Blog: Motivation—Through the Back Door

The staff of a startup company is expected to work long hours, perform various functions as expected, work in an environment where the stress level is high and they may work for zero compensation for several months or years. In addition, many times the entrepreneur and staff will be forced to put the company priorities ahead or their family.

This is way more expected than working in an established company or even as a student at the University.

If you do a Google search for motivation on any given day, you will get over 100 million references. In addition, there are thousands of books and articles written on motivation every year.

When you search Google for the definition of motivation you get, “The wants and need that drive a character.”

No doubt on a short-term basis, one of the most successful motivators in business for a company’s staff is a bonus. This may come later when revenue, profit and cash coming in. My favorite benefit for motivating people through the years is to give them recognition of a job well done in front of their peers. The rewards can range from anything that provides a person material rewards or to some form of spiritual benefits.

But whatever technique that is used to motivate staff, it can lose its effectiveness over time. Even money can lose its impact when it becomes expected and considered an entitlement.

So the question is, can you keep the motivation going as time moves on? The answer is yes, and this is done by what I call “the backdoor method to motivation.” The power to motivate key personnel can be done by removing demotivators and preventing and situations that irritate people. For instance, the biggest demotivator of all time is when a manager gives an employee responsibility without the authority to accomplish the responsibility.

I have seen managers demotivate their staffs without realizing it. As an example, the manager who starts every sentence with “I” does not realize how this wears on people and demotivates by not recognizing the contribution of other individuals.

Then you have a company president who lacks honor with an attitude that says “I created success” and refuses to share the success, but when things go wrong he is quick to say, "my staff screwed up.” To top it off there’s the typical expression you can find in strategy sessions from the president. “I am the only one who can solve problems.”

I believe that senior people who are self-starters do not need all the effort at motivation, because they have the strength of character to do what’s needed to be successful. The key is to find ways to prevent Demotivators that will demotivate them.

The following is a list to show how many ways people can be demotivated.

The Demotivators

  • Staff members who are chewed out in front of peers.
  • Staff members who have their dignity taken away.
  • Responsible person is not part of the meeting.
  • Staff doesn’t get feedback on suggestions.
  • The boss is not available when needed.
  • Staff is told how to do things and is not asked how they would do
  • Staff is put down when they ask for help.
  • Staff is not given feedback on performance.
  • Top management lacks integrity.
  • Trivial policies are pushed on senior people.
  • There is a lack of honesty in one-on-one meetings.
  • There is a double standard among staff members.
  • Unrealistic goals are set or required.
  • Boss goes around his staff to get things done.
  • Boss fails to communicate company objectives and priorities.

In many exit interviews I have conducted through the years the person leaving usually ends the conversation with a list of the demotivators. They weren’t necessarily the only reasons for leaving, but seemed to have a heavy influence on the decision. Demotivators create frustration, and the person, who never accepted calls from search firms, starts to listen to them when frustrations grow.

I strongly recommend that the person in charge look to avoid demotivators and start with one-on-one discussion with the staff to weed them out.