2009 - Second Quarter

Featured Articles

Are You Fired Up?

Motivation, morale, engagement, reward, enthusiasm. In the last six months, these are the challenges our clients, and dare I say the world, are struggling with on a daily basis with their employees. Ignite's primary requests right now are for assistance on these very topics. Our team recently had a brainstorm around the arena of motivating people in these difficult times. We looked for recent literature that was tackling this tough issue; we came up with zip, or at least nothing that was new or compelling.

There seems to be a feeling by some, that talking about, or actually engaging in motivation for employees is somehow disingenuous. I mean, how can we lead a rah-rah session when all around us is bad news—a failing economy, mortgages gone bad, lost jobs, decrease in wages, sinking 401K's. I assert that this is the time, more than ever, that motivation is exactly what we all need—motivation not in the form of rah-rah, but in the form of real dialogue that addresses these struggles. We need to motivate in the form of concrete activities and opportunities that we can engage in with our staff. We need to provide some relief to people who are consumed with stress, chaos and concern.

To this end, we have dedicated this newsletter to just that. We have focused the motivation movement around four areas: Motivating Individuals, Motivating Teams, Motivating Leaders and Self Motivation. We believe we have come up with some real-time solutions that you can put into effect immediately. For those of you who are really ambitious about this topic, I highly recommend you read the book, The Carrot Principle. Written by Gostick and Elton, this book clearly illustrates how to build a recognition culture in your organization and is a great tool for any leader. It is an inspiring read with multiple examples of how recognition, done right, not only is motivational, but retains talent and accelerates performance. So read on and discover that it could not be a better time for thinking about, talking through and actually demonstrating the art of motivation.

One last thought. Motivation is not just for the workplace. We need it at home, too. Look for opportunities to motivate your kids, your partner and your friends. If we do this, think what a better world this would be.

Founder and Chief Sparkplug

When Times are In Doubt ... Develop: How to Keep Individuals in Organizations Motivated

When I was given the assignment this quarter on writing about motivating individuals on your team during tough times, I was reminded of a seminal moment in my own career in 1986. There was a recession in the 80's; it was certainly not of the magnitude of what is happening globally today, but it was definitely felt in the workplace. I was a young manager working in a hotel that was averaging 5% occupancies (20 rooms occupied per night in a 400 room hotel). The situation was pretty grim, but I remember coming into work one afternoon, checking my mailbox, and finding an invitation to attend the hotel's Management Development Seminar Series. I thought to myself that I had really lucked out in choosing to work at this property. Financially, we were in trouble, but they were going to assist me in honing my leadership skills during these tough times. They valued me. It was at these sessions that I was first exposed to seminars on Visioning, Hiring and Selection, Communication and Conflict Management and Situational Leadership. This experience was a life-changing one for me, and ultimately I chose a course where I would be instilling these skills in others.

So, from a personal standpoint, I have a real belief that "tough times" are a great opportunity to develop key individuals on your team. The job market is definitely tough at this juncture, but your best people are generally the most marketable. These people may be unmotivated and leave, because they also don't feel valued. Development is an exceptional motivator, as I encountered first hand. I had a wonderful experience recently that really brought this subject full circle for me. One of our clients, Laura Davidson, of Laura Davidson Public Relations (LDPR), always an innovator, has taken the opportunity to develop a key member of her leadership team at this time. Stephanie Smith is the Office/Event Manager at LDPR, but the title doesn't begin to suggest all that she does there. From doing a 360° Survey and a Predictive Index (PI) session at the agency, where a person's natural style is discussed, as well as how they are expected to perform by others, it was determined that Stephanie was feeling somewhat underutilized. Laura, with Grace's assistance, developed a Coaching Plan for Stephanie, which includes individual coaching, as well as honing Stephanie's training skills, so that she can deliver training sessions at the agency.

This is where Stephanie and I came together. Stephanie visited our offices in Melrose recently, so that she could receive personal coaching on how to deliver a Time Management session at LDPR. I asked her how she felt about her coaching plan. She said that she was excited and energized. She explained that she felt that she had hit a wall, but didn't know how to ask, or even if she could, about developmental opportunities at LDPR. It didn't occur to her to say, "I want more." She is thrilled that her leadership came to her with this opportunity and said that they thought she was ready for the next step. Stephanie is pumped by the fact that her leadership is investing in her in this way, something that she had never experienced in other places where she had worked. She said that it was extremely motivating to have been given this challenge. So, she is getting coaching from her leadership team at LDPR, coaching from Grace, and training and coaching from Ignite on how to deliver a Time Management session. She came up with the idea of doing the Time Management piece, and probably will have delivered it by the time we go to press. Stephanie is a skilled presenter and an avid trainee and I know that she will shine.

So, if you have a "Stephanie" or a "Stephen" on your team who is ready for a development opportunity, go for it. Even in tough times, the cost of development is minimal, but the advantages may be astronomical, both for the individual and for the team.

Ignition Specialist / Consultant

Motivating Leaders: Refocusing on the Possibilities

While the media certainly has highlighted the negative behavior of some business leaders of late, not all leaders are taking large bonuses, while others in their firms are facing uncertainty and layoffs. Many leaders are feeling the pain as much as anyone else.

Stress and anxiety are a part of everyone's life in tough times, yet leaders often feel responsible for not only their own stress, but that of others. Leaders prefer to create successes, not narrowly avoid disasters. They feel responsible for the business and the workforce and may feel guilt as a result of layoffs and cutbacks. Obviously, more stress is not only unhealthy, but also counterproductive to leading well. What is a stressed leader to do? Psychologist Catherine Sandler suggests that the first step is for leaders to understand and accept their vulnerabilities and use this knowledge to help them regulate their moods and responses. They need to accept that certain feelings of emotional turmoil are normal and not fight against them. Once accepting which aspects of their situation are causing them stress, they can plan a coping strategy. Exercise, good nutrition and nurturing relationships are all good parts of a coping plan.

Additionally, leaders can take many of the things they are now doing to help others stay motivated, and apply them to themselves. Consultant Roxanne Emmerich writes about four things leaders can do to help keep their people motivated, all of which, I believe, can also be applied to them. The first is to show more empathy. When people are feeling guilt, anxiety, or other negative emotions, it never helps to be in denial or to try to sugarcoat their feelings. It's important for them to feel that their leader cares enough to listen to them and that he/she truly empathizes with how they feel. While this is a critical step for leaders to take to help their people stay on track, it can be draining and add more stress to an already stressful situation. That is why leaders should seek out others who can be empathetic to them, whether they are peers or family members. Don't underestimate the power of having someplace to vent, so that you can then refocus on the task at hand with more energy.

Another important thing for leaders to do is not getting too caught up in stories of doom and what can't be done, and to refocus on possibilities. They must lead others to refocus and of course, refocus themselves. When so much is out of people's control, focusing on the little things that we CAN DO will help keep us motivated. To that end, the next step is to celebrate the small victories. Perhaps we aren't hitting the numbers we used to, but we can celebrate getting one more client. That will help us feel energized to get more clients and ultimately to improve business results. The fourth step is to focus on the difference we can make. When we are depressed, we focus on ourselves. When businesses are depressed, they focus on themselves. Turn the focus outward to where and to whom we can make a difference in the world. Leaders can focus on the people, internal and external to the organization, to whom they can make a difference. After all, don't most of us feel good when we can make a difference to others?

All things in business go in cycles, and while we are certainly in a down cycle, practicing these small steps can make the down cycle seem shorter and less painful.

Synergist / Consultant

Self Motivation: You Hold the Key!

Let's face it, everywhere we look—TV, radio, newspapers, internet—there are negative messages about the current economic downturn. It's the inevitable subject that comes up in business and social gatherings, even family dinners. If you haven't experienced it yourself, we all know someone who has been laid off, is worried about losing a home or unable to pay the monthly bills. Staying motivated can be a constant struggle even in good times, but how do we keep positive during this cascade of doom and gloom?

We Always Have Choices.
Ask yourself, "What can I change by becoming upset, anxious or nervous?" The answer is NOTHING. By worrying and letting our body suffer with stress and anxiety, we accomplish nothing positive or productive. When focusing on fear, we experience more fear. It's a downward spiral, UNTIL we consciously stop and interrupt the pattern. By deliberately choosing to focus on what we CAN control and then make different choices, we can move forward in a positive direction. We also have the choice as to the meaning we give to circumstances. For example, we don't have control over the stock market, but can choose to research other investment options and scale back expenses. If our job is in jeopardy, we can choose to volunteer for additional projects or get a professional certification to add more value in our current role. During these tough times, we can see ourselves as being trapped or view the situation through a different lens, one with new options and possibilities.

Be Physically and Emotionally Fit!
There's no denying that regular physical exercise can do wonders for the mind and body. It pumps oxygen to the heart and reduces stress and blood pressure. Motivational guru, Tony Robbins, believes that building EMOTIONAL fitness is just as critical. "Chances are, at some point in our past, we've all survived a difficult and trying situation. Somehow, someway, we found the emotional strength to get through it and the experience has ultimately made us happier, stronger and richer inside," says Robbins. He recommends answering the "Power of Crisis" questions to identify our emotional fitness:

  • When in my past have I survived a crisis? (death, divorce, illness, job termination, etc.)
  • How did I pull myself out of it? What steps did I take?
  • Who helped me? What resources did I seek out?
  • What did I learn about myself that will give me the strength and power to get through this current crisis?

Embrace New and Familiar Relationships.
Think about the most important things in life. What brings us joy, gratitude and peace of mind? For many, relationships with friends and family tend to matter most. The intimate moments of connecting with another soul are precious gifts we give ourselves.

Reach out to these individuals. Enjoy a cup of coffee with an old friend or connect with a former colleague through email. Don't commiserate with 'drain people' who complain of being helpless and hopeless. Instead, spend time with people who make you laugh, build your confidence, and solve problems. Make efforts to build NEW relationships, as well. Join LinkedIn, Twitter and professional associations and promote your talents to everyone you meet. Constant networking will open unexpected doors. (Someone ALWAYS "knows someone that knows someone!") Now more than ever, we must surround ourselves with individuals that give us positive energy and move us forward in meeting our goals!

Robbins also suggests, "Get outside yourself! Reach out to someone who truly has it worse than you. Volunteering time in a hospital, homeless shelter or giving time to any cause will ultimately open your eyes and hearts to those in greater need."

Choosing a positive attitude during times of crisis does not mean putting a false smile on our face or being ignorant to world issues. It means deliberately focusing on the things within our control. It's the belief that challenges and adversities will develop our personal strength, character and wisdom and give us a life full of rich experiences.

Igniter / Consultant

Motivating Teams: Visioning and Communication are Powerful ... Especially in the Tough Times

We are so lucky at Ignite to work with exceptional leaders in many different industries. One of our clients, a financial services firm, is fortunate to have such a leader on board. He is a charismatic manager who continues to use innovative initiatives to motivate his team, even in these tough financial times. The company is a provider of financial services and products (not an easy sell in this current economy) and his team is responsible for bringing new brokers on board and ensuring their smooth transition into the organization. The group consists of about 15 team members, located on both coasts—Boston and San Diego.

One motivational event that this team has created into an annual tradition is a two-day team retreat. The purpose of the retreat is to come together as a team to talk about who they are and where they are headed; the retreat includes opportunities for team building, team bonding and future strategy. At the retreat and throughout the year, this team utilizes two key tools to aid in their success—the Predictive Index (PI) and Visioning. The team uses PI as a way to identify strengths on the team, as well as for the leader to understand what motivates each person on the team. A few years back, team members created their own individual vision and then the group created a collective team vision. This powerful exercise has served the group well and they continue to revisit their visions at each yearly retreat. Likewise, when someone new joins the team, he/she is asked to write his/her own individual vision. First, select team members share their individual visions with the newcomer, as well as the team vision, to give the new hire an understanding of the process. The PI and vision are continually reinforced throughout the year, which clearly demonstrate this leader's investment in the power of vision, and the motivating aspect of team members continuing to share their own thoughts and convictions with others.

Another initiative that this team is committed to is a weekly "huddle call" with team members on both coasts. During this call, the main question that is discussed is "how are we doing?" This relates to the group's morale, vision, goals and overall motivation of the team. There are no "non-discussibles" in this huddle, which opens the lines of communication on the team. Team members find this meeting and the dialogue that takes place both motivating and inspiring.

We at Ignite believe strongly that when you, as a leader, keep vision in the forefront of a team's mindset, it encourages greater effort, spirit and creativity. This builds morale and is highly motivating for a team - even in the tough times.

As Grace mentioned in her "Are You Fired Up" article, we need to motivate in the form of concrete activities and opportunities that we can engage in with our staff. Clearly this team is benefiting from this advice. I'd like to leave you with a quote from Joel Barker, Futurist, who we believe captured the power of vision in this quote: "Vision without action is merely a dream; action without vision just passes the time; vision with action can change the world."

Ignition Specialist / Consultant
About Ignite
Ignite offers a variety of transforming programs that can propel you and your organization to brilliant successes. And we have experience in a wide range of industries, so we can tailor each session to specifically address your needs and goals.

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Customized program design, superior results and lasting partnerships are key components of Ignite's philosophy and approach to training and development.