Want to Motivate Like a Good CEO?

Want to Motivate Like a Good CEO?

A sense of "purpose" will get you there

When it comes to the question of how to motivate people, take a tip from industry CEOs who know how to do it well. Purpose is essential to motivation, so we need to always keep in mind the role that purpose plays in our success and in the success of our companies. If a motivated, energized workforce is essential to accomplishing organizational and production goals, and if motivated workers will overcome all obstacles, defying the odds, then they must be purposeful, brimming with passion and committed energy. Effective manufacturing leaders help their people to achieve a common goal by simultaneously helping them realize their own potential. To motivate like a CEO thus means to be driven by your own purpose and passion and then to connect other people to that same purpose.

Research shows that people work for a paycheck, but they live for a purpose. Most leaders also report they do feel a sense of mission and purpose as they go about their jobs day-to-day. Eighty-five percent of managers, directors, leaders, and business owners agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, "I feel fulfilled because I am doing work that matters to me and to my company."

With this as the case, why don't manufacturing leaders focus more of their time and energy on communicating to inspire others? The simple answer is that they feel like they are too busy with their own tasks at hand. Many are struggling to keep their heads above water and they feel trapped by their schedules of travel, meetings, and day-to-day activities. Yet, if leaders don't find a way to climb above the noise of the workday, to communicate a big inspiring message, they ultimately fail.

For example the president of a division of a global manufacturer, adhering to a strict travel ban imposed by the company last year, canceled his end of year employee meetings in Europe, Asia and South America. As January came, his CEO kept him busy in emergency meetings and he lost touch with what was going on at his eight plants around the globe. Fortunately, his plant managers got his attention by raising the fact that there were significant morale issues related to uncertainty. The executive realized that while the cost-cutting travel ban was necessary, he had dropped the ball by not communicating directly with employees.

Many employees have often said that their bosses are so distracted that they often forget to do the important things. "They are too busy 'doing' to lead," said one employee who was interviewed. "They are caught up in the day-to-day and neglect to communicate," said another. And then there was this comment: "They often say that they don't have time, but I think it is that they don't have a philosophy or plan about how they want to lead."

Employees know what is needed from a leader and will commonly express dissatisfaction when something is missing. As a leader, you must believe in your heart that the people who work with you are truly in it for something bigger than themselves. Then you must be able to communicate in a way that respects their desire to make a difference.

In the case of the above executive, he immediately prepared a memo that apologized for his absence, and explained that while the company was still grappling with challenging issues, that he appreciated and respected their hard work. He encouraged them to come to the plant manager with ideas for finding efficiencies and improving processes. He said, "The future of this company depends upon the resourcefulness, creativity and dedication of its outstanding employees. He then instructed plant managers to hold employee meetings to share his thoughts, and instituted mandatory monthly all-hands meetings where plant managers could keep reinforcing the message.

Leaders who connect people with the company, the message, and the strategy find it far simpler to accomplish their goals and you can see the difference in the way they behave. They have an entire organization of people who are working, not just for a paycheck, but to achieve their own potential as individuals. Heading up European operations for a U.S. defense contractor, Jack was highly regarded by his superiors for getting results. Promotions had come quickly but now he was facing a revolt in his organization, for running roughshod over the team. He was questioning their actions, dressing them down in front of their colleagues, and overruling their judgments. After a 360 interview evaluation and hard work with an executive coach, Jack began to take a different approach, praising his team, providing guidance and encouragement, and empowering them rather than directing them. Eighteen months later, the project was completed, the team respected Jack, and he back in the running for a promotion.

Communicating, connecting and inspiring people are critical business skills and every leader must understand the power of purpose at a personal level. They must know how to communicate that purpose with passion. As one employee noted about his superiors, "Many [leaders] come in and do their job and often forget they have people under them. They haven't been properly mentored into their role and therefore, they can't mentor anyone else." As we can see, communication here is the key. Without sharing their goals and the things which are important to them, people simply lack the necessary motivation and creativity in their jobs.

Taking all of these ideas into consideration, it may be best to think of your job as a leader who is the "CMO," the "Chief Motivating Officer" of others around you. You will decide that your primary role is inspiring people and connecting them with a common purpose. You will be clear about your own purpose by understanding what really gives you that sense of accomplishment and drive and by also understanding what gives others that drive. By finding a common goal for your employees you can communicate an immense sense of purpose and thus attract the right people to your organization. This will lead not only to higher revenues and greater profits but a more productive-and perhaps happier-organization as well.

Suzanne Bates is President and CEO of Bates Communications, specializing in helping executives attain business results via powerful communication. Her clients include Dow Chemical, Cisco Systems, Fidelity Investments and Blue Cross. Suzanne is the author of Speak like a CEO (McGraw-Hill) which became a best-seller on Amazon.com in 2005, and Motivate like a CEO: Communicate Your Strategic Vision and Inspire People to Act! (2009) also published by McGraw Hill. www.bates-communications.com

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