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Antoinette Oglethorpe

Antoinette Oglethorpe Ltd


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Blog: Five ways to get demotivated staff committed to their employer’s future


Effective leaders and managers need to have enthusiastic followers. 

Since people are the organisation’s key source of competitive advantage, you need every single employee to be fully committed to taking the company forward and doing everything they can to make it a success in the future. 
Unfortunately, the recession forced many companies to alter their course. In recession-altered workplaces, employees are often adrift, not really clear what the future holds for them or the company and not sure if or how they can make a difference.
This is where it becomes crucial to create a positive picture of the future that enthuses and energises the workforce and gives employees something to believe in.
Imagination can have a powerful effect on motivation and belief. It can also have a direct effect on behaviour. Why do you think golf coaches advise their students to always visualise good shots, rather than think about all the ways the shot can be miss-hit? 
Professional athletes and coaches in all sports know that imagining positive future scenarios is a powerful way to increase the likelihood of achieving a positive result. People become excited by their idea of a positive future, they become motivated to make it a reality and their behaviour becomes more focused on achieving the desired outcome. 
In the same way, you and the wider workforce will have a much better chance of success if everyone creates a picture of the future that leads to positive outcomes. So how should you go about creating a positive future?
1. Involve people
The process of creating a positive future can be energising and engaging. Participation in creating their own professional future – and the future of their working environment – is often the critical factor in ensuring employees buy-in to the vision and take responsibility for making it happen.
2.  Start with strengths
Even though you’ve gone through a difficult time, you and the company have survived. Establishing a strong foundation of strengths reminds people of their skills and achievements and provides a starting point of positivity and optimism. Things to think about and discuss are:
  • What do we know about the strengths of the company, your team, each individual?
  • In spite of all the things that we might want to change, what are we happy with?
  • What do we not want to lose as we move forward?
3. Describe the perfect future
If your organisation could be everything you dreamed, how would it be? Imagine the future as you want it to be, and then describe what you see in specific, detailed terms. In other words, look “back” from your success and see what helped you succeed in getting there. 
When this exercise is done with a team, they will typically see world-class processes, culture, technology, people and performance. Importantly though, this attractive picture of the future doesn’t just come from anywhere; because you started with strengths, it is built on the foundations of what you know you can do, meaning that the imagined perfect future is essentially both desirable and achievable. 
4. Help each person identify the “What’s in it for me?” factor
Creating a positive future as a team is a great opportunity for synergy. However, while the whole team may have the same positive picture of the future, the benefits of making it a reality are likely to be different for each person.  
To really gain commitment and collective action, each employee needs to fully appreciate its meaning for them personally see what is in it for them personally.
5.  Finally, demonstrate your own personal sense of excitement about the positive future you’ve created
Constantly express your personal confidence in ultimate success and endlessly seek, find and use examples of success and progress to build a sense of momentum.
Walt Disney was a genius at getting his employees committed to his organisation’s future. When he started his theme parks he was clear on their purpose and their strength. He said “We’re in the happiness business”. That is very different from being in the theme park business. 
Walt Disney’s picture of the future was clear. “Keep the same smile on people’s faces when they leave the park as when they enter”. He didn’t care whether a guest was in the park two hours or ten hours. He just wanted to keep them smiling. 
A clear picture of the future drives everything employees do with their customers and inspires excitement, commitment and ownership for making that picture a reality.

Antoinette Oglethorpe, founder of leadership development and career management consultancy, Antoinette Oglethorpe Ltd.

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3 Responses

  1. Control the Controllables
    I see your point Karen and you’re right. It would be inappropriate to involve people in discussions where they really have no influence. The danger I see in environments where people feel they are being “done to” is that the sense of helplessness becomes all pervading. A number of my public sector clients are struggling with how to motivate their staff during such a period of uncertainty. While not ignoring employees concerns they find it a great help for them and their people to define those things they can influence and invest their time and effort in “controlling the controllables”.

  2. demotivated staff

    Hi Karen,


    I see your point but I’m not sure I entirely agree with your Titanic comparison. After all, if as a manager you now have to get more done with less people, (sadly not unique to just the public sector), there’s a very strong argument for involving those people in the restructuring of their workloads. It helps you play to people’s strengths, ensures everyone understands the size of the task facing them and should increase levels of ‘buy in’. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you should pretend that the redundancies of colleagues has been a good or fun thing, but an acceptance that it has happenned and the organisation has to recover, for the sake of the remaining employees and their clients/suppliers, will probably suffice.


    As the article states "Even though you’ve gone through a difficult time, you and the company have survived. Establishing a strong foundation of strengths reminds people of their skills and achievements and provides a starting point of positivity and optimism", which I thought was a good point.


    Sometimes the hardest part of dealing with a unmotivated staff is getting them to look forward, convincing them that whilst change is inevitable it doesn’t always have to be bad news (difficult in some sectors, I know). Ideally, change = opportunity, but I appreciate that not everyone will see it like that.

  3. optimistic

    I looked at this blog against the background of all the other stories on the home page for HRZone – so we have the dismantling of national pay bargaining, the potential of additional Sunday working hours and a "mixed response" to the no-fault compensation deal.

    So while I don’t particularly disagree with the steps you outline, I would also add one more – to ensure that you put things into context, and look at things as they are. Offering public sector workers the opportunity to be involved at this juncture could well be seen as the engagement equivalent of shifting chairs on the Titanic.  A healthy dose of realism may not always be welcome, but might a) give you a different starting place and b) prevent even further cynicism in employees.



    — Karen Drury

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