The bright side of total failure

I used to be a timeshare salesman.

This was a long time ago, and I’m proud to say that I wasn’t very good at it. I am good at getting on with people and making them trust me, but I am not so good at turning that into cash through manipulation.

This is one of my favourite things about me, but it wasn’t one of the timeshare manager’s favourite things about me.

I got fired.

I didn’t care.  I was only 25 and was enjoying have an unconventional life that involved living in the sun (a novelty for someone from Yorkshire), and so being fired from a job I didn’t want had no downside at that point in my life.

I now know that there were three problems with my employment:

  1. Our values did not match
  2. I don’t associate money with work
  3. I am not motivated by people shouting at me


Continue reading “The bright side of total failure”

The Seven Deadly Sins: not the ideal place to look for workplace motivation

I have to say these comments reveal a fairly unpleasant, careless elitism that somehow suggests we should give up on a whole swath of fellow citizens

That was UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who went on to say:

To talk about us as if we are a sort of breed of dogs, a species I think he calls it …

We are a species Nick, and a breed of dogs isn’t a species … I’m not clear on what the danger of using this sort of language is …

the danger is …

… go on …

…if you start taking such a deterministic view of people because they have got a number attached to them, in this case an IQ number, they are not going to rise to the top of the cornflake packet

He was talking about Boris Johnson’s speech at the Centre for Policy Studies last week (see here for the full text in the Telegraph).

I think most people would agree that a Huxley-esque world where everyone in our species knows their place, and no-one can fight for a better position in the Cornflake packet, is a bad thing … but what made me consider this appropriate fodder for this blog was Boris’s decision to trumpet the glories of envy and greed as good workplace motivators.

… some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity

As David Lammy (Labour) said:

It’s extraordinary for a mayor … to think it’s all right to glorify greed – a greed that has brought a banking collapse and caused misery and hardship to many …

Continue reading “The Seven Deadly Sins: not the ideal place to look for workplace motivation”

Motivation Case Study: a demotivated office

When I read through my “Motivating people, not dogs” post after having published it, I wondered if my tough approach was unintentionally letting the manager off the hook.

It was this line that made me jump up with concern:

… if we make their lack of motivation more about us as managers rather than about them, we turn their failure into our failure, and give them an easy way out.

If this is so, then surely it works the other way around too? Can we turn our failure into their failure by not accepting that we are the major influence in the motivation of our teams.

The assumption throughout my argument was that the manager was competent – not perfect, but solid enough to live up to the end part of the post where I stated that it was the manager’s responsibility:

… to remove the demotivating factors as far as possible, and to manage the team properly …

… but you know what they say about assuming things: it makes an ass out of whoever it is that tells you what they say about assuming things.

Continue reading “Motivation Case Study: a demotivated office”

Motivating people, not dogs

Do you want to know the worst answer I ever hear to the interview question “how do you motivate your team”?

It was this:

I really think it’s all about beer and biccies

Well sorry pal, I really think it isn’t.

My objection was not because beer is a savoury drink, and a biscuit is a sweet food – although that’s grounds enough – it was that something as important and complex as human motivation was reduced to something as simple and simplistic as the indiscriminate provision of the occasional treat.

I can see how it would work with dogs, but people?

Continue reading “Motivating people, not dogs”