It’s strategic planning season, a time to reflect on who we are, why we exist, what our future should hold, and the best strategies to get there. A lot of effort is going into identifying the best plans for greater growth, profitability and relevance. Once these plans are put into motion, our management and teams will be tasked with carrying them out. Their efforts will determine our level of success. Most of our challenges and strategies moving forward will not be easy. Success will depend on our teams going above-and-beyond, giving blood, sweat and tears to make it happen. Their willingness to do so can be negatively influenced by the “demotivators” that are, unfortunately, alive and well within our organizations.
Identify, address and eliminate the demotivators in your work space.
Here are a few that are all too common that you might be on the lookout for:
- The wet blanket. Most of us have experienced the wet blanket. You come up with an idea that you are proud of, and it never gets a fair review. Or you get a chance to share it and the immediate response is a hundred reasons why it will never work. The need for employee input, feedback and innovation has never been greater. Take the time to listen to your team’s ideas and implement some of them. Otherwise, the persistent “wet blanket” will kill motivation and innovation in your organization.
- Meetings, meeting, meetings…Ask anyone and they will tell you meetings are too long and there are too many of them. All meetings interrupt work, but they are a necessary part of communication within an organization. Work-related meetings for the sake of meeting, and meetings that lack focus and clear targets are demotivators – worse than demotivators, actually, because they subtract hours from the day that could otherwise be leveraged for goal-attainment. Think about the purpose of your meetings and what you are trying to achieve. Consider the interruption to normal work throughout all of the departments involved. Have you ever been in a meeting and your cry for help was a doodled hangman’s noose? Meetings can begin with well-motivated intentions but head south quickly if the meeting gets overlong. Organize your meetings around an agenda, and be disciplined about beginning and ending on time.
- Lack of meaningful vision. I visit a lot of credit unions, small, big, rural, urban. Universally, the happiest (and most successful) teams are those that have embraced and are engaged in a clear vision and purposeful mission. These teams know why they exist and what makes them special. It’s almost always driven by a strong sense of community service and making a meaningful impact on members’ lives (I’m not talking about a 1.99-percent rate here). What’s your cause? If you don’t have one, you may want to consider finding one. When people are motivated by causes, they will give blood, sweat and tears to make the right things happen.
- Turning a blind eye to mediocre performance. This one is deadly, and alive and well in credit unions. When one member of the team is consistently allowed to underperform, it’s nearly impossible to keep the teams around them motivated. Excuses for allowing this situation to develop vary from “our members will freak out if they’re fired” to “they’ll come around, they just need more training.” Picking the right people and providing the appropriate training is a prerequisite for success. But at some point, a person has to support what we are doing and make a meaningful contribution. The morale, service and financial impact from this situation is huge. Looking at our very thin margins, we can’t afford to allow this to occur, and it’s not fair to the rest of the team who wants to contribute, try new things and grow. If you have a situation like this, take action and make a change. Kicking the can down the road will not help anyone (believe me, I’ve tried).
- Big decisions with poor due diligence. It’s human nature to make assessments based on our own personal experiences and beliefs. I see this occur frequently when it comes to compensation in smaller credit unions. The scenario looks like this: compensation and benefits reflect those of the original sponsoring organization. It’s not done to hurt anyone, and it’s perceived as fair by those who apply their pay experiences to credit-union personnel. This scenario is a big demotivator for goal-driven teams. High-performing CEOs and their teams want to succeed and they want to be fairly compensated – as compared to their credit-union peers, not the local paper mill. Executive compensation is a big decision and one that requires plenty of due diligence. Relevant credit-union research and data should be used to identify the appropriate compensation plan for your credit union. This isn’t our father’s credit-union movement anymore. Credit-union management is complex, demanding and worthy of fair (and motivating) compensation.
Demotivators in the workplace and board room get in the way of our performing at our very best. This is just my short list, I’m sure there may be other things that demotivate your team. The best way to find them is to build a good relationship with your team members so they confide in you. Once they confide in you, or you recognize the issues, work with your team to get the issues resolved. We all have a lot to do; the more stumbling blocks we remove the easier our mission will be.