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February 2021

MOTIVATION FOR TOP PERFORMING TEAMS - part 3

Team book image
We have talked about, in the preceding two blogs, the big mistake that most organisations make in people development, which is their top-down approach; an approach they often are completely unaware of. Like some unconscious bias, they fail to see that how they treat their employees – the process - is profoundly de-motivating and un-engaging. What we proposed was the use of Motivational Maps which can only effectively be used in a bottom-up way; they are constructed as a bottom-up tool! It is true – as with any tool – ignorant, careless or simply bad workers can misuse, misapply or blunt the power of even the best tool, but since it is designed the way it is, the chances of achieving an effective result are much enhanced.

Thus, we come to the final article in this sequence of three, and it seems appropriate here to take a look at just one activity from Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams to demonstrate what is possible. Before doing so, it might be useful to remind people that the book contains 69 activities and some 84 figure illustrations to help the reader clearly understand how to go about creating a ‘top performing team’. This is a lot of practical material; and remember, a central reason why we want a top performing team is to address – which we considered in blog 1 – the issue of lack of productivity. Creating top performing teams is probably the number 1 way to address this issue.

A really great tool – and an intrinsic component of our Motivational Organisational Map - to use with any team to get a baseline as to where we are, and a strong sense of what some of the issues might be is the Measuring Team PMV Scores which occur in chapter 5 of the book. This is going to take some unpacking, but we think the effort is worth it, since like the Map itself it provides so much rich information.

What, then, is the PMV Score and why is this so important for top performing teams, and as a tool for management to develop top performing teams? The first thing to mention almost by way of passing is that the Motivational Map is a self-perception inventory tool; in other words, that in completing a map one is comparing oneself with oneself; that is to say, not with another individual or against a standard. So, self-assessment or self-rating is something that Maps like. In a different way, the PMV score is another kind of self-rating.

We think, for all its obvious subjectivity, that self-rating tends to be accurate except mainly when two unfortunate situations appertain. So, self-rating can be inaccurate and misleading when either the self-rater is in a state of fear; for example, they are afraid of what their manager might think of the result; or, the reverse, they suffer from a sort of false modesty, and a false belief that no one can be a 10/10 because ‘there is always room for improvement’ syndrome. In the former case, the self-rater will tend to over-score themselves: in the Maps we see this when we find, for example, PMA scores of 10 for all 9 motivators – what chance is it that anybody could really be 10/10 for all 9 motivators, including their lowest? Here is someone wishing to appear ‘motivated’ to their manager and not taking any chances as to what their scoring might be. Of course, the false result betrays itself and provides an opportunity for a deeper look at the intrinsic issue within the team.

The latter situation tends to lead to underscoring: the individual does not give themselves enough credit for that they have done, or even how they feel. This is more difficult to detect immediately as an erroneous result, but from a management perspective in building a team, it is more desirable than the first situation: because it is much easier to build someone up when it is apparent that they are performing at a higher level than they think, than it is to uncover and deal with the deception. In Map terms we tend to find that those operating with an ‘always room for improvement’ mentality are more frequently encountered at the operational level, whereas the afraid of what the manager thinks is more at the middle management level – those aspiring to get to senior levels, and for whom their bosses’ good opinion is vital.

However, these two exceptions are not the norm - though we need to be aware of them, so that we not accept any results uncritically – when we look at the PMV process. Remember: perfection is the enemy of progress – we are not looking for perfect results, but useful ones on which we can take practical action steps. As they say in NLP, the map is not the territory, which means that all models are imprecise in some way; what we have with the PMV scores is a model that is highly useful.

The starting point for considering PMV scores is to take all or some of the teams within an organisation and compare them, based along 4 key elements of their existence. The whole team is invited to score the team to establish the initial results. Figure 1 shows 6 teams, starting with the Board of the organisation, considered as a team itself, down to the Operations team. We can fine-tune this analysis by either removing or adding teams as we or management see fit.

PMV* scoring is for each team in each category out of 10, where 10 is outstanding and 1 is very poor.

Figure 1 Chapter 5 figure aThe first score in the Motivation column is the score from the Team Motivational Map. This will be a percentage score which for the purposes of comparison with the other PMV scores we can turn into a score out of 10, either rounding up or down according to the normal arithmetical rules: so 76% would become 7.6 or 8 out of 10, whereas 75% would be 7.5 or 7.

Before, then, looking at best methods to generate meaningful data here, let’s consider the heading of the columns, and what they mean and might reveal to us.

Most obviously – and as the foundation as it were – we want to know is the team motivated, and at what level? We then have the PMV criteria. These are: How Productive (P) is this Team? How easy to Manage (M) is this Team? And how much does this Team contribute to Organisational values (V)?

First, productivity. In the normal course of events, productivity and motivation should go hand in hand. That is, highly motivated staff should be highly productive. Alternatively, if your staff are poorly motivated and productivity is not high, then that should come as no surprise either. We talk of Reward Strategies (see chapter 2 of the book for more on this) to motivate employees and teams in order to increase productivity. But what if motivation is high but productivity is low, or productivity is high and motivation is low? These would be counterintuitive results but not entirely unusual. It is possible for staff to be productive but not motivated – at least, for a while. In these situations, one needs to investigate the causes carefully. Some possible reasons for high motivation and low productivity are: lack of skills or knowledge, implementation problems not anticipated, absence of appropriate leadership, flawed strategies, system failures, poor communications and inadequate planning. Some possible reasons for low motivation and high productivity are: insufficient involvement of those affected, fear, economic or cultural climate, focus on things and not people, over-competitiveness. Whilst the latter problem seems less problematic than the former, high productivity in the long run is not sustainable with a demotivated workforce; for one thing, staff leave as soon as that option becomes tenable. The question, then, is how productive are your team? We know how motivated they are.

Second, manageability. This is a word we like to use to describe the process of running, or managing or leading, a team; the key word here is ‘process’. How easy a team is to manage is also an important issue to consider when dealing with them and considering their value to the organisation. Ever had a customer who spends money with you, but is hellishly difficult to service?

Staff, and teams, can be just like that difficult customer, and sometimes we have to ask whether the value of the team outweighs the problems they may cause. To take two examples at different ends of the motivational spectrum: The Spirit team may be persistently difficult to manage at all; whereas the Friend may be too dependent on direction and coaxing. The key thing is the fit of the team leader and their style of leadership with the team profile. Thus a team’s motivation needs to be considered alongside their manageability: if they are highly motivated but not easily manageable, then why is that? Do the motivators themselves tell us anything? Conversely, if motivation is low but they are easily manageable what is that saying? Probably, that they are marking time and not optimising performance (so time to compare the productivity too). And again, if they are poorly motivated and not easily manageable, that makes sense – but what to do about it? What, then, does contrasting manageability against productivity reveal?

Finally, the contribution to organisational values of a team, whilst a core contribution, is not so obvious a factor as productivity or manageability. For a start, it requires all employees in their respective teams to be aware of what the organisational values are, as well as living and working by them; also, for senior executives to make this of first-order important, and to reward it accordingly.

Typically values need to be turned into behaviours; so to give a familiar example of an organisational value that is core: Honesty, which means being open and honest in all our dealings and maintaining the highest integrity at all times. As a behaviour this may become: all concerns are aired constructively with solutions offered, and each person is as skilled in some way as another and is entitled to express their views without interruption. These two behaviours are ‘honesty’ manifested in behaviours towards employees; but equally, we may – indeed, should – have formulations of honest behaviours towards customers, suppliers, stakeholders and society generally. For how can it be said to be a true value if it is only selectively applied?

The book contains much more information on PMV than presented here, but you get the drift. And what does it lead to? Well, take Figure 2: here is a real life example extracted from – almost unbelievably given the simplicity of the data – a real FTSE 250 company!

Figure 2

Chapter 5 figure c

These simple numbers in Figure 2 are extremely revealing – at least The Senior Management thought so. What you think? What do these numbers tell you about what is happening within the company? But this blog is already far too long, so if you want to check your answer, read chapter 5 of the book! Or get in touch with one of our Motivational Map Practitioners...


MOTIVATION FOR TOP PERFORMING TEAMS - part 2

Team copy cropped image
We looked last time at the inherent problem of lack of productivity and suggested that top performing teams were the antidote to this, in that they were almost by definition highly productive. But alongside this problem of creating top performing teams, we identified two others: first, that leading experts and consultancies in the field tended to advocate every buzz word in the lexicon, except motivation as part of the solution. And this was connected to an even deeper problem: the tendency to be static, to preserve the status quo, whilst simultaneously appearing to advocate change. Part of this was to do with the fact that one central change that has to happen is the move from a top-down approach to a bottom-up one, which motivation, correctly approached, does. But, of course, giving up that power – that top-down telling (and telling off!) is hard to renounce.

Anais Nin more generally commented on life that it is ‘… a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.’ Top-down management invariably does this: it seeks change whilst simultaneously seeking to preserve things as they are. The poet WH Auden expressed it this way:

We would rather be ruined than changed.

We would rather die in our dread

Than climb the cross of the present

And let our illusions die.

And that – climbing the cross of the present – is what is required. If that sounds too abstract, then let’s boil it down to the simplest type of proposition, and let’s grasp the full import of William Kendall’s smart observation: ‘Building a vibrant company is about forming a good team... You cannot do it on your own ... It is a question of persuading people who are better than you to form a successful team’. People better than you? Ah, there’s the rub. Who can accept that easily in a culture where – as say in programmes like The Apprentice on television – we have to prove we are the best. So this is a psychological or ego issue, and one very similar to the whole thrust of what we have been saying all along: namely, that bottom-up is necessary and better than top-down in terms of long-term results and productivity. But again, psychologically, managers and leaders seem unable to let go of the need to ‘control’ their people.

But let’s add another layer to this analysis. For when it comes to teams, as well as individuals, we need to consider rewards. This is an easy to understand concept because it is soft-wired (if not hard-wired) into us from childhood onwards. If we perform, then we get prizes: be a good boy or be a good girl, and we get the ice cream or material reward; but even more important is the immaterial rewards we accumulate – acceptance, praise, admiration, support and more besides, including even love. We want – are motivated towards – these rewards. Organisations recognize this and many now have moved well beyond the simple and simplistic idea that paying people money is enough. However, this movement is itself not sufficient, since it tends to be about the WHAT and not the HOW, which is possibly even more important.

So, rewards are, on the one hand, a content – somebody receives ‘something’, which is a WHAT (for example, a pay bonus, a trip to the Caribbean, time off, and so on) - but also, critically, it is a process: the employee is handled in a specific way, and HOW this is done is crucial. Naturally, and as one would expect, most organisations spend most of their time focusing on arguably the less important of these two elements of rewards: the content. Content – the WHAT – is easy: make a list and dish out the goodies! Who wants to spend a lot of time thinking about it? But of course it is HOW we reward people that is more fundamental, and this does take some thinking about. And isn’t that obvious? The best gift in the world to one’s life partner left unwrapped and casually lying around will usually have less impact than a much more moderate gift – but carefully thought through and based on an understanding of the desires of the recipient – carefully and beautifully packaged, and presented at exactly the right psychological moment.

Moreover, a moment’s thought about what motivates us in our dealings with other people reveals that we prefer rewards that are:

Mapping motivation for top performing teams blog 2

Any team leader, then, needs to ask themselves whether they are genuine, sincere, well-intentioned, thoughtful, structured and temporal in their approach to rewarding and dealing with their team members. And it would appear that these qualities need to be established at the recruitment or interviewing stage of any appointment. Of course, there is no use asking anyone at interview: ‘Are you sincere’ or ‘Are you genuine’ because the answer will be ‘Yes’! But the fact is, past behavior is a good, though not infallible, indicator of whether these things are so.

From these deliberations, then, it should be clear as to why I had to write Mapping Motivation for Top Performing Teams for Routledge for this is literally the antidote to all such thinking and pretence. In particular chapter 6, Interdependency and Motivation, has an awful lot to say about successful recruiting, and provides a useful motivational toolkit to help that process happen.

In my next blog I shall explore this further, but for the full exploration of this topic go to my book, also available on Amazon.