3.23.12 Issue #524 info@mckenziemgmt.com 1-877-777-6151 Forward This Newsletter

Nancy Haller, Ph.D.
Leadership Coach
McKenzie Management
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Put Your Wallet Away: Give Your Team What They Really Need
Nancy Haller, Ph.D.

Numerous studies have shown that the most successful employees are the people who manage their own emotions - and more importantly - the emotions of others they work with. To get people to do their best work you don't need to pay them. You need to help them develop socially through activities such as team retreats. Unfortunately many dental leaders undermine the success of socially intelligent employees by unconsciously promoting selfish behavior. How? Bonuses and financial incentives.

There is very solid research on this. Princeton professor Sam Glucksberg looked at how motivation works in complex tasks that involve incentives. He used the famous “Candle Problem” to see how fast people could solve the problem. The goal of the task is to attach a candle to the wall so that the candle does not drip on the table. To solve the candle problem you need to see the box not only as a receptacle for the tacks but as something that can hold the candle. It requires creativity.

Glucksberg had two groups of people try to solve the candle problem. The group that was promised rewards took an average of three and half minutes longer than the unpaid “norm” group. How can this happen - it goes against popular beliefs! After all, if you want your employees to be more productive you incentivize them, right? Think again.

Today’s business tasks are far from clear cut and well defined. We work in the information age, an age of business that requires employees to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. Long ago we left the industrial revolution behind, yet for some reason we’re still using outdated motivators in an attempt to get the most out of employees. In the past you could motivate by saying “If you do this, then you get that.” That just won’t do any longer.

Contingency motivators - if you do this, you will get that - may work in some situations, but not all. This is one of the most robust findings in social science. Extrinsic rewards tend to narrow attention. This may be effective in jobs that have a clear outcome and a simple path to get the work done. But that is not what's required in today's 21st century business environments.

The challenges your employees face most often do not have a single set of rules. Think about the accounting functions in your office. I doubt that one of your employees is manually calculating debits and credits using a ledger sheet, a pencil and an adding machine. More likely, invoices and payments are entered into a software program that consolidates all the data into a P&L report. It's faster and far more accurate. Routine, rule-based, left-brain work can be automated and/or outsourced.

What really matters in today’s workforce is right-brain, innovative and conceptual kind of abilities. Whether it’s tracking patient referrals, maximizing treatment acceptance, providing outstanding customer service, handling Mrs. Jones who is a very “tricky” patient…your success depends on how well your employees navigate complex situations. When you offer your employees financial incentives you actually reduce their awareness of others and increase their focus on self. They can only see right in front of their face. Therein lies the problem. Rewards and incentives distract us from creative solutions to problems, narrow our focus and restrict our possibility. By its very nature, money makes us more selfish.

If you really want high performance on those definitional tasks of the 21st century, the solution is not to entice employees with a sweeter carrot or threaten them with a sharper stick. Incentivize them by focusing more on intrinsic motivators.

By intrinsic motivation I mean the process in which the rewards come from carrying out an activity, rather from the end result of the activity. People are most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the satisfaction and challenge of the work itself, not by external pressures or incentives. When we do things because we enjoy them, they matter, because they bring value to our lives and to the lives of those we serve…that is when we are truly motivated.

To get your employees to live up to their full potential, take the focus off of extrinsic rewards and help them find enjoyment in their work. Leadership coaching can help you accomplish this. When members of your team have feelings of satisfaction about working in your office, that sense of meaning is what will take them to the next level.

Furthermore, assure that your employees do their best to understand the motivations of others. Happy teams are productive teams. And remember, the true motivational “magic” comes when your employees know you care about them and that you are committed to their success, professionally and personally. Making a person feel valued is worthy of a leader's conscious intention and can take many forms, most of which cost nothing but are perceived to be invaluable.

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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