Monday, June 9, 2008

What motivates you?

This weekend I was out on the year end trip with the cadet corps that I work/volunteer with. For the year end trip we went out into the Ottawa Valley to Wilderness Tours to do some adventure training. The unit did mountain biking, rock wall climbing, and whitewater rafting.

Saturday was a real scorcher, very hot, and very humid. At the end of the mountain biking and rock wall climbing, we decided to let the cadets go for a quick swim to cool off. Cool off being the operative word. As the Ottawa river is quite brisk at this time of the year.

One particular cadet, whom doesn't really like to expand his boundaries was the only one who didn't jump in. He wanted to, but couldn't bring himself to go. He would run up to the edge of the dock and stop at the last possible second. This went on for nearly an hour.

The other cadets tried to encourage him to go, offering to jump with him, or help him to the floating raft etc. I tried to encourage him to go as well. I coaxed, and prodded, and encouraged for about half an hour. Then I remembered something about him. I remembered, he loves chocolate. Well, any junk food really.

I offered to buy him a chocolate bar if he would just take the plunge. He didn't bite at the offer right away, but it opened the floodgates so to speak. Within a couple of minutes of that offer, he made the leap. I was pretty happy that he overcame his fear.

This little story underscores a key leadership principle; know your team member. In this case, I knew he loved chocolate.

You need to know the person on your team as a person. You need to take it past the simple and obvious things like know their name, or the ability to pick them out of a crowd. You should learn a bit about their:
  • family;
  • their hobbies;
  • their likes or dislikes;
  • their qualifications;
  • their career aspirations;
  • and leadership ability.
Knowing this information allows you to make informed decisions about how your team member is performing, or what will motivate them to succeed.

Knowing that your team member has an elderly and sick parent can go along way to explain why someone that was previously an excellent employee has suddenly become unmotivated, grumpy, or is out of the office at odd times.

Conversely, knowing that someone wants to be a Project Manager allows you to guide them in their career progression, you can tailor their goals and training to accomplish this. This might also explain why they work longer hours then your average employee.

To be clear, this doesn't mean that you have to be their friend, but it doesn't hurt either.

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