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Category Archives: Motivation Tools

To motivate employees, cut out the red tape

Last month, I started a brand-new video series offering specific ideas on how leaders can motivate employees.  The first tip in this series was to be flexible.  You all told me that this was a subject that you would find immensely helpful.  So here is today’s strategy to motivate employees: cut out the red tape.

Eliminate red tape

Red tape is excessive bureaucracy or over-the-top adherence to rules and formalities.  Research shows, over and over again, that one of the biggest de-motivators for employees is perceived bureaucracy.  So anything that you can do to reduce or remove red tape will be a huge motivator to most of your staff.  Now I know that some of you watching this video come from organizations that are so large that they have policy manuals that probably cover just about every situation you could possibly think of.  And so … you might think there is no way you can reduce red tape.  Don’t underestimate what you can do!

Buffer your people from bureaucracy

True, you might not be able to get rid of the bureaucracy, but you CAN buffer your employees from it.  Continue reading

Performance measurement – are you tracking the right metrics?

I have long been an advocate for performance measurement … as a way to motivate people (including myself) to get things done.  In fact, one of my leadership mantras is “What gets measured and publicized gets acted on!”  But if you’re going to make performance measurement work in a way that will create positive intended outcomes, then you have to make sure that you’re using the right benchmark.

It is better to have no timepiece than one that is wrong

performance measurementAn old mentor used to say to me: The worst kind of timepiece is the one that is wrong.  Think about it … if you don’t have a watch, then you are well aware that you don’t know the time.  So you know that you don’t know – conscious incompetence – and that is valuable information.  And then, if you really want to know what time it is, you’re going to find someone who has a watch, and ask.

But if you have a clock that is erratically fast or aimlessly slow (and you don’t realize that the problem exists), your natural inclination will be to accept the time you see at face value and assume that it is correct.  Which will, sooner or later, lead you into trouble. Continue reading

How to motivate employees – the first tip in our new video series

At the end of last year, I promised that this year I would give you a series of frequent video blogs focusing specifically on zero and low cost ways to motivate, encourage and excite your people.  So that you can create positive and productive workplaces that inspire higher performance and greater commitment.  Today, I’m excited to be kicking off this brand-new series with one specific idea on how to motivate employees, and expect many more in the future in the weeks and months to come.

But before I give you today’s tip, I want to remind you about one fundamental concept in employee motivation which is …. different people are motivated by different things.  So don’t think of each strategy I share with you as the one that will be effective with all your employees.  Instead think of each one as one more tool that you can add to your motivation toolkit.

With that in mind, here is today’s motivation strategy: Be flexible.

Be flexible

When I say be flexible, I mean be flexible in the application of rules.  Your company no doubt has a rule book, or a policy manual; in some organizations it’s a VERY BIG policy manual.  And, all those rules are there for a reason.  But … as a supervisor or manager, one of the most powerful motivation tools you have available to you is that of flexibility in judgement.

Red rules vs blue rules

Some rules relate to health and safety and those are what I call red rules.  Red rules should never be broken.  Continue reading

It’s time to get rid of the performance review!

Time to get rid of the performance reviewIs the performance review obsolete? Is it time to ditch this archaic exercise, which takes up valuable staff hours with no apparent gain? The answer is a resounding “yes” – and I make the case for getting rid of the performance review in my latest column for The Globe & Mail, which published today.  Here is a link to: It’s time to get rid of performance reviews

It no longer serves the intended purpose

Unfortunately, in many organizations today, reviews aren’t really designed to help employees grow; they’re designed to manage promotions and raises. The conversation tends to be more about “here is why you aren’t getting a raise” and less about “here’s how you can add value to the company and your career.” In other words, they’ve become the opposite of what they were intended to be.  If you add the antiquated practice of forced ranking, the result is more people who are disillusioned, disconnected and demoralized than before you started.

So … you know my opinion on this subject, but I’d love to know what you think.  The employee performance review – necessary evil or meaningless management practice?  The Globe has temporarily turned off commenting on articles while they resolve some technology issues, so you can’t comment directly on their site.  But I’d love to hear your thoughts right here on the blog.  Please share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you.

Sometimes, The Globe puts my columns behind their paywall. If that happens and you are unable to access the article directly through the link above, we have archived a pdf version at this link:

One year of video tips on employee motivation … coming up in 2018

I am thrilled to announce that we have big plans for 2018 – a whole year of video tips specifically focusing on employee motivation!!

This past year, upon urging from many of you, I made the decision to post more video blogs.  You all told me that you appreciated hearing quick, specific, and actionable tips that you could implement immediately.  So back in February, as an experiment, I started with a short video series on making the switch from a non-supervisory to a management role – seven individual discrete tips to help you seamlessly move into the new role of a supervisor.  The response was so positive that I was persuaded to try again.  So in April, I started another eight tip video series – this time on leading virtual teams.  In it, I offered up, again, specific practical ideas, on how to make long-distance leadership work.  When that turned out to be a success, I went all in, launching a 15-part video series in June on leading organizational change.  Well, you’ve continued to tell me that you like these – that they’re quick and easy to internalize and implement, and that you’d like some more.

2018 … one whole year of video tips on how to motivate employees

So I can’t stop now, and I’ve got big plans for next year.  2018 is going to be the year to focus on and highlight ideas on employee motivation.  Actually, more specifically, zero and low-cost ways to inspire, encourage and excite your people – to greater positivity and productivity, to higher performance and greater commitment. Continue reading

What creates healthy employees? The Globe’s Employee Recommended Workplace Awards offers insights

ERWAJust over one year ago, I told all of you about this very cool project that was sponsored by my colleagues at The Globe & Mail – a Canada-wide survey that is investigating what companies are doing to foster a working environment that creates engaged AND healthy employees.  The definition of “healthy” doesn’t just mean physical health, but also mental, work and life health.  This year-long project culminated with nine companies receiving the inaugural annual Employee Recommended Workplace Awards last month in Toronto.    Winners were announced in three categories (private, public, and not-for-profit/government) in the small, mid-sized and large groupings, and you can see them here (scroll down to find the list).

What creates healthy employees?

A follow-up story in The Globe on engaged and healthy employees titled The winning formulas for workplace wellness offered an opportunity for each of these companies to list the single factor that they believe caused their employees to rank them so highly.  You can read the entire article at the link I’ve given you, but I’ve listed the nine factors for you below: Continue reading

Long-distance leadership strategy #7: don’t forget to praise!

Six weeks ago, I started a video series on specific strategies to lead virtual teams.  Long-distance leadership can be a challenge; because of physical distance, it takes more effort for a leader to build and maintain high performance in employees. Given the positive response I’ve received, I’m going to keep this series going for a while.  Last week’s tip was to set standards for response times for emails and voice mail.  Today’s strategy to improve your long-distance leadership is: don’t forget to praise your staff regularly.

Don’t forget to praise

Now sure, this strategy – praising employees – is no different than what you would do for your employees who are based in the office, but it’s even more important for your virtual staff.  Why?  Because when it comes to offering praise and feedback, off-site employees are usually the forgotten ones.  Continue reading

Creating happier workplaces – what the data definitively tells us

bigstock-147197099I was reminded last week of the importance of creating positive happier workplaces with the release of the 2017 World Happiness report, published to coincide with the United Nation’s International Day of Happiness.  Given that most people spend a large percentage of their lives working, it’s not surprising that there is an entire chapter in this report devoted to the relationship between work and happiness.  The complete report is 178 pages long and can be found at the link above, but in today’s post I thought I’d share some of the highlights about happier workplaces from the “Happiness at Work” chapter.

The data that this report is based on comes from reliable sources and large sample sizes; the authors draw largely upon the Gallup World Poll, which has been surveying people in over 150 countries around the world since 2006.  The fundamental question being asked is what and how do people’s working lives drive their well-being, or what does it take to create happier workplaces.  Continue reading

Money as a motivator (P.S. It’s not!)

Exciting news – my first column for 2017 in The Globe & Mail‘s Leadership Lab series just got published this morning!!  It’s about money as a motivator, which continues to be a subject of some controversy.  And in case you’re wondering about my point of view, it’s unequivocally that it’s not!   In Why money is not an employee motivator, I make the case for why, and perhaps more importantly and practically, I tell you what it means to you, a leader, so that you can inspire your people towards excellence in the workplace.


Now, my hope, as always, is that this will give you food for thought and spark a dialogue amongst leaders everywhere, ideally in agreement with my point of view.  But even if you don’t agree with me, I’d like to hear what you think and what your experiences are.  If you can, please share your perspectives directly on the The Globe‘s site since your opinion will get a much wider audience there.  But I’m always open to hearing from you directly as well, so you can drop me an email or send me a tweet (@mergespeaks) with your thoughts too.

Please help get the word out!

And one last thing — do me a HUGE favour – help me get the word out … share the link with your staff and colleagues (easiest directly from The Globe’s site using the share icon at the very top of the article).  My objective is always to get conversations started, so the more people who respond to this column means deeper and extended dialogue, which is always a good thing!  In advance, please accept my thanks for your help.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Here is a direct link to the article in case you need to cut and paste it elsewhere:

The piss-off factor: yet another short-sighted stupid action by a well-meaning manager

The Piss-Off Factor (or POF)piss-off factor is something that short-sighted managers do to destroy employee morale, and they come up repeatedly on the blog, usually because they happen more often than they should!  Well, I was just made aware the other day of yet another piss-off event; this time about parking!

Seriously?!  This is what is known as a piss-off factor

This company’s offices, even though in a large city, are not in the downtown core.  This particular employee was required to go downtown for a work-related task, so he drove his vehicle there, parked, and later claimed the cost of parking on his expense statement.  Sounds reasonable, right?  Apparently not.  His expense claim was denied.  Reason: the company policy states that employees can claim lodging, meals and incidental costs, including parking for a vehicle, ONLY when they travel out of town.  Because he was parking his vehicle in the same city, the expense claim was denied!  If you think this doesn’t make sense, there’s more.  Continue reading