How Do You Get People to Work Harder? Just Turn Them Loose

Here’s a fundamental question: How do you get people to work?

Answering fundamentally, you form a contract with them consisting of a set amount of compensation and benefits in return for an equally set amount of work.

Less fundamental and more important (or at least more interesting) is this question – How do you get people to work harder on what matters most to you?

Fostering creativity and innovation

You have to lead them, inspire them, and help them connect what they do with the value they deliver. Essentially, you have to help others see the bigger picture and their role in helping to achieve it.

This inspiration and understanding is what helps people choose to give additional discretionary effort and engage more deeply in their work and the success of the team, the company and the client.

But here’s the trick: If you’re a manager of others and contemplating how you can possibly do this, a critical point to always remember is that you’re not alone. You’re surrounded by brilliant, thoughtful, and insightful people who can help inspire those around them and across the organization.

Fostering creativity and innovation

Barney Harford, chief executive of Orbitz Worldwide, explained how quite neatly in a recent New York Times “Corner Office” column when asked about his own early leadership lessons:

I worked in consulting at first but eventually joined Expedia when it was still a part of Microsoft, and worked in a product strategy role. These jobs are very influential but you don’t have many people reporting to you. I always say that it’s easy to lead people when you’re managing them, because you can use carrots and sticks. The hard thing to do is to lead and inspire them when you’re not managing them.

To be successful, an organization has to foster creativity and innovation at all levels. A big part of that is helping people learn about other parts of the organization so that they can connect the dots between what’s going on in their area and what’s going on elsewhere, and then use those insights to improve the way we do things.”

Turn your people loose

As a leader, you do hold unique responsibility for ensuring there are opportunities for such exposure, for those on your team to work closely with others. But then, turn your people loose. Let them explore ways they can contribute differently within their own team and across departments or groups.

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That’s how you break down silos, but it’s also how you give people the three hallmarks of engagement espoused by Dan Pink in Drive – autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

This goes beyond the fundamental contract for employment, and participants in such an effort deserve recognition and rewards for doing so. Again, turn your people loose. Let those most affected by these additional efforts share their own thanks and appreciation for valued contributions.

Who controls the employee contract in your organization? Is it solely management or all employees, together?

This was originally published at the Compensation Café blog, where you can find a daily dose of caffeinated conversation on everything compensation.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.

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