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Do you think you can scare people into doing a better job?
With dire economic news in the headlines seemingly each and every day, it may feel like the only option. But, as I’ve written in the past, the trouble with using fear to motivate employees is: it just doesn’t work. Burning platforms and “doom-and-gloom” scenarios can catch people’s attention, but ongoing use will spark false urgency and frantic activity, not the sort of urgent, enthusiastic behavior necessary to drive strategic change. There are other ways to motivate your people to go above and beyond.
Listen to my conversation with Russell Raath, a Kotter International colleague, to learn how to stop pushing and start encouraging:
John Kotter: One of the things I’ve found over the years in even very good organizations is that when the world gets going fast and the guys on top can legitimately — they’re smart enough to see the bullets coming at them — and they start, “We need some action going.” Their instinct is to put pressure, and as much pressure as they can, on the people below them to get going, you know? Let’s face it, it’s more fear based than anything. And we know that, except in real triage situations, where you know, in a few months we’re going to die, that that doesn’t work very well. Is that an accurate assessment, from your point of view?
Russell Raath: Absolutely, yeah. I think when I see organizations that do this well, and perhaps that’s the good contrast, when we see organizations that do this really well, what they’ve been able to do is connect what makes me want to do something every day in my job and beyond my job description, that little box I get put into. It’s connected to why I want to be there and why I want to help this company do really, really well. Because if I’m simply going to work every day to get a pay slip, well, you’re going to get as much loyalty from me as that commands. However, if I’m making that connection that, you know, “I might not have the top job, but what I do is playing to my strengths and absolutely something that’s helping to move this company forward, I’m going to go above and beyond.” And we’ve seen that happen. We see it happen all the time, when companies get it right.
John Kotter: I like that language. That comes from Dennis, one of our colleagues. It’s this, “Want to, have to” language, the foot on the head creates, “Well, I’ve got to do it.” Or I — you know, “God knows what will happen,” versus a whole other methodology. And it really is a whole other methodology to get people that want to come in and go above and beyond the call of duty to deal with these big situations. Yeah, that’s good. That’s good.
Russell Raath: Exactly.