a critical success factor for winning teams. The word says it all: "co-labor," to work together. A common problem in this area is confusing collaboration with consensus. Consensus is a form of decision-making, whereas collaboration is a way of working together. Business is not a democracy, and everyone does not get to vote on everything. Sliding down the slippery slope of consensus will put the brakes on your business. Morphing collaboration into consensus can start looking like a trial jury--it enables any one person to hit the emergency brake on a decision. As we know, juries are not known for speedy decision-making. Certainly, there are strategic decisions that you want all team members to buy into before moving forward, but 99% of business decisions within a matrix organization are made with a collaborative process. To collaborate well, you must clarify four key roles on any team. There are plenty of models and cute acronyms for these roles, but I prefer the clarity of simple language and definitions: LEAD the team. This role is the person ultimately responsible for the completion of a project or task, and the one who delegates work. There must be only one lead specified per project or task, and s/he is the one who makes final decisions after considering input from others. DO the work. People with this role directly perform the tasks assigned by the lead. Others can be delegated to assist in doing the work. Performers seek input from subject matter experts. SHARE expertise. In a consulting role are those whose opinions are sought, typically subject matter experts. There must be two-way communication between the performers and experts about best practices and alternative approaches. Get INFORMED. The final role belongs to anyone who is kept up-to-date on progress, often only on completion of milestones. Here, communication is just one way. Clearly communicate and agree to these roles before you begin any project or initiative. Keep it simple and your effective collaboration will generate fast results!
Vilma Bonilla's insight:
Teamwork also requires trust and respect.
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On Leadership & Performance

On Leadership & Performance | Cultural Trendz |

The emotional intelligence model can be looked at in terms of what it means to be intelligent about emotions, which is being self-aware, knowing your own feelings, and why you feel that way. It’s about managing those emotions. But it’s also sensing how other people are feeling, knowing the other person's emotions, and then finally managing all those emotions in the way that is best for everyone.

How does managing emotions come into play when building high-performing teams? I spoke with IMD professor, George Kohlrieser for my Leadership: A Master Class series about the importance of a leader’s EI skills in creating solid, dynamic bonds within a team.

“Managing emotions is how you build a team, an organization. It’s the ability to get team members inspired. It’s about dealing with emotions, building high emotions and creating an inspired team. If you've ever been in a high performing team, it just inspires, even though there's stress and challenge. And there's always going to be a leader, as part of that process, to build that creativity. So it’s essential for leaders to understand how team bonding works, and how bonding in a team will build energy.

Sense of belonging

The leader has to make everybody feel like they belong - even if you don't like them. Of course, typically after creating a bond you learn to like the person. You discover some part of them that brings you together. With team members who don't want to belong, you have to put the fish on the table and say, “Do you really want to belong to this team? If you are ambivalent, it’s going to be a source of conflict.”

Build mutual respect

Again, if you don't like somebody, it’s OK, but you have to show respect, and you create high energy by being respectful. Use your mind's eye like a flashlight to look for what you can learn from somebody.

Offer choice

People want to feel they have power over themselves. That's why asking a question is so important in any leadership activity, and being able, where possible, to give people choice and power over what they can do. When you delegate, you open up possibilities to let people shine. Think of it like your children. You want your children to be smarter than you. You want the people who follow you to be smarter than you, to do better than you. If you create that sense of support, that foundation, then you have these explosions of creativity.

Empathy in bonding

Being able to understand grief is very important. When people don't get over something, there's going to be a negative consequence somewhere up the road. Help everyone - including you - get over whatever happened. The future is the future. The past is the past. Put the fish on the table to deal with conflicts. Understand that it’s better to be slapped in the face by the truth than kissed by a lie. Be a leader who says the truth, but say it with empathy. Say it with bonding, because tough leaders who bond get good results from their teams."

Vilma Bonilla's insight:

Good post about emotional intelligence and "what it means to be intelligent about emotions, which is being self-aware, knowing your own feelings, and why you feel that way.".

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How to develop mental toughness

How to develop mental toughness | Cultural Trendz |

Time after time you see a promising athlete come out of college and go into the pros only to bomb out. He or she had the best athletic ability, yet could not cut it at the professional level. Others might not have great athletic ability, get picked late in the draft and go onto become super stars. Tom Brady comes to mind as someone who wasn’t particularly outstanding in college who has gone on to be a probable first time inductee into the NFL Hall of Fame.

Personally I have seen the same. I spent many years in the US Army Special Forces. We would have tryouts who while in the best physical shape just could not make the grade to be a Green Beret. Others, who would seem to be nondescript, would pass the Special Forces Qualification course with flying colors and go onto to be an outstanding soldier.

You are probably asking yourself by now what is the difference? What do you need to perform at the highest levels, which is even more important than physical ability?

Mental toughness is what separates the superstar from the merely good. It separates the musicians that play small party gigs from the rock stars. Someone without mental toughness can have all the natural talents or ability and not make it as far as someone with mental toughness with average ability.

The key to mental toughness is applying consistently the traits of self motivation, positive attitude, emotional self control, calmness under fire, and being energetic and ready for action. Consistency is important. Through applying these traits day in and day out, you will be able to reach