Reward vs Motivation

Reward vs Motivation

There is a saying that “Chocolates should be the reward, not the motivation. If they are the motivation, then you just get fat!”

In business, and in team environments, this simple philosophy has proven over and over again to be the foundation of success. The opposite may provide short term benefits, but ultimately leads to failure.

It is critical for leaders to understand the difference between reward and motivation and recognise that it is not the same for everyone.

Over many years I have witnessed a shift in what motivates people at similar ages and what they value as reward. For differing generations, the motivation also varies. As a business grows, the opportunities for people within that business also change. This leads to the organisation attracting different people, who are motivated by different things. Small firms tend to attract people that value responsibility, intimacy, autonomy and flexibility. Larger firms tend to attract team players that are comfortable with structure, defined roles and who value job security.

Previously, young professionals were motivated by setting a career path and committing totally to the ultimate outcome. In more recent times, young professionals have a broader outlook towards their career and a greater focus on balancing life inside and outside of work.

Reward for young people has also changed. While financial recompense and career progression will always be important, today it is critical that young people feel valued and acknowledged in ways other than just by money.

As a professional’s career develops, the motivation also changes. Early in a career there is a focus on gaining recognition, building reputation, learning and developing skills. Later in one’s career, the focus shifts to working with likeminded people, tenure and work environment.

Understanding these differences, and being able to respond as the motivation changes within people over time and from generation to generation is not easy. Rewarding them appropriately based on these differences also adds to the complexity. Doing all of this within a growing business can become quite a challenge to get right. For businesses that rely heavily on people, success is based on maintaining an environment that satisfies all.

While it is easy to generalise in an attempt to articulate thoughts and concepts, it is wrong to assume there is strong demarcation between groups, or that within groups characteristics are common to all.

The key ingredient in creating the right environment is to treat people individually, with a full understanding of what motivates them and the best way to reward them. Achieve this, and not only will everyone get some chocolate, but it will taste a whole lot sweeter!

While there is plenty of literature around the characteristics of varying generations, all of which is relatively sound in its general assessment, my experience is that by treating people individually without bias or assumption, you maximise the opportunity of rewarding them appropriately. Understanding how to motivate them is no different. Individualise the approach, and the reward will be there for all to share.

In a professional environment, career development is fundamental to motivation and reward. There are constants, irrespective of generation and stage. These include the desire to be successful and the sense of progression. What does change is the measures of success and the definition of progress.

Please or Thankyou… What’s the better approach?

Please or Thankyou… What’s the better approach?

There are many reasons why some businesses have more success than others. Culture, fiscal discipline, the best people, effective marketing, good systems and procedures, value for money; they are all important, and all must be addressed and managed effectively.

While these aspects of a business need constant monitoring and individually contribute to success, there needs to be an overarching philosophy and approach that sets the framework for making sound decisions around these contributors.

The concept needs to be holistic, broad enough to cover the critical aspects of your business, and yet clear enough to provide definition.

In professional services, as with most businesses, the client (customer) ultimately measures performance. They determine and are the adjudicators of your reputation, your value for money proposition, your quality and service and ultimately your financial success.

So, it seems logical then to focus decision making for your business around the best outcome for the client, as opposed to best outcome for your business. To many this may sound the same, but there are distinct differences. To others, or in some instances, they may appear conflicting.

The key is being able to recognise and make decisions that are best for the client, without being to the detriment of the business.

Maintaining discipline around this approach can lead to some significant changes in the way you run your business. It can be simple and obvious decisions, such as allocating the right people for the client, marketing to the clients you want to work with, building relationships with clients that understand your value proposition.

A deeper more sophisticated approach to this philosophy involves thinking like your client. Understand your clients’ business, and the risks your client needs to manage. How can you help them manage this risk? This realisation changes the way you service your clients.

What are your clients’ expectations? Does a particular system or procedure benefit the client? If not, why are you doing it?

Does the client want you to take problems away from them or create more problems? The answer will determine how you interact with your client and how you do your work.

Does a client want to be harassed for business, or do they want to be helped and thanked? The answer is obvious. Clients shy away from being harassed, but embrace engagement with problem solvers.

So, spend less time asking for something and more time helping.

Thankyou beats Please every time.

Workplace Diversity

What does it mean to commit to Workplace Diversity?

Diversity…should the type of underwear matter?

When talking about diversity, too many people just think about gender. While this is a good starting point, the topic is much broader and holistic than simply focusing on the benefits of gender mix.

There is no doubt, creating a work environment suitable for both males and females is critical to any successful business. However, when it comes to diversity, there are two important points that I believe must remain the focus of all organisations:

  1. Having balanced numbers of males and females is not indicative enough of a diverse workplace.
  2. Personal characteristics other than gender are far more critical in assessing the true diversity of the group.

In relation to my first point, I see many organisations purely driven quantitatively; proudly announcing their commitment to and success in gender diversity by boasting numbers.

What these firms should be asking is not “How many males or females do we have,” but rather “What type of males and females do we have?” Without selecting people with diverse characteristics, and without creating a work environment that accommodates all types of people, you run the risk of having equal numbers of males and females that share common qualities. They may be predominantly extroverts, they may all thrive in a highly competitive environment, and they may predominantly embrace confrontation. So, while the numbers may look good, the type of people in your organisation is narrow and limiting. You’d be missing out on the introverts, the team players and the people that develop others.

To assume people will approach these things differently because of their gender, goes against a fundamental principle of good diversity management.

To address my second point – what is the value of a strong gender mix if all the people, irrespective of gender, behave, think, communicate, learn and respond in the same way?

In fact, to assume they will do all these things differently because of their gender, is showing perceived bias, and goes against a fundamental principle of good diversity management.

So for me, there are two very clear commitments to diversity that leaders should make for their organisations:

  1. Ensure there are no assumptions or biases in the selection and development of people.
  2. Ensure the work environment accommodates all people.

Do these things well, and the group will be diverse; they will feel comfortable, and they will want to stay.

Very simple statements, but profoundly powerful actions.

In some industries and professions like Engineering, the number of women is alarmingly low. In other industries, the number of males is deficient. My belief is that this is due to false and inappropriate perceived assumptions and bias. The imbalance requires addressing not because the numbers should be equal, but because these behaviours contradict the principles of managing diversity. It clearly requires attention from two perspectives:

Employers need to eliminate assumptions and bias in the workplace, and industry needs to educate the pool of talent in the understanding that the profession or type of work is suitable for all people…irrespective of what type of underwear you have on.

Key Factors for Innovation

Key Factors for Innovation

Innovation. The buzz word of the decade.

It’s the spin from all organisations, whether private or public, primary, secondary or tertiary producers; all sectors, all industries.

It’s a state of mind and an approach to your work.

What’s so new about it?

In engineering, it’s the cornerstone of what we do. It’s been there forever. We’re trained as professionals to act and think in this way. It’s a state of mind and an approach that allows us to do our job well.

So, what can be learned from the way engineers go about their work? What aspects are critical to innovation? My experience, and the results of our approach, have led me to the following conclusions.

Primarily, as with most things, it starts with employing the right people. Not only those who are capable, but also have confidence in their ability, along with intellectual and emotional intelligence.

Secondly, it’s critical to create an environment that allows innovation to occur. This requires a diverse group of people who can collaborate in an open and non-judgemental way, without the confines of perceived power and privilege.

It’s critical to create an environment that allows innovation to occur.

And thirdly, the culture of encouraging and embracing innovation must be instilled in the group. This very much comes from within, and requires investment and leadership. It requires acceptance of risk that is managed by strong ability, sound decision making and good judgement.

Leading an organisation to be innovative relies on clear understanding of what defines innovation and how to measure it. In my mind, innovation is about creating ideas, not implementing change. It’s an approach to thinking, not adopting something new or adapting new technology. There must be a clear understanding within the group, that everyone is expected to think this way, accepting that it may take a bit longer and potentially lead to some inefficiencies, without any guarantee of immediate reward. These messages and understandings are critical to a sincere and committed approach to innovation.

It’s about asking “what if we try this” rather than saying “we can’t do that because.”

Measuring the effectiveness of innovation based on a return on investment is flawed. The benefits are far too influential at all levels of the operation to naively assume they can be measured in terms of dollars. I liken the investment in innovation in a similar way to marketing. Spend as much as you see necessary to have meaningful impact, without being wasteful.

It’s about asking “what if we try this?”

The final piece in the puzzle relies on the clients and stakeholders who benefit from the innovation. Those we engage with externally must value and embrace our approach, and accept change while acknowledging and sharing ownership of the risk – only then will the return on investment be realised.

What defines a good leader?

What defines a good leader?

There will always be expert analysis, opinions and dialogue regarding leadership. What characterises it, can we teach it, how do we assess one’s competency…the list goes on and on.  To all of these questions, one should ask, “Is it really that complicated and are we looking and thinking too deeply?”

As with most engineering and life problems, the best solutions are often the obvious ones. So, what defines a good leader? Is it skills or qualities? I believe leadership qualities and leadership skills are fundamentally different, and there are sound reasons for this.

What defines a good leader? Is it skills or qualities?

In my opinion, leadership qualities are less tangible but inherently more obvious and easier to identify in someone, whereas skills are easier to define but quite often harder to assess. Qualities are generally common between individual leaders whilst their skills can vary enormously. It is this variation in skillset that defines the type of leader, not whether one is or isn’t.

A great deal of the literature written regarding leadership centres around identifying, assessing and evaluating the skills required. However, this focus can often lead to over-complication and more importantly, distraction from the most important issue i.e. the person’s qualities as a leader. In relation to someone being a true leader, I believe the qualities are mandatory, the skills are optional.

Within any organisation, true leaders will always stand out. What is even more profound is that their qualities can usually be easily identified at a relatively young age, early in their career. These qualities strengthen with time and they mature and evolve at a rate commensurate with the opportunities provided.

A critical component of any successful business is the development of them. Too often, I believe, companies assess individuals with leadership aspirations based on skills rather than qualities. Even more concerning is those with a strong skillset may be granted the privilege of leadership over those who have the inherent qualities.

Too often, I believe, companies assess individuals with leadership aspirations based on skills rather than qualities.

For me the approach is simple. Identify those within the organisation who show strong leadership qualities and then build their skills to make them more effective. Many would argue this approach carries risk, based on it primarily being an intuitive decision rather than analytical. I would argue not, due to these leadership qualities being generally easy to identify. In other words, choose the standout individuals with natural talent. Make the obvious decision and don’t over-complicate it.

Once the “easy” decision is made, then the hard work begins. Allow individuals exposure to situations that will develop their skills, whilst providing them with mentoring and guidance. Most importantly, and because of their own unique skillset, allow them to be their own type of leader.

Stepping Out for a Good Cause

Having avoided standing on the edge of a high-rise building for my entire career, I recently undertook the 2017 Central Park Plunge challenge to raise funds for the Fiona Wood Foundation. On 9 September, I successfully descended 220m (52 storeys) from the top of the Central Park high rise in Perth, and was overwhelmed to receive such strong support from friends, family and colleagues, to meet my fund raising goal of $10,000.

I first became aware of the Fiona Wood Foundation through a colleague who resides on their Board. Learning of Fiona’s story and having heard her speak on numerous occasions, I was inspired by her enthusiasm, passion and emotion towards her work. Being in the leadership space myself, I see her as a truly world class leader and have always been impressed by her incredible journey through life and the significant impact she has had on so many other lives. Through her career she has been able to manage a demanding professional life while staying committed to family.

I am honoured to have taken on this challenge and stepped out of my comfort zone, to help support the life-saving work that Fiona Wood and her Foundation continue to advance for burns victims.

Here’s a video for a glimpse into the challenge.


The Difference between Winning and Success

The Difference between Winning and Success

Results vs Outcomes

Most would suggest that success comes from winning. Certainly in things like sport and politics for example this is true. Where votes are cast or scores are kept, it is easy to measure success directly in relation to the score at the end of the “game”. Winning at all cost is a mindset common in these endeavours.

Emotion can often play an important part in many battles and can contribute to heightened performance. Emotion can also be used to gain a mental advantage over your opposition while gaining support from others around you.

In business, and specifically in a professional environment, things are not so clean cut. Winning at all costs is often not conducive to success in the long run. In fact, scoring points in discussions or disagreements of a technical nature can often be viewed as unprofessional. Emotion can often be seen as a weakness. Usually the calmest person in the room is the one who knows he or she is right.

In business, winning at all costs is often not conducive to success in the long run.

In business dealings the best outcomes are often a result of both parties compromising and feeling like they are both winners. Getting the deal done is far more important than feeling like you have won and the other side has lost, particularly when both parties see advantages and benefits of the dealing.

In addition, much can be gained professionally in relation to reputation by conducting yourself in a fair and reasonable manner. Whether the other party is aware or not at the time, the realisation of being on the losing side of a dealing will ultimately reflect poorly on the winner and make any future dealings with the losing party far more difficult.

Much can be gained professionally, by conducting yourself in a fair and reasonable manner.

So in simple terms, winning the battle doesn’t guarantee victory in the war.

Conducting yourself in a professional manner with a focus on outcomes rather than results will always win out in the end and ultimately lead to success.

Ask Questions

How to lead with Questions

What’s more effective, giving answers or asking questions?

I recently had this question put to me at an industry presentation, and it got me thinking.

I’ve always lived by the belief that as a Leader you should guide with advice, not direct with instruction.

As we develop into positions of being accountable for others, we sometimes fall into the trap or belief that with the additional responsibility there is an expectation on us to know everything and have the answers to all questions within our area of work. Once we have this mindset, it’s only natural to then assume we should impart this magical gift on to all who are willing to listen. Even worse, on to those who aren’t willing to listen.

As we develop into positions of greater accountability, we sometimes fall into the belief that there is an expectation on us to know everything

This approach reduces one’s chances of being an effective and successful Leader. While providing an instruction in response to a request for help will allow the person to complete the task, it’s not the best approach. Yes, it does provide clear direction without accountability for its execution, but is it effective in the development of individuals? Does it create buy-in, reward or a sense of accomplishment?

A more effective approach would be to ask what they think. Ask them if they’ve considered alternatives such as b, c or d. Show them examples of other similar situations and how these were solved, and give them your opinion. But then, before they interpret your opinion as an instruction, make sure it’s clear that the decision is theirs and ensure they understand you’ll back them in whatever decision they make. This type of approach develops their skills and confidence, instils ownership, sets them up for reward and acknowledgement when the outcome is positive, and most importantly it builds trust.

This approach develops their skills and confidence, instils ownership, sets them up for reward and builds trust

The advice you provide guides them to the right answer.

So the question. What’s more effective? The answer…… Asking Questions

Personal Brand – Do you have one?

Personal Brand – Do you have one?

While it is commonly accepted that all businesses rely on brand recognition, including those in the engineering sector, personal branding is potentially something we spend less time cultivating.

It’s common to hear and see CEOs and corporate leaders promoting their own brand. It’s less common at other levels within organisations. The value and benefit of personal branding is powerful, irrespective of your role, title or job description. No matter the level of your role, you have a reputation worth managing. Branding is a key approach to this.

Once individuals identify the value of branding, and consciously promote it to others, the benefits flow and can contribute significantly to career development.

So how do you identify and promote your own personal brand?

Using the same principles that apply to business makes the process easier.

Firstly, your approach must be authentic and sincere. It shouldn’t be based on populist ideals or short term trends. Your brand should be based on core values and relate to what you truly stand for, what you feel passionate about and how you want others to identify you.

If this leads you to a set of values that differentiate you clearly, then your personal brand has value. The longer you honour those values the stronger your brand will be.

Maintaining consistency in the way you behave, without compromise, will ensure your personal brand grows gains strength and increases in value over time. This requires self-discipline and continual monitoring.

In establishing your core values, things to consider could potentially include:

  • Characteristics of you that you want to promote
  • A topic that you feel passionate about
  • The way you help or include others around you
  • Leadership qualities
  • Your approach to work
  • The type and quality of your work output
  • The type of work environment that suits you

Finally, none of this is useful unless you actively promote your brand. While communication is important in all forms, whether it be verbal, written or through social media, the most effective means is through behaviour. Establish what you stand for and act that way. The benefits will be profound.