People need support.

On the playing field, the players have each other pushing them in their efforts, being congratulated when they make a good play and cheering for them, often along with thousands in the stands, cheerleaders, students in their classes during the week, etc. Players also have coaches, videotape analysis of their efforts and practice.

(Maybe Alan Iverson did not have to practice every single day, because he was one of the very best basketball players of all time — and I still think that this is one of the greatest candid interviews in all of sports:  Alan Iverson Press Conference on “Practice.(It gets going around second 52, IMHO).)

And players on teams get LOTS of other kinds of support from those around them, along with continuous feedback and ratings, and often skilled coaching — all things designed and installed to support high performance.

Now, I am not one of those people that think sports metaphors are good for business — I actually think the opposite. I do not liken the sales force to a team of baseball players or use soccer/football as a metaphor for innovation or gymnastics for dedication (and practice?). Yeah, I will admit to liking rowing as a metaphor for teamwork, though, and even have a $20 series of cute cartoons for that.

But the workplace reality seems quite different. We have measurement and appraisal systems that focus more on the individual performance and not so much the overall results in many workplaces. There is some level of fear as to job security for many. And there are often a wide variety of factors that are de-motivating and dis-engaging. This occurs for workers as well as their managers, who often find themselves working in a somewhat non-supporting environment.

The reality, however, is that one can get the support of co-workers — real honest encouragement to succeed. And one can build a sense of team among the people, if they are focused on external competitive factors and share a common goal and have the tools that they need to improve (plus a lot of other things not discussed herein).

Individual performance improvement requires effective feedback and measurement systems, something often lacking or sometimes overdone in organizations (see this blog post for my thinking on performance feedback, along with an analysis tool you can use with your team to discover and implement ways to improve).

Individual and team performance improvement requires that one make the workplace more motivating. Our games, such as The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine, focus on issues of collaboration versus competition, since we need some of both to generate and sustain high performance. Play of the game allows the group to discuss the issues and problems currently faced along with future-paced discussions about what things could look like if changes were implemented.

And so will discussions of Roadblocks and the sharing of individual / group ideas about what is un-motivating or de-motivating in the workplace. Discussions of those kinds of issues can be readily facilitated and tools are available such as our toolkit on Dis-Un-Engagement. By generating thoughts about what is in the way and doing a good analysis of solutions for each, one can engage the group on solving the problems and implementing good solutions — as a team in many cases.

These kinds of workplace discussions facilitate real involvement focused on the importance of continuous continuous improvement. One can never stop making changes — some incremental and some major but all significant to the people involved — and thus remove the things that are de-motivating and dis-engaging.

People are much better problem solvers than problem identifiers — they need help on the latter and also need to feel that their real opinions and ideas can be shared with the others. Some have off-base and unimportant ideas that the group will help them realize. Many are not using best practices and the little tweeks that allow top performers to perform — and those can be shared on a continual basis. We can build peer support for high performance.

  • If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.
  • If it is to be, it is up to me.
  • If not you, who? If not now, when?

I trust that some of these thoughts are useful to you. And remember that it is the workers around you who get things done.

Remember that the Manager is the Motivator,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Simmerman, Ph. D., CPF – “The Square Wheels Guy”
Performance Management Company – 864-292-8700
3 Old Oak Drive    Taylors, SC 29687

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Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
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Dr. Simmerman is a Certified Professional Facilitator (IAF)