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By Michael Cowley
Maintenance & Operations Article Use Policy
Maintenance and engineering managers who have struggled with trying to make average employees into good or great team members have spent hours trying to figure out successful tactics to motivate them into doing a better and more complete job.
Over the years, I have taken many professional motivation courses, and each has a different twist on the best way to succeed. The concept that I align with most closely based on my training and my years of leading and managing people is that a manager can not motivate employees. Over the long haul, they must become self-motivated. Managers can only motivate themselves.
You can assist staff by providing the right environment that will allow them to motivate themselves much more easily. Managers can develop the techniques and methods that will provide that environment.Focus on factorsMany people consider the items on the following list to be the most common motivating factors for front-line technicians:
• pay• environment• authority• responsibility• working conditions• status• teamwork• fear.
I listed pay first, but I question it as a motivating factor because it can go both ways. When I was young and received an annual performance raise, I was motivated for a brief period. But I usually returned to being an average employee after several weeks.
The theory about pay is that once a technician has achieved the basic needs of life and survival, money has a smaller effect on work performance. When you are hungry or need a better way of life or you need shelter, then money can be a powerful motivator. Money is actually a maintenance factor because it maintains motivation but does not increase it dramatically.
The other component I mentioned that is a very strong motivator is fear. Yes, you read that right. Fear. In my early years, the worst boss I ever had was also the one who taught me more than many other bosses, simply because I realized that if I did the opposite of what he suggested, it was probably good leadership advice.
This guy would pound his fist on the table, curse, and even throw pens and whiteboard erasers. He was an interesting character, to say the least. Fear can be a motivator, but it is not a very good one, and its effects are usually short-lived.
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