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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A great performer but of bad character

As the dust settles on the 2011/2012 season of the English Premier League, and as the celebration and sulking give way to reality, several lessons abound from the league. As Manchester City went on to win the coveted cup after waiting for an entire 44 years, a wait longer than the average age of most of the persons reading this column today, the win did not come without its share of the good and the ugly experiences. Key among the experiences relate to one Mario Balotelli. His behavior on and off pitch have made him the discussion point across the globe since as much as he is a super player of great strength, he is loved and hated in equal measure because of his unpredictable character.

This experience brings to mind the age old question on how to best manage staff who are great performers but possess undesirable character qualities. You must have come across the said personalities where a staff has been hailed as great performer but has character flaws that could jeopardize the otherwise good performance. The said staff could be a gossip, uses vulgar language on colleagues and clients or even attempts to defraud the company once in a while. Should we be concerned about staff character so long as they are good performers? Shouldn't performance be all that matters?

For a staff to be branded as a good performer, we should consider more factors and not just their achievement of the laid out targets and objectives. As much as hitting the target is a great thing for a staff, hitting the targets through moral processes should always be the concern of every staff. The character of the staff determines the overall performance of the team. If the character of one staff affects the performance of the rest of the team, it should be a reason to worry by the management. The employer should be keen to reward an employee not just because of what they have achieved but for both ‘the what and the how’ they have achieved the indicated targets.

As much as a staff’s performance is great today regardless of the character, only time will tell since character flaws have been known to cripple great performers. We have witnessed great politicians, religious leaders, footballers and great parents brought down to their knees by their poor character. It has been said that character is the foundation on which every sustainable success is built. Without a positive character, the current performance is truly built on quicksand and should hence not be celebrated. How many of the leaders around us have we frowned upon due to their poor character regardless of their great performance?

This is therefore a wakeup call to all staff, recruiters and supervisors to place equal premium on both character and performance. I overheard a senior executive indicate that they would rather pick on character given a choice between performance and character. The reasoning is that staff of good character can easily be moulded to perform while persons of poor character generally take a while to be reformed as they may not in the first place value a personal reform agenda. No wonder most of the employers today seek to know more about the candidates they interview beyond their indicated high achievement on the CV.

And so, as you consider your career growth, find ways of strengthening the foundation and beautifying the paths by reflecting positive and admirable character. You can never go wrong with a good character. It is a trait that will take you places.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Value your employees more for more value

During the 10 years Hillary was working at the telecoms company, it seemed like she was there to stay. Some of the employees joked around telling her she seemed to have an asset number just like any other equipment in the company. She had been the longest serving employee at the company by the time she decided to move on to competition. During her stay at the company, Hillary recalls, the employer seems to have gotten so used to her that she felt misused and not allowed to undertake more exciting engagements. 

As the company excelled in terms of number of customers and the profits soared every subsequent year, it seemed like the directors seemed to value the employees less and placed more premium on the customers. Indeed, the management evoked the statement that the customer was king and this was truly reflected in the behaviors of the senior management team on the staff.

To please the clients, the management reviewed the working hours of the staff and increased them by an extra 2 hours. They did not however consider it worthwhile to review the staff remuneration. The management did not consider recruiting extra hands with the enhanced work and considered the present staff as having been underutilized and should hence naturally fit in. After going through this challenge for 8 months, Hillary decided to move on to competition.

Unbeknown to the management, a month after Hillary’s departure, the number of clients started to drop and so significant was the drop that the management was moved to act. It was realized that most of the clients had learnt of Hillary’s departure from the company and decided to follow her wherever she went. The management considered the facts and decided to review the terms of service for the remaining staff and hoped by their increased concern for staff, the client base will be sustained at least for the foreseeable future.

It is mythical for an employer to imagine that the departure of a staff does not affect business performance.  As much as some employers feel like they can treat their staff as they wish and would easily replace them should they consider departing, the loss to the company is often far more than imagined. Staff are the core of the engine of the operations and management of any workplace and should hence be treated with utmost respect and consideration. Whenever the employer has to make a decision that would affect both the staff and the clients, it would be prudent to first engage staff in the decision making process so as to act in the best interest of the staff.

Acting in favor of the clients usually produces short term results while providing adequate support and been seen to be concerned about staff welfare would produce more sustainable results. Companies that have learned the art of placing premium value on their staff have been known to reap the benefits that accrue. Staff develop a strong loyalty to the company brand and act as the best ambassadors hence sustaining company sales and perception among clients. It is common knowledge that staff can easily sabotage the progress of a company when they feel undervalued hence the need to value the employees more for more value to the business.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

3 myths about staff motivation

As a worker, how would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 with regard to motivation, one being the lowest and ten being the highest? If you rank below 4, you would be regarded as lowly motivated while if your rank is about 6, you would be referred to as highly motivated. I would however imagine that most of you have ranked themselves at between 4 and 6 hence regard themselves as averagely motivated.

Regardless of your ranking, lots of myths abound with regard to staff motivation. Today, I seek to address three of the most common myths.

Myth 1: Staff motivation is the responsibility of the employer.

Who do many employees blame for lack of motivation at work? Of course, they place the blame squarely on the employer. We hear our friends and workmates saying how their employers are not motivating them to perform well during these hard economic times. We suggest that we would be better performers only if our employers motivated us just a little more.

There is nothing farther than the truth as expecting staff motivation to be the function of the employer. The truth is that staff motivate themselves to work. There is little that the employer would do to truly motivate staff who are not motivated from within. What the employer does is create an enabling environment in which the staff operate and work from. Motivation that is real and sustainable is the one that emanates from the staff themselves. Intrinsically motivated staff have been known to perform well even in hard times.

Myth 2: Money is the greatest motivator at work

The fact that money is a motivator at work is not debatable. Many people seek to know how much they will be paid for the service they render and the more the amount, the more they appear motivated to provide the service. It is however a known fact that the more salary a person gets does not necessarily determine how well motivated they become. There are many other factors that determine true motivation. A highly paid worker who is in the wrong career or is made to work at hours and days that make her compromise on her social and spiritual lives for instance does not reflect true motivation. I have overheard of persons who have had to quit highly paying jobs for low salaried opportunities that hand them back their lives.

Myth 3: What motivates you will motivate your employees

It is true that people tend to imagine that what excites them should naturally excite others. At the workplace, some employers tend to assume that what motivates them as individuals should serve to motivate their employees. This is a fallacy. People are motivated variously. As suggested by Abraham Maslow through his famous hierarchy of needs pyramid, people are always at different levels of need and the need that an employee has determines the factor that would motivate them. It is hence important to note the level of need that the employees are at so that you can meet them at the points of their need.