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Face It. You Can’t Motivate Your People!

All effective managers have the ability to understand and focus on the inner motivations of themselves and of those around them. Notice I used the phrase, “inner motivations.”

In truth, material handling distributorship managers cannot motivate others. Motivational speakers, incentive plans and contests do not essentially alter performance because they deal with external, rather than internal, motivations.

Of course, people want promotions and higher commissions and do not want to be fired. However, simply dangling these carrots does not create effective and consistently productive work. The true motivation that causes individuals to excel comes from within. This inner motivation distinguishes the 20 percent of those who succeed in virtually every profession. Effective managers must uncover whether someone has the inner motivations needed to succeed in a particular position.

Motivations Are Difficult to Discover
The most effective managers like to make decisions and take risks. They are consistent and fair, they command respect from others and they are good communicators. They are able to gather information and analyze it in reference to the company’s present and future needs. They know how to delegate projects, and they encourage growth in others as well as themselves.

The most effective salespeople possess very different qualities. They are able to understand what other people are thinking and feeling. They are motivated to turn others around to their point of view. They are able to bounce back from rejection and seize the next opportunity. Salespeople, unlike managers, want to be out there themselves, meeting prospects and clients, negotiating and closing deals.

The most successful service writers are motivated to please others, driven to come through, organized, detail-oriented and able to relate well with others. They are not overly motivated to persuade others.

Motivations Differ By Position
Management Qualities Salesperson Qualities
  • Like to make decisions and take risks
  • Command respect from others
  • Good communicators
    and delegators
  • Encourage growth in others
  • Understands others’ thoughts and feelings
  • Motivated to persuade others
  • Quickly bounces back from rejection
  • Likes to work alone

Added to these differences, some people are motivated by security, some want control, some are driven by accomplishment, others seek involvement, some want to belong and others want to develop. These motivations are hard to uncover, because often the individuals themselves are unaware of them. For instance, every successful salesperson is motivated by an internal need to persuade others. Very few would say, “I want to sell because I feel ten feet tall when someone says yes to me.” Yet that is precisely what occurs in a successful sale. It is these inner motivations that compel us to act.

Effective managers understand their own motivations so that they are better able to understand the motivations of those they oversee. They know that if an individual does not possess the motivations required to perform successfully in a specific job, all the training and incentives in the world will not make that individual highly productive.

Acting on the understanding of what motivates new and existing employees is surely more complicated than using a “one size fits all” approach. How these motivations are responded to (or ignored) sets the tone for the entire organization. The three approaches to pinpoint personal motivations are behavior-based interviewing, personal observation and personality assessments. Understanding and focusing on each individual’s inner motivations is the surest way for material handling distributorship managers to develop a productive work force.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

Patrick Sweeney Meet the Author

Patrick Sweeney is executive vice president at Caliper, located in Princeton, New Jersey, and on the Web at www.calipercorp.com.


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