Recognise This! – People can only motivate themselves so far without clear understanding of the task and expectations before them.

I greatly enjoy the regular New York Times column “Corner Office”, which features interviews with CEOs on their leadership styles, lessons learned and goals. A recent interview with Bing Gordon, partner with venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufiled and Byers, surprised me.

In the interview, Bing says:

    “My leadership style, which is that I was really impatient with under-motivated people — extremely impatient, to the point where I was counterproductive as a manager of underproductive people. And that hasn’t really changed.  If people need to be motivated, I’m no good.  … It’s just: “What?  You’re doing this thing and you’re not trying to do it really well?  I just don’t understand.”  As you grow up, you become more comfortable with your own peccadilloes, and I’m bad with people who aren’t self-motivated.  And now, when I see them coming, I run the other way.”

Self motivation is an interesting thing. Of course, Dan Pink and others talk about it a good deal in terms of Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose – an idea I’m much in alignment with as evidenced by the webinar discussion I had with Dan.

But I also believe self motivation relies on good communication:

1)      Do your employees know how to do their job/task really well?

2)      Do they know when they’ve done really well?

3)      Do they know why they should be doing it?

Having the answers to those three questions are critical to employees being able to deliver the results Bing seems to expect. And those are the responsibility of the manager to answer:

1)      Explaining clearly what’s expected of them or what defines a successfully completed project

2)      Recognition and praise of a job well done so employees understand what it is that is desired

3)      Communicating the greater meaning and purpose of the task.

Good managers cannot expect employees to simply intuit these answers. They must communicate to engage and yes – motivate – the employees to achieve their best.