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Five Ways to Motivate your Team to Harvest Low-Hanging Fruit

Five Ways to Motivate your Team to Harvest Low-Hanging Fruit

By: Jeremy Eden and Terri Long, authors of Low-Hanging Fruit: 77 Eye-Opening Ways to Improve Productivity and Profits (Wiley, 2014)

The best ideas to improve organizations come from engaging those closest to the work. Good ideas usually do not just pop into people’s heads (unless they are in the shower, of course) -- they come as the result of many people throughout the company trying hard to see and solve problems.

This may not require a lot of time, but it does require motivation. Creating and sustaining that motivation requires that your team have a personal desire to improve the company.

Motivating managers is, by far, the single most important element to growing earnings. The good news is that it is also the easiest to get right.

1) Create an Idea-Based Budget
If your annual budget process is a few months away, then use that as a great motivation to “start now.” 

You will be able to start your budget process already knowing that you have a large, new, source of funds. How great will it feel to start a budget process knowing that you have millions of new dollars already identified for the next year! 

Instead of the normal budgets that have holes (many quite gaping!) that need to be filled, you will be starting out with a surplus that you are figuring out how to deploy.

Even more importantly, you will have achieved the holy grail of all CFO’s -- a budget that is as solid as a rock. The key is to create an Idea-Based Budget.

2) The Five Surprising Words: “I want everyone on board.”
Lately, executives have tended toward a more inclusive management style. Decisions are more often made collectively by a team rather than individually by the person in charge. And not just by a democratic vote. Many leaders now want unanimity.

Leaders play more of a coaching role, than the star player role.

But some leaders have gone too far. The five surprising words that stop good executives from being great leaders are "I want everyone on board."

Decisions are stymied because leaders cede to some member of their team the right to veto. We see it ... often.

Just one member out of 20 might “not like the idea” but the decision is just as dead as if all 20 of the team hated it...even if the boss likes it! 

What they should not do is allow opinions without facts to substitute for their own good judgment. You should not delegate veto power to team members when their objections are just opinions like, “I don’t feel comfortable with this” or “I don’t think it will work but I can’t explain why” or “I just don’t like this approach.”

3) If You Want the Money, Spend the Time 
For better or worse, the things that leaders personally engage in become the highest priorities for their teams. There is no substitute for your personal leadership to create focus and energy.

Your team will follow your example. Your motivational e-mails, speeches, and memos can amplify your leadership by example, but they cannot ever replace it.

When you walk the walk, you will find that you are doing so on a two-way street. In one direction, you are able to motivate managers through inspiration, passion, and expertise. Think “coach.” 

In the other direction, and just as important, your teams will teach you about what is really going on in the company, about the depth of your bench and the overlooked talent, about connections between divisions you had not realized, and about your real company culture.

What you learn will change how you lead. It is similar to becoming an “undercover boss,” but without the cameras! No PowerPoint presentations, no memos, no e-mails can substitute for learning directly from those closest to the work.

4) Executive Motivators that Demotivate Everyone Else
Hypocrisy is one of the best tools you have to demotivate your team.

We are not against off-site meetings and retreats, but we are against wasting time and money. One executive decided to use his retreat as an exercise in motivation and problem solving: He set up a contest to get the best ideas about where to hold a retreat that would be more fun, more productive, and less expensive than any past ones. He got many good ideas.

One idea that was a huge hit was to replace a long, fancy dinner with dinner at a local dive (think the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives) that was unique, had great food, and was very inexpensive.

That was truly walking the walk! 

5) The Corporate Imposter Syndrome
How often have you heard a manager say, "we've looked into that" when given a suggestion. Often times, this is merely a covert dismissal of an idea from someone outside the immediate team.

This syndrome is remarkably easy to banish.

First, acknowledge this fear frequently and loudly before you ask everyone to find new problems to solve. Second, leaders should make it clear that they believe that the best-performing managers do better than poorly-performing managers at finding more. Why? Great managers are better at motivating their teams, at finding and fixing problems, and at getting decisions made.

Third, make sure that you sincerely commend people every time they reveal a new problem to solve!


Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from Low-Hanging Fruit: 77 Eye-Opening Ways to Improve Productivity and Profits by Jeremy Eden and Terri Long. Copyright (c) 2014 by Jeremy Eden and Terri Long. All rights reserved. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.

Author Bios:
Jeremy Eden
and Terri Long are the Co-CEOs of Harvest Earnings, an advisory services firm that helps companies to engage their employees in growing earnings and improving the customer experience. They have helped companies like PNC Financial, H.J. Heinz, and Manpower to reduce costs and increase revenues by millions of dollars. Jeremy has decades of consulting and performance improvement experience in business including at McKinsey & Co. Terri was in the corporate banking world for eighteen years before joining Jeremy over a decade ago. They are based in Chicago.

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