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Motivate People with Managerial Relationships

Motivate People with Managerial Relationships

At a networking breakfast I attended this week, our speaker did a terrific presentation filled with suggestions he had for organization mapping. He provided a high level visual tool to capture strategy in a cohesive, succinct way. 

I  was moving right along with the map until he got to the circle marked people.

“People are pretty much attitude and skills” he said as he moved smoothly onto the next sphere on his strategy map.

I fell off his bandwagon.

Maybe because I spend so much time observing how low employee engagement costs organizations opportunity, share of customer, reputation, higher operating costs due to turnover and the expense associated with recruitment…etc. I balked at this point in the presentation because I know how motivated people impact an organization’s ability to execute their strategy.

This short characterization of workforce illustrates a fundamental oversimplification that contributes heavily to underlying causes for the lack of engaged, naturally motivated people.

When leaders think of people as just skills and attitude… that’s a commodity mentality(Human Capital). Some accept this frame at face value and don’t give it another thought.

What if that organizational map label said “relationships” instead of people? How does relationship add organizational strategic value?

Humans move toward or away from aligning with things and others based on the “relationship” they imagine they have with whatever that other thing, person, value, etc. is. People expend more energy and sweat equity on people and things they have a relationship with.

How front line leader relationships generate engagmentI don’t mean relationship in the narrow context of friends or people they  like…I mean relationship as a value they place on things and people they interact with. Relationship is why something matters/or doesn’t matter to us. Leaders who understand this intrinsic motivation find ways to help folks connect with a bigger picture, etc. These leaders are successful not because they are charming or clairvoyant, but because they invest in relationship and the positive impact it has to motivate people.

I hear and read gurus suggest tactics they promise will lead to employee “buy in”. But “buy in” doesn’t offer a big enough way of motivating. “Buy in” is transactional…there is no sense of ongoing commitment. Engaged people are naturally motivated and committed.

Ultimately, we can’t buy someone’s motivation and engagement. They can give it…but it’s earned through trust and relationship.


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