Motivating A Team During Downsizing – Persuasive Communication

Motivating A Team During Downsizing – Persuasive Communication

A wonderful book for teaching your children important life lessons Recently, I came across a post by Peter Stark in a LinkedIn Leadership and Learning group update.  It had the same title as today’s post.  Here’s a link to his post so you can read what he wrote about motivating a team during downsizing.

Peter defines motivation as an internal need or goal that diminishes as the need or goal is met.  That’s general enough to drive a truck through it.  Problem is with his prescription for dealing with his definition.  He suggests lots of visioning and goal setting, the kind of positive action that speaks easily to a person motivated by desire.

Without being disagreeable, and only for the same of discussion, I beg to differ!   Because in a time of downsizing, desire may be the last thing on team members’ minds.

If you’re one of my students, readers, or someone who has heard what I have to say about this in the past, you know that I approach motivation from a different direction.   I define motivation as a direction of movement, in that people are either moving towards or moving away from something. (Only the person standing still lacks motivation, as they are not moving!) And in times of fear, people are moving away, so to ‘motivate’ a team, there has to be something larger to move away from in order to get them moving together in a direction.

Here’s Peter’s prescription:

If you help your employees focus on the future with a positive vision, clarify their goals, acknowledge their unique gifts, encourage high expectations, and give employees “the blessing,” you will create an environment that can produce a more motivated workforce – even in this economy.

I just don’t think that advice holds up, or at least it certainly isn’t enough to create motivation on a team during downsizing.  All the vision and goals stuff in the world won’t speak to the away motivation of a person afraid. Indeed, it may have the opposite effect. No, you can’t motivate anyone but yourself, but you can speak to the interests of people so they find their motivation. To me, that is the art of motivation.  And finding out their interests means listening, even listening to their fears.  That’s very different than trying to persuade people to go forward when everything in them is moving backwards.

There’s been a boatload of fear for just about anyone to jump into in the last many years.  And jump is exactly what people have done.  Jumped to really bad decisions (the US entangled in nationbuilding in TWO countries in the harshest part of the world, at the same time; ignoring the threat of climate change and wanting to ‘drill, baby, drill’ instead; throwing a ton of money -literally, it has to weigh quite a bit in tonnage-at financial institutions without adequate safeguards; companies and agencies downsizing the creative people and training departments first; I could go on, but I think I’ve made the point), jumped to erroneous assumptions (trade freedom for the illusion of security; trade common sense for expediency; oppose the guy trying to fix the problem instead of the people who made the problem; I could go on but I think I’ve made the point), and otherwise jumped to conclusions.

Speaking of conclusions:  I’m reminded of a book I read to my daughter when she was a little girl.  It’s called “The Phantom Toll Booth,” (see the cover image on this blog post, click to learn more at Amazon, I HIGHLY recommend it to your children AND to you!) and involves a character named Milo who, after picking up a watchdog named ‘Tock’, has quite an adventure.  At one point, they jump to an island called ‘Conclusions,’ where they find themselves stuck for a considerable part of the book.  When finally they navigate the doldrums and escape the island, Milo speaks clearly to the dog.  “I hope I never jump to conclusions again.  It takes too long to get back.”

Fear has that effect.  And though people motivated by fear may find this hard to hear, I say that almost always, in spite of appearances, there’s nothing to fear but fear itself, and that if you are going to jump, jump in a direction that favors your self interest instead of defeats it!   Because if all you know is what you don’t want, you will get more of it, and that is something to be very afraid of!

I’d love to hear your comments about this post.

Be well,