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A Masterclass in De-Motivation

Darwin suggested that all animals have the ability to learn from their mistakes and adapt accordingly, but what differentiates humans from other animals is our ability to learn from other peoples’ mistakes. I was privy to a master-class in de-motivation recently, in which the head of a well reputed and successful organisation, through a series of unintentional, un-related, but nonetheless ill-conceived actions, successfully de-motivated his entire senior team to the extent that all commitment and motivation vanished. The first instance was when a member of the senior team requested time off to take her teenage son to play rugby in an important national tournament. The head refused the request, claiming that it would set a precedent. What he failed to understand was how important this was to that single mother and that the most important thing in her life was her son’s success. The head assumed that this was just another decision that would be accepted in the normal way, but had utterly failed to consider her circumstances, failed to understand the extreme impact of his decision, and the sympathy that would be extend across the team. The next instance followed shortly afterwards and was when the head was allocating routine tasks to the senior team; tasks that he would normally partake in. On this occasion he blatantly omitted to allocate anything to himself and when questioned, said that he had to attend a special personal event - but apparently this precedent was acceptable! The third instance was when one of the senior team, who had been responsible for organising team away-days for many years, was tasked with planning the 2009 event. Having consulted and agreed the plan with all key people, having made all necessary bookings, and having confirmed the dates to all attendees, he was instructed by the head to change the dates and venue. No reason being given. The net result was complete chaos, a compromise venue had to be accepted and the impact of different dates at this late stage was immense. Again, the impact was felt by all team members and there was only one focus for their discontent! The fourth instance was when the head encouraged a new member of the senior team to equip himself and his office with every gadget and goodie known to man, at a time when the rest of the team were being asked to cut back and “do without” wherever possible. All of these instances occurred within a 3 week period and in isolation none of them would raise many eyebrows or cause any major concern, but in the absence of any motivating actions over this period, these minor instances accumulated and combined to become a major issue. The effect was seen soon after. A minor crisis had arisen and the head had to call on his team’s commitment and motivation to help. “Drop everything” was the plea. Not a big request, nor an exceptional one, but in the context of what had gone before, not one single member of the senior team responded. The head was dumbfounded!! So, if us humans are able to learn from other’s mistakes, what is the learning here? •

As leaders we can get away with being directive, autocratic and controlling, so long as our team remains reasonably motivated. Lose the teams motivation and you lose everything.

Motivation is not a one-size-fits-all phenomenon. We need to understand what is important to different people, understand how our decisions will impact different people and above all, don’t assume that what motivates us will necessarily motivate our team members.

Innergy Ltd. T 0870 049 2330 E info@innergy.co.uk W www.innergy.co.uk


Interfering or micro-management is the commonest and one of the worst forms of de-motivation . Is it really worth it?

In the western world the concept of privilege and entitlement is being increasingly challenged. It is no longer possible to award yourself special privileges without being questioned and having to suffer the inevitable de-motivating consequences.

Motivation (like reputation) is built over a long time and is based on unwavering consistency, the moment we allow one or two inconsistencies to creep in all the good work is unravelled and (like reputation) motivation disappears in an instant.

If Darwin was right - we can learn from others mistakes, but let’s make sure it takes less than a million years!!

Innergy Ltd. T 0870 049 2330 E info@innergy.co.uk W www.innergy.co.uk


A Masterclass in De-Motivation  

Innergy Ltd. T 0870 049 2330 E info@innergy.co.uk W www.innergy.co.uk A Masterclass in De-Motivation • As leaders we can get away with being...

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