_____ Power drive
_____ motivation

 "A good manager is someone who never puts off until tomorrow what he can get someone else to do today."
- A personal executive assistant who prefers to remain anonymous

e've all experienced a manager like Desmond. Totally indifferent to the needs and aspirations of those who work for him, Desmond considers them people fit only for use and abuse. He rues the day when slavery was abolished, except in the restricted form of marriage. Burdened by a superior attitude couple to poor interpersonal skills, he doesn't have the ability to develop a positive relationship with any one - not even the likes of Gandhi.


Fear in the workplace:
Stripping your gearbox when you should idle your motor.

Patience in the workplace: The ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping the gearbox.

Although Desmond isn't deaf, he can't hear because he doesn't listen. You can charitably describe his feedback skills as "poor". These a whole list of other things that he can't do: delegate, develop employees and conduct performance appraisals, to name a few.

Of course, Desmond has a short fuse and little patience. He also has a penchant for criticising employees personally rather than criticise their work. He seems to delight in creating a work environment full of fear and paranoia.

Briefly, Desmond is a manager from hell.

Low employee morale

The corporations of the world are filled with guys like him. Which is why a lot of companies suffer from low employee morale and lousy levels of productivity. This, in turn, leads to poor quality products and services, not to mention higher costs.

Don't be dumb

I don't know who Lois Wyse is, but she seems to have made a big impact on American business people with this quote, which neatly sums up what I want to say: "It's dumb to be proud of production records rather than products. It's dumb to be proud of a plant rather than the working conditions of your employees. It's dumb to flaunt your wealth and then try to tell your employees that times are tough. It's dumb to ask employees to make sacrifices you are not willing to make in kind."

So how do you put Wyse's sentiments into practice? Implement my four guidelines to power drive employee motivation.

  1. Become a performance coach.
  2. Connect training to the job.
  3. Develop potential.
  4. Build self-esteem.


Become a performance coach

If you're successful as a manager, you motivate and inspire your employees. And they don't do it by casting them in their own image.

Says well-known American football coach Bear Bryant: "Over the years I've learnt a lot about coaching staffs and one piece of advice I would pass on to young coaches - or a corporation executive or even a bank president - is this: Don't make them in your image. Don't even try.

Strive for balance

My assistants don't look alike, think alike, or have the same personalities. And I sure don't want them all thinking the way I do. You don't strive for sameness. You strive for balance."

How to you, as a manager, achieve this balance?

By refusing to beat employees "into shape". By elevating yourself from a manager to a performance coach who assumes responsibility for:

  • providing employee training that applies directly to the job;
  • helping employees enhance their careers;
  • confronting employees in positive ways to improve on-the-job performance, and
  • mentoring employees to help them become the best they can be.


If you successfully combine these four elements, you'll motivate your employees who will become more productive and ready to accept challenges and take initiatives.

But it won't be easy.

As one cynic - said: "A coach is a guy who is always willing to lay down your life for his job."

So, to convince the sceptics, you have make an effort and take the time to build up your credibility as a performance coach. You have to go out of your way to slowly build a close and open relationships with each member of your team. And while you're building these relationships, you have to learn the techniques needed to become an effective trainer, career advisor, confronter and mentor.

"This performance coaching business is a great idea," you say. "But I just don't have the time."

A couple of questions

Before you write the concept off that easily, ask yourself a couple of questions.

  • Do you want to be a manager from hell who has to plead and nag to get the least from squads of bitter, resentful and unhappy workers?
  • Do you want to be a manager of the future who lays the groundwork for the success of your employees - and your business?

If you answer "yes" to the second question, you don't have any choice. You have to nurture and develop your company's workforce. It's not enough to throw training at you employees and hope for the best. Yet, in many ways, this is what human resources departments do.

Training in a vacuum

In too many cases they don't tie employee training and development to the organisation's business objectives. The carry out training in a vacuum to isolate it from actual problems that face the organisation. As a result, employees don't receive the training that they need to perform adequately.

Often the act of training is considered more important that the results achieved. So human resources departments pump complex and costly out training courses and are satisfied as long as employees attend. Whether employees retain anything from the training sessions, or whether the can apply what they learn to the job, is immaterial. It's the activity not the results that count.

Employee Training Programmes:

Whatever training an employee receives will only apply to a process long since discontinued

However, many companies have found to their cost, that unless training is results-orientated, it's an expensive exercise in futility.

'Knowledge management'

Business gurus have another training concept. They call it "knowledge management". Ostensibly results-related, it has given birth to a whole new industry. It employs team of high priced consultants who attempt to account for the value of intellectual corporate assets like patents, databases and qualifications of employees in neat little columns so characteristic of auditors' balance sheets. It also involves the design of intricate management strategies that allegedly improve the creative productivity of workers.

Wasted time and effort

Professor Hirotaka Takeuchi, of Tokyo's Hitotsubashi University, recons that the concept merely leads to wasted time and effort.

Takeuchi, who co-created the best-selling book The Knowledge Creating Company with Ikujiro Nonaka, says that the ability to generate new ideas is more important that the management of the knowledge it already has. He outlines a three-point plan to ensure that the wealth of expertise your company already possesses permeates throughout your organisation:

  1. Assign new employees to project teams for between six and 12 months. Then encourage them to come up with new product ideas or production processes. Takeuchi points out that because members of the team become committed to each other over time, they share ideas freely.
  2. Encourage your staff to spend more time talking to each other. Takeuchi notes that in Japan employees rely on interpersonal communication rather than electronic communication (e-mail and faxes). In addition, corporate "rituals" promote social interaction such as after-hours drinking sessions, which bring employees closer together. This bonding process in turn promotes trust, leading to idea sharing.

    He admits that while this process can be time-consuming and inefficient, it's an approach that can be applied by any company, even those without access to high-tech communications systems.

    Business in the United States, he observes, relies for success on a culture of superstars, who periodically amaze the world with startling ideas. But not every company has the fortune to employ a Bill Gates. Those that don't must rely on input from "ordinary people".
  3. When a team successfully completes a project, gather the members' ideas and experiences into a corporate "knowledge bank".

Takeuchi warns that it's important to recognise the difference between "explicit knowledge" and "tacit knowledge". He defines explicit knowledge as the type of knowledge contained in manuals or imparted during training programmes. Tacit knowledge, he says, is the knowledge gained trough experience.

Tacit knowledge is difficult to articulate or put into numbers. You can't put it into a computer. It is the kind of knowledge a master craftsman has at his fingertips and you can only learn and absorb it by working alongside him. He warns against the Western business world's insistence of making everything explicit by setting rigid performance targets and financial returns.

Takeuchi points out that the current epidemic of downsizing, leading to the dismissal of older, experienced workers, means the loss of a vast fund of tacit knowledge -- the sources of innovation and future growth.

Resource development strategy

One South African company that has matched training to on-the-job objectives is SA Eagle Insurance. According to Barry Reynolds, assistant general manager resource development, initial research lead to the design of a comprehensive resource development strategy to meet Eagle's specific needs. In the insurance company's case, the objective was to improve people skills and levels of service so that they would have a positive impact on business results.

Communications skills are obviously vital in selling a non-tangible product like insurance. So this was what Eagle concentrated on. To get the programme rolling in the right direction, the company called in a well-established consultancy, Interman, which offered Eagle its Business Communications Skills (BCS) programme. This included a comprehensive five-week train-the-trainer component and an ongoing quality assurance involvement to ensure the maintenance of high standards.

In 1995, Eagle conducted a study at four branches, where all existing staff were evaluated and invited to join the BCS programme to improve their business communication and language skills. Management made participation in the programme obligatory for all new staff.

After its successful introduction at the four branches, programme coverage is being progressively extended to include other branches.

Reynolds reports that Eagle employees now realise that communications skills are vital to both their career advancement and personal development. He stresses that crucial to the success of the programme is the meticulous documentation of the company's objectives in running the programme and the ongoing communication of these objects to employees.

Set clear objectives

So what does all this boil down to? Simply this: if you want employee training to have a positive impact were it counts - customer service, productivity, bottom line - don't blindly rush in and introduce training programmes for the sake of introducing training programmes. Set clear objectives that you can directly relate to company needs; constantly communicate those objectives to employees and, if necessary, find experts with proven track records to custom-design and help implement the programmes.

Before you even do that, think about just how far you want employee empowerment to go in terms of customer service. How far can an employee go to satisfy a customer before you fire him or her?

Sit down and write out a list of actions that could lead to dismissal.

But be specific.

Phrases like "within reason" or "limited time period" mean nothing. If you employed me, I'd want to know exactly where I stand. I'd want to know exactly how far I could go for a customer. I don't want to be told: "You can travel a reasonable distance to deliver something important to a client" I want to know that I can travel 300 kilometers by car, I want to know that I can book an air ticket to any destination in the country if I deem it necessary without getting my supervisor's permission, I want to know that I can take a client for lunch five time a year ...

Write me a list of "allowed to's" within three days of reading this. Then we'll discuss it before you give me the final draft.

Connect training to the job

If you're a manager in South Africa, you're a very busy person.. In this country, the ratio of managers to employees is a lot lower than it is in most other countries. As a consequence, those that keep our wheels of commerce and industry turning don't usually know whether they're coming or going. Mention the introduction of a new training programme, which you want them to oversee, and they get a glazed look in their eyes, gaze skywards and murmur: "Okay, Scotty, you can beam me up now."

When confronted with orders from boardrooms to implement staff training and coaching programmes, most managers  obey  the so-called First Law of Procrastination: There's no time like the present to postpone what you don't want to do.

 I know many managers who see employee coaching and training as another task that they must add to their already overflowing agendas. They view employee development as an activity irrelevant to the jobs they must accomplish. It's an investment of their precious time with no return. As the production manager in an Alrode, Germiston, plant defined it: "Employee development is all outgo with no income."

A new philosophy

Pperformance coaching is different.. It represents a new philosophy in developing people.

What's so different about it?

It's based on your hands-on experience and on-the-job knowledge. It doesn't rely on dry textbooks or the theoretical training so beloved by human resources professionals. Unlike these professionals, you're focused on your company's business objectives. Therefore you make the ideal performance coach because you'll ensure that employees receive on-target training relevant to those objectives.

Another important point in favour of you being appointed performance coach: you're accountable for the performance of the employees you train. In other words, it's your head on the chopping block if the people you train screw up. Thus, for you, it's results that count, not the training activity. So you ensure that you don't become involved in training for training sake.

What does this mean in practical terms?

You keep hands-on, on-the-job training in the workplace as much as possible. This ensures that all new learning can and will be applied to the job. It also means breaking up training into small learning units that last only a few hours. This prevents you drowning your employees under a tidal wave of information that they forget as soon as they step out of the learning area

Make employee training relevant to your business objectives.

This means more than confining employees to a water-tight boxes in which they work in a vacuum, totally isolated from their team mantes. An all-round knowledge of the entire operation leads to better performance by specialists.

Create a training roster

Break through function barriers by creating a training roster so that members of your team work out each function necessary to produce he required result. For example, If I'm a sales rep, get your receptionist to train me for an hour on the finer points of switchboard operation. And let your receptionist accompany me and your other sales reps on a t least one call a week.

And don't stop there.

Get the folks in credit control to teach me their functions in the overall scheme of things. Insist that I attend a 30-minute "class" each week until I know how to do what they do.

Carrying this a stage further, get each department in your business to draw up a schedule detailing exactly the steps involved in their functions and how to do them. Also itemise who will teach what and when. Then ensure that all the members of the other departments go through the programme, from beginning to end.

Develop personal relationships

Don't use outside experts or the people in your in-house training department to teach us. Rather use the people in different departments themselves to give us hands-on training. This will develop their sense of self-worth, increase their own knowledge -- the best way to learning is by teaching -- and develop personal relationships that span artificial barriers between the company's departments.

In fact, structure all in-house training programmes to...

Develop potential

Inspiration' often means 'a breath'.
This may account for so many inspirational books being full of hot air.

Performance coaching doesn't stop with training. It also involves developing the full potential of employees by helping them identify and grow the personality and performance strengths that will make them better employees.

Take heed of this advice given by an early German philosopher and novelist, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: "Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of being."

Only you can build the relationships with your employees that motivate and inspire them to better themselves.

Inspiring employees to reach for greater heights needn't always involve money. However, the promise of filthy lucre can be an important aid to motivation.

The great composer Rachmaninoff disliked the title of 'genius' when it was applied to him. He always considered himself to be perfectly normal - an ordinary member of the human race. Therefore, he became particularly irritated when, after a concert, a stage-struck member of the audience asked him: "Whatever inspired you to compose such a wonderfully marvellous piece as your C-Sharp Minor Prelude?"

The composer bowed deeply and, with a perfectly straight face, replied: "Because, madam, I needed the dough."

Award employees shares

In South Africa, the City Lodge hotel group motivates employees by awarding them shares in the company. Executive chairman Hans Enderle says the creation of an employee share trust, launched to celebrate the groups 10th anniversary in 1996, made the move possible. Each employee received 30 shares as part of a plan to put one million shares -- about 4% of the ordinary shares issued -- in staff hands.

Another South African company that believes in motivating staff by giving them a tangible interest in the business is a civil engineering group, Afriscan. Established in 1988, it specialises in earth and road works and the provision of township services for government and quasi-government organisations as well as hiring out civil engineering equipment. In 1996, turnover hit R55-million, reports managing director Rick Jackson. He predicts that this will top R100-million soon after the turn of the century.

"Without doubt," he observes, "the success of Afriscan can be attributed to the high level of employee motivation..."

And to what does he attribute this motivation?

An employee benefit trust structured to give the staff a 15% stake in the fortunes of the company.

As I said earlier, money isn't the only motivational device. If I join your company and you entrust me with responsibility, I'm certain to strive harder. So why not give me a workflow chart when I become a member of your team. Then ask me to redesign it within three months, after I've had a chance to find my way around. Because I see everything with a fresh eye, I may be able to find a better, quicker, cheaper way of doing things without sacrificing quality.

There's something else you can do to develop my potential.

After I've been with you for three months, ask me to list 10 things I need the company to do if I'm to achieve the results you expect from me more efficiently. And if you, my boss, need to be criticised, allow me to point the finger at you. In fact, while we're about it, get me to write down five constructive ideas of how you  can achieve better results too.

 If your programme of employee training leads to the acquisition of new on-the-job skills and measurable improvements in performance ... if your methods of coaching employees creates workers who are confident and ambitious, then you've done it right. And, what's more, you and your company have more than recouped your investment of time, energy and money.

Build self-esteem

Building self-esteem: that's the main purpose of the performance coaching process. And it does it for you as well as your employees. As your relationships with members of your workforce develop, all sides gain the confidence and security to listen to their colleagues and accept the challenges.

Henry Ford had a lot to say about security. This is one of his more memorable quotes and it fits our context perfectly: "If money is your hope for independence, you'll never have it. The only real security that a man can have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability."

When correctly channelled by a performance coach, knowledge, experience and ability develop self-esteem. But experience and psychological research shows that it's difficult, if not impossible, to build self-esteem from within. It's development is best encouraged from outside.

One of your most important tasks as a manager and performance coach is to get your employees to realise that they have the power inside to achieve great things and get the results that they want.

There's an old proverb - it dates back to the early steam age - which is as true today as it was on the day it was first coined.

"Lukewarm water won't take a locomotive anywhere, nor will lukewarm purpose lift a person to any noticeable height of achievement."

Put another way, it mean that you, as a performance coach, must be enthusiastic to generate an enthusiastic response from your employees. But no matter how enthusiastic you and your employees become about achieving the workplace objectives you have set, don't equate self-esteem with empowerment. It isn't. Indeed, self-esteem and empowerment are opposites. And opposites don't always attract.
Empowerment :
Delegating all the responsibility, shifting all the blame and appropriating all the credit.

  Empowerment could fail to motivate

Empowerment assumes that you, as a manager, have total control in all business situations, which you can choose to share with your employees. In an empowerment scenario, employees are at the mercy of your willingness to hand over power. As a result, empowerment initially fails to motivate your employees to the same extent as a relationship based on self-esteem.

A one-way process

Look at the concept this way: empowerment is a one-way process - a gift from you to your employees. Creating self-esteem is a two-way process in which both you and your workers give and receive. The success of the process depends on your efforts and the efforts of those who work for you.

You give the process a hearty shove towards success by following this four-step plan:

  1. Nominate someone in each department -- preferably not the most senior member -- to organise a function at your premises once a month. Authorise the organiser to invite a speaker to deliver a presentation on his or her field of expertise.

    Don't prescribe.

    Let the organiser invite anyone, from a financier to a windsurfer. And don't forget to invite your customers to these monthly get- togethers.

    Before you give your nominee the go-ahead, set up a few ground rules:

    (i) Don't allow these get togethers to degenerate in an excuse for all night piss-ups.

    (ii) Limit the maximum length of presentations at 30 minutes to prevent an uncontrollable outbreak of yawn fever.

    (iii) Prohibit the serving of alcohol before the presentation.

    (iv) Also use these functions to reward staff members who record outstanding performances. These could take the form of trophies. And be sure to display framed photographs of the award winners.
  2. Eliminate the provision of corporate parking bays based on bureaucratic status.

    The only reserved bay -- the one right outside the front door -- should be allocated to the staff member of the month.
  3. Erect visible, colourful team performance charts. Do it now. Today. Ensure that the charts display the sales figures for the month, the number of letters received that expressed customer delight, the number of customers who visited your premises  - the more the better.

    Erect at least five performance charts within 30 days from now. And add at least one new one every month for the next 12 months.
  4. Create and publish a newsletter with a difference. Each department plus the managing director and general manager to be responsible for submitting two paragraphs a month. No excuses! Submissions should take the form of a "Good News" paragraph and a "Bad News" paragraph. After you collate the material, circulate it to staff and customers. And whatever you do, don't sanitise the material.


To sum up, as a performance coach, give your employees opportunities to enhance their self-esteem and improve their performance. Then it's up to them to run with the opportunities you have created for them.

Previous   Next

  Authors Note
1. Keep your customer base healthy
2. Introduce fresh makeover ideas for better business
3. Power drive motivation
4. Control your business workout regime
5. Meet the challenge of corporate change
6. Keep your focus
7. Update your circuit
8. Come out fighting
9. Cultivate sparring partners
10. Avoid Regressing
  Return to FunZone!