Pushing ropes or fueling fires
Motivating others can be as challenging as pushing ropes. Leaders and managers push people by pressuring, explaining, creating check points, measuring production, threatening, rewarding, and more. Successful leaders learn how to push ropes and get things done.
On the other hand, motivated people don’t require pushing.
The trouble with motivated people is they don’t require the focus and energy that unmotivated people require. They don’t require pushing. This leads some to say the best thing to do is get out of their way. However, hands-off leaders are failures. Here’s the problem.
Hands-off leaders stay hands-off until something goes wrong. Translation, they step in to correct. Motivated people need more than correction. They need fuel for their fire. They need positive feedback. They need reoccurring assurances their efforts matter. It’s a mistake interpreting hands-off to mean withholding positive feedback.
Leaders take people further by fueling fires. Don’t worry. Fueling fires won’t take long. You’ll still have time to push ropes.
How to fuel fires?
#1. Honor progress. Research shows that making progress fuels passion to make more progress. For example, the closer you are to finish line the more energized you are to finish.
#2. Grant access to you and your time. Avoid spending all your time solving problems and dealing with problem people.
#3. Drop in with a cup of coffee and a bagel to describe how something they’ve done benefits you and the company. Say, “You make my job a pleasure when you (fill in the blank.)
Motivated employees/volunteers require more attention not less. Leaving them to themselves puts them on the awkward path of only seeing you when they need correction or there’s a problem to solve. They deserve more. They’ll achieve more if you fuel their fire.
See it say it — Correction — Positive talk — Cheerleaders
What can leaders and managers do to fuel the fire of motivated people?
Good point – it’s easy for a manager to think “She’s doing great, I’ll just let her go and occasionally provide some correction.” Meanwhile, the motivated performer above thinks, “All my manager ever says is what I’m doing wrong – this stinks!” It’s so important to provide the positive “fuel”!
Thank you for leaving your comment here. Affirmations and applications are always appreciated. Positive Feedback motivates.
Being a manager/supervisor does not constitute being a leader. I have a very hard time calling someone in the position of authority a leader if they don’t have leadership ability. I have about 30 years of experience in the nonprofit world and about 15 of those years as a manger. I find that many individuals placed in management positions may know what has to be accomplished (program/company mission) but rule with an iron fist to get the job done. Therefore, they may get result, but mainly because their employees need a job and are willing to work under miserable circumstance to support themselves and their families. The employees that I am talking about who tolerate this kind of abuse are individuals who don’t have degrees, are earning very little money, and are single parents etc. However are great workers who care about the people they service. Employers or managers that treat their employees like they don’t matter are not privileged to be called leader. These kinds of employer/managers have earned the title of “Our Lousy Boss” not “Our Great Leader.” I give employees who are pressured, criticized, and unappreciated, but still do a great job, props and consider them the true leaders of an organization. On a personal note, I appreciate your insight, which has helped me sharpen my own leadership skills. For that I thank you.
I’m delighted you stopped in and left your first comment. Love your clear opinion and agree that people with titles aren’t necessarily deserving. I recently read a great speech given at West Point where the speaker explained the unqualified “hoop-jumpers” are promoted while intelligent creative, free thinkers are left behind. It was a challenging read. You can find it at http://www.theamericanscholar.org/solitude-and-leadership/
Thank you for your encouraging words.
I hope you keep coming back.
Ruth’s Website: http://www.yesicaninc-spiritcare.com/
You are spot on! So many leaders ignore their top performers, which can eventually lead to under-performance, doing enough to just get by, or going somewhere else where they will be appreciated.
It always baffles me when leaders spend most of their time putting out fires, rather than fueling the positive ones. I like your take on “fueling fires”.
Your three examples of providing positive reinforcement are excellent. I hope many leaders read this post and start implementing at least one of those behaviors.
All the best,
Thanks for your comment. As I read it, I thought about time ratios. It takes so little time to fuel a fire in comparison to pushing the unmotivated. The ROI on fueling fires is much higher than pushing ropes.
LF readers can read Jen’s thoughts and wisdom at: http://theexperiencefactor.com/the-x-blog/
I agree Dan, a great leader engages his troops in his/her conversations. Seek out others’ opinions. Don’t worry that you might not exactly implement their opinion, it is the fact you asked for their opinion in the first place is what matters.
Great point. Don’t feel like asking is committing to implement every word of advice. People trust us if they think we heard them.
All the best,
For Leadership Freak reads, Jim is a business consultant in Arizona.
I love the fire analogy because as leaders we create ‘bonfires’.
A bonfire attracts people from far away.
Bonfires get people talking.
Bonfires creates talking points and interaction.
Everyone standing around a bonfire has something in common with each other.
Everyone feels equal around the bonfire.
You are right, as leaders we need to fuel the fire.
However I would argue that as leaders we need to fuel the ‘bonfire’
You’ve taken fire to new levels. Thanks. Nicely done.
I look forward to hearing more from you.
Success to you,
An interesting thing for every leader to learn and drive the organization on a success path.
In every organization, one can find a mix of both category staff. A leader needs to identify self-motivated people, who have a fire in their belly and who can be provided key assignments by way of challenges. Invariably, the referred class of employees come out successful and add to the organization growth. They need to be looked after well by way of public recognition and rewards. The other mediocre class of employee staff needs to be pushed and pressurised for the expected performance.
A leader takes a dual responsibility of managing both category staff using his managerial skills or creates the adequate structure to ensure management of people and their performance to the organization’s advantage.
I feel, it is more of systems based approach and the culture of trust that inspire people to get more committed and self-driven.
Dr. Mrunal K. Asher
ITM Business School, Kharghar,
Navi Mumbai, INDIA
I like how you bring systems to the discussion. From an organizational point of view, do systems reward behaviors that reflect our values.
As usual, you’ve left a useful insight for the LF community.
I love this. Thankfully, it wonderfully describes the team I’m privileged to lead. They’re a bunch of Derby thoroughbreds and I just get to offer some race by race strategic coaching and encouragement. We all tend to live up to–or down to–the expectations we experience from those who matter most.
Thanks for the good word and the reminder of the power of expectations. I think you’ve got something there.
I look forward to your future comments.
Best to you,