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No One Can Give 110%.
By David and Lorrie Goldsmith
Thursday, 1st February 2007
 
We've all got pet peeves - Thinks that others do that tend to tick us off - It may be that your employees run out the door at 5 PM and yet their supposed to work until 5 and then leave.  It may be your co-manager leaves you to finish the financial reporting and yet you're both responsible for the data.

A pet peeve that ticks us off is the overuse of statements that if you think about them for more than a minute you'd say to yourself, "this is just wrong."  For example the overused motivational directive, "you've got to give 110% out there." 

Coaches use it all the time to emphasis to their players that they've got it more.  Managers use it to get everyone to put more effort into their work.  The problem is, the statement is just plane wrong.

Think about it. What happens if you run an engine at 110%? Yeah, it burns out. For that matter if you're going to tell others to give 110% then you must also give "it" 110%.  Do you?  I bet you've never been able to give 110%.

There are some days you get nothing done all day and you walk out of the office feeling that the day's been wasted.  On other day's you get that 10:52 AM phone call and even if nothing else was accomplished that day you'd feel as if the months been worth every bit of effort.

What it means is that you and everyone else have cycles of work.  That there are highs and lows and your job in management is to leverage the times where your company employees are putting in all the effort.  That the human, capital and technology is there when the time is right…and you don't know where and when that will occur.

Here are a few ways to accomplish these objectives without burning yourself out and grinding up everyone around you.  Here are a few starters:

Walk a mile in their shoes of your employees: If you have managers (or other decision-making employees) who aren't performing do their job for a few days before you open the proverbial motivational mouth.  Get down and dirty and do the job without using your "power and influence" to find out if it's the employees lack of effort or a host of other challenges.  First hand you'll see what's going wrong. 

In a production company a Sr. VP found out that his production manager was so focused on saving money that his staff fixed a $140,000 piece of equipment by bending a nail in the place of a pin a pallet jacks had bad seals in the hydraulics, and a computer kept on going down within the line.  All total repairs were $500.  By doing the job the VP was able to identify the trouble and then help the manager.  No amount of "give it 110%" would have worked.

Become a better coach/teacher.  Consider this.  Would you solve all your challenges today if you could?  No more fighting fires, no more problems.  Wouldn't that be great.  Then why don't you?  Yeah, why don't you fix all your troubles right now?  Probably because you don't know how.  It's not to say you're incompetent.  It's just that managers/leadership believes if you motivate people they will give you returns. 

Sorry, wrong idea.  Take the position that if you can't solve all your challenges then those that work for you have the same situation.  They you're your help to teach them how to do their job.  Take the time to not motivate but teach them the skills to achieve what you wan't accomplished.

Automate what's repetitive.  Look around your office and ask yourself is your staff suffering from outdated tools.  No, we're not promoting always being an early adopter of all technologies.  It's just that quite often no matter how hard someone works with the wrong technology they will never win the battle. 

Would you personally challenge a backhoe with a shovel?  Then why do you let your framers put in nails with a hammer verses a nail gun.  Why do youyou're your employees compare spreadsheets manually when you could spend a few thousand dollars and develop a software program to do it digitally. 

Review their plate of activities.  Maybe you've put more on their plates than they can reasonably handle in a day and then everything suffers.  The best way to accomplish this is to ask for a complete task list from your direct reports without telling them why.  Tell them it's a strategic project.  Bet you're going to find projects on their plate that have been terminated in your eyes. 

Bet you're going to find projects that they've taken on as their own that belong to others.  Bet you're going to pull your hair out asking yourself, "how did this get so out of hand?" That there is no way they could ever finish their project list and do their jobs well.  110% might mean adding 4 other employees just to finish all the work.

Venture outside: We've found that most industries are incestuous.  So many managers go from firm to firm and bring the same ideas that worked poorly at their previous firm to their new firm.  Get some outside help!  And we mean outside help.  People who cross pollinate great ideas from company to company. 

Go to the front line: Sometimes the quietest people speak the loudest when they share their insight with people who have the authority and know-how to make a difference.  Go the people on your front lines, visit with those who interact most closely with the public or your clients on a daily basis and find out what ideas are on top of their minds.  LISTEN. You may not need to motivate if they feel heard.

Take up a pencil: Sit quietly by yourself and rehearse how things currently operate.  You can draw mind maps or diagrams with arrows to indicate flow and direction.  Look for bottlenecks, difficult employees, ongoing technological problems and other possible culprits that hinder progress.  Be sure that the problems you think you have are the problems you really have before you take action. 

Then take action to clear the hurdles that slow down your staff. You can rally your staff to give 110%, they can actually buy into the unrealistic concept, and everyone can resolve to "give it their all."  But in the end, if you truly want outstanding work performance, you've got to drop the silly jargon and be practical about taking action.  Even trying one of the suggestions above will give you better returns than burning out at 110%. 

David and Lorrie Goldsmith are managing partners of MetaMatrix Consulting Group, LLC. Their firm offers consulting and speaking services internationally including clients from Fortune 200 to international associations. David also has named by Successful Meetings Magazine as one of the "26 Hottest Speakers in the Industry." A best selling author characterized David in this manner,"David Goldsmith is unique in that he can see a 30,000 feet view of business and then delivers the hand-to-hand tools for combat. Few people can do what he does." You can reach them at (315) 682-3157 or email to david@davidgoldsmith.com
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