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Thoughts on motivation and business culture

 1 October 2021     Donald Cooper 

Simply put, motivation is whatever causes people to act. It involves the biological, emotional, social, and cognitive forces that activate behavior. It will be different for everyone and it will be different for each person at different times and phases of their lives.

In business, if our staff choose the behaviours we like, we say they’re motivated. If they choose behaviours we don’t like, we say they’re not motivated.

So, as managers or leaders, our job is to find employees who are motivated by the behaviours that will move our business forward and then give them good reasons, the right tools and the business culture that encourages them to continue to choose the behaviours we want them to exhibit.

Here are four tips to help make that happen:

Give your employees meaningful work. Meaningful to the business and meaningful to them.

First, explain to them, and constantly reinforce, why their job, performed excellently, is meaningful and important to customers, to the business, to the rest of the team and to the planet or community, if those elements are involved in their job. Surveys show the number one reason employees stop trying is they believe they don’t make a difference. So, make sure they know they do make a difference.

Then, make their job meaningful to them. Make it part of their journey. What do they want from work and from life? The answer will be different for everyone. You need to know why your staff comes to work and what’s important to them. Take time to have these conversations with your employees. What do they want their career and their life to look like in three to five years and how can you help them get there? Does this take some time to do? Absolutely! Is it worth the time? Absolutely!

In my experience, people who don’t want to grow their lives, also don’t want to help you grow the business. They’re just not into growth. Can they be motivated and rescued? Perhaps, but it will take a number of courageous conversations and a lot of coaching. One of our Biz Coaching clients recently had great success rescuing a toxic supervisor …but it ain’t easy.

Teach, coach and encourage them to master their current job so that it’s done extraordinarily well. But also so they develop a lifelong respect for and commitment to mastery in everything they do. That’s how extraordinary businesses, careers and lives are built in today’s complicated and competitive world. ‘Good enough is not good enough and mediocrity is no longer an option.

Create a culture of respect, energy and joy. This means hiring people who have respect, energy and joy. You can’t build a first-class business by hiring second-rate people. Business is challenging but it should also be fun. Without that balance it becomes a dreary, soul- destroying place to work. Good people leave and your mediocre people stay and take ‘I don’t give a damn pills’.

Every person we hire either honours and strengthens our culture or erodes it.  So, hire carefully.  Then teach, reinforce and authentically live your culture and values, every day.

Celebrate and reward ‘the wins’ – large and small. Whether it’s a sales commitment met, a project completed, some great customer feedback received or a team member getting engaged, celebrate! Celebrating with pizza is even better! People really want to win and be part of a winning team. If they feel like they’re losing, morale will go down and staff turnover will go up. Create a culture of celebration!

So, there you have it. Four tips to encourage each person on your team to choose the behaviours that will move your business and their lives forward. What action will you take to implement these and when will you start? For help in creating a ‘Winning Culture’, download my Biz Tool #A-18 by clicking here, no charge.

Here’s something else to think about:

My business quote of the week: “One of the toughest decisions you’ll ever face when something isn’t working in your business or life is choosing whether to walk away or to try harder! On one hand, we’re told to ‘never give up’. But it’s also said we learn from our mistakes. So, if we never admit to the mistake and walk away, we won’t learn from it and move forward.”

Live streaming on October 6: I’ll be the opening keynote speaker at the one-day, live-streamed and virtual Customer Service Leadership Summit. The list of expert presenters includes marketing guru Terry O’Reilly, star of CBC Radio’s hit show Under the Influence.

My topic is Customer Ownership Through Service Leadership! For information about how this summit will help you create service leadership and grow your bottom line go to its web site at

That’s it for this week. Stay safe and live brilliantly!

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This HGO article was written by:
Donald Cooper
Donald Cooper

Donald Cooper has been both a world-class manufacturer and an award-winning retailer. Now, as a business speaker and coach he helps business owners and managers throughout the world to rethink, refocus and re-energize their business to create compelling customer value, clarity of purpose and long-term profitability.

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Home Goods and its accompanying newsletter - HGO This Week - covers the furniture, bedding, appliances, consumer electronics, accessories, lamps and lighting and floor coverings product sectors of the big ticket home goods market in Canada. HGO is also a forum for the dissemination of market research and hard-hitting articles on best practices for Canadian retailers.

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