Darryl Stewart
By Darryl Stewart
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How to motivate anyone – even a lost cause

Most people have someone working with them or for them that is a “lost cause”.  This is someone who everyone thinks will never be motivated to change their poor behaviour.

There is a basic fundamental human desire for feedback on how we are doing.  We all want it.  In some people it is so strong that they will go out of their way to get it.  Sometimes they go to the point of exhibiting undesirable behaviour just to get some feedback, any kind of feedback.

Take the time to agree on goals and targets!
Take the time to agree on goals and targets!

There are three basic management and leadership styles in use today:

  1. The boss decides
  2. The individual decides
  3. We decide together

The best of these three is by far the third one.  In the “we decide together” approach the manager and the team member work together to figure out the individual goals and roles that will get what the organization needs done.  They decide together what performance will look like and they check in regularly on how that is going.

If you commit to: providing timely and constructive feedback to your team members, especially about times they have fallen short of expectations; and you also commit to meeting regularly (at least quarterly) with each team member to set expectations and talk over progress, you will get results.  Even with the tough ones.

Our tendency with those “thorn in my side”, “lost cause”, “what have they done now” types of employees is the exact opposite.  Many times we have given up providing them timely and specific examples of where their performance is falling short (or even worse we never have), and the idea of making time to meet with them when we don’t have to, well, this is just crazy talk!  Problem is, it is not crazy talk- it actually works.  It will either improve the situation or get the person headed out the door and out of your hair.  Most of the managers I talk to agree that the most common result of this type of approach is that the relationship with the employee improves and motivation increases.  The second most common result is that the person realizes they need to find another job with a less caring manager so they can continue to act how they want and they quit.

If timely feedback and regular check-ins can work a little bit even on the “hard cases”, image what they can do with the majority, those who are actually open to it, as in the vast majority of your team.