The organizational climate has a direct impact on your people. In an atmosphere designed to reinforce productivity, tension and fear are at a minimum and people feel free to use their full potential for creativity and achievement. As a leader, you bear the primary responsibility for establishing the climate in your organization, department, or work group. Give people the freedom to be who they are and encourage them to become all their potential allows.
At the heart of a positive motivational climate is open, constructive communication. To maximize its effectiveness, remember that communication is always a two-way street. Listen to your people. Listen with your ears, your eyes, and your emotions. Not only do you discover the personal needs that motivate people, you benefit from hearing their valuable ideas. When you listen to people, they feel comfortable about sharing ideas and information.
Another important factor in establishing a motivational climate lies in your attitude toward mistakes and failures. When you constantly encourage your people to accept new responsibilities, to risk personal growth, and to increase their productivity, it is inevitable that they will make some mistakes, miss some goals, or make an occasional bad decision. If they never make mistakes, they are not trying anything new; they are merely going around and around in the same old rut. When mistakes occur or obstacles arise, choose to coach—not punish—the person involved. Use setbacks or missed goals as opportunities to teach better methods, improved thinking, and more effective procedures. Then allow time and opportunity for the team member to adjust and to restore the work to schedule. The benefits of this approach are unlimited:
• The needed correction is made
• The team member learns and grows
• You gain the respect and loyalty of the individual concerned
• The person you coach gains stature and increased competence
Establishing and maintaining a motivational climate in the workplace requires a great deal of sensitivity to individual differences and a great deal of creativity in structuring work assignments to maximize overall productivity. Because individual needs differ, how you lead people must differ. At the same time, the necessary procedures connected with the organization’s needs must be met, and the difference in the way you lead people must avoid any appearance of preferential treatment. Carefully consider these factors:
Structure and freedom. Some of your people are highly structured. They want to do things “by the book.” They want an explicit process to follow in every situation because this helps them feel safe. Give them training that makes it possible to do their jobs accurately and promptly, but do not burden them with the responsibility for making decisions in unusual situations. They will follow your instructions to the letter with a minimum of supervision. Others, however, like more freedom to devise their own work plan; they want to feel that their judgment is trusted and that they are free to exercise initiative.
Creativity and conformity. It is to your advantage to encourage team members to use as much of their creativity as possible as long as it is focused narrowly on productivity. Your responsibility is to direct creativity toward appropriate targets and demand conformity in the type of situations where no deviation can be tolerated. The ethical policies of the organization, for example, are so vital to its existence that conformity must be maintained. No “creative” deviations can be allowed. Safety regulations must be followed to the letter. But many other areas easily lend themselves to experiment.
Encourage your people to grow and to develop. When one person in the organization grows, the whole organization benefits. Express approval of their efforts and praise their successes. Structure the organizational climate to make growth as easy as possible and to make it popular. Set the example by following your own program of personal growth and development. Some of your people will catch your enthusiasm and begin to use even more of their potential for success and achievement.
This article was originally published in The Total Leader Journal, for Leadership Management® International, Inc. by Rutherford Communications.