Don’t try to Motivate your team, Employee Engagement is what matters: What and Why (Part 1)

I just want to make something clear. For what matters most, nobody can motivate you but yourself.

Employers, Managers, Team Leaders, Supervisors have the responsibility to engage employees. They couldn’t motivate them even if they wanted to.

Employee engagement means that Managers are responsible for creating the opportunities and the framework within which the employees can create, thrive and eventually succeed.

Motivation is something that comes within.

This outlook brings a new meaning to the interview question:

Are you self-motivated?

It makes it maybe the most important question one needs to pay attention to!

It also bring another perspective to the excellent motto from Mark Horstman and Mike Auzenne of Manager Tools, that:

“Hiring is the most important activity that a manager does”.

So, why employee engagement is so important and how can we apply this concept and reap the benefits? 


The caveat is simple. More pay, perks and bonuses (carrots and sticks) may not be as effective as we may think in engaging and “motivating” people but if an organisation gets them wrong they can surely become de-motivators.

As Daniel Pink puts it in his excellent book DRIVE:

“Of course, the starting point for any discussion of motivation in the workplace is a simple fact of life: People have to earn a living. Salary, contract payments, some benefits, a few perks are what I call baseline rewards. If someone’s baseline rewards aren’t adequate or equitable, her focus will be on the unfairness of her situation and the anxiety of her circumstance. …..You’ll get very little motivation at all”.


Provided that the caveat condition is satisfied, why the use of extrinsic means (pay, perks, rewards or punishments) does not work for what matters most? Let’s look at the research:

Quoting from the book Drive by Daniel Pink:

“Researchers such as Harvard Business School’s Teresa Amabile have found that external rewards and punishments both carrots and sticks can work nicely for algorithmic [routine] tasks. But they can be devastating for heuristic [non-routine, creative] ones“.

As I discussed previously here, been innovative as an individual or an organisation is a key for remaining relevant and successful in the future.

So, the successful delivery of knowledge work (as Drucker calls blue collar work) which is prevalent in the Western World, will rely largely on heuristic [non-routine] tasks i.e. innovation and non linear thinking.

Therefore, the focus is on non-routine knowledge work that is harder to be outsourced and hence, will remain the primary aspect of job growth in the developed World.

Research from McKinsey detail that routine (labour intensive) work accounts for 30% job growth versus non-routine work (knowledge intensive) job growth of  70% (details for US market). I believe that in Australia it may account for even more than70% but I am not aware of any specific research results yet.

As we saw from the research, extrinsic motivation (carrots and sticks) do not stimulate the non-routine kind of work. But this depends on what Amabile calls:

the “intrinsic motivation principle of creativity”

Intrinsic motivation (self-motivation) can be stimulated by employee engagement.

Quite simply, the traditional motivation methods (carrots and sticks) do not work for the work that matters most.

In the 2nd part of the blog I discuss the So What aspect of employee engagement and on the 3rd part I will also provide some practical tips of how to to stimulate it within the workplace.

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Don’t be busy, be productive

The term Busy is probably one of the most used words in the daily business communication routine.

“How are you keeping? Busy!”

Well! Reflecting on the usefulness of this perception, I think that it is time we should try to change our focus and verbalize our response in another way.

-How are you keeping?


But, what are the differences between the two?

What is the difference between PRODUCTIVE vs BUSY?

I think that the main difference is the consciousness, intent and planning placed on the word Productive. This is important because, as Dewight Middleton once said:

“We tend to treat labels as real, rather than as representations of reality.”

Well, interpreting this in the business environment Productive is a positive / result oriented term that changes our focus.

You can think of it as a self fulfilling prophecy, positive labelling or the first step towards shifting our mindset to be creative and do the right things first.

Becoming conscious about our actions and project delivery is a good first step towards becoming more creative and innovative. As discussed also here, innovation is a key skill for the future (read also here and here for a practical guide to innovation).

The word Busy has a fuzzy element to it.

It is like the word multitasking, another overused term that brings to mind professionals, in the form of the Indian goddess Kali, that try to answer phone calls, type emails while completing a study all at the same time (but more on this at a later post).

On the other hand, the word productive has the conscious intent build into it e.g.

Productive towards achieving what?

The great Peter Drucker explained Productivity (for knowledge workers) in this way:

“Productivity for the knowledge worker means the ability to get the right things done. It means effectiveness.” Peter Drucker – The Effective Executive

Hence, the conscious intent as implied in the word Productive is a key to increasing effectiveness.

First Actions Towards a Productive Mindset

A great way to slowly shift your mindset is to plan the week and the day with productivity and effectiveness as your primary targets.

There are various blogs dealing with this matter (a great one is but in essence, two tips make for a great start:

Plan the week ahead

Every Friday, take 15-30 minutes out – preplan some quiet time and note down the answer to the question:

What are the three most important projects I needs to progress/achieve next week?

A great blogger, Michael Hyatt, has suggested to even create an Ideal Week schedule.

Plan the day

Every morning before you turn on your computer note down the answer to the question:

What are the three tasks I must complete today?

So, how are you being productive today?

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The first step to a successful negotiation.

There are many guides that provide expertise and tips on how to prepare, plan and conduct a negotiation.

Reflecting on my experience, the essential first step to a successful negotiation is this:

Embrace fully the second position.


In a negotiation there are effectively three positions:

1st position: Your position

2nd position: Your counterpart’s position (i.e. the other side) and

3rd position: The position from an independent observant of the negotiation.

In a lot of negotiations that fail, I have distinguished that, the outcome is dependant on a very simple element. The fact that one or both sides do not fully understand the drivers, concerns and/or the position of their counterpart (the other negotiating side).

Effective communication is the responsibility of both sides. However, even if the other party is a poor communicator you need to make every effort to understand fully their position and give it a fair go.

In essence, how can you expect your counterpart (the other side) in a negotiation, to listen and understand, when you may not have spent the time and energy to understand his/her positions, concerns, pressures and targets?

Hence, a simple and effective advice is to try to see things from the other’s perspective.

Then built a value proposition that:

i) creates value for the other party as well as,

ii) covers your own requirements.

Understanding the business, the drivers, the cost elements and the market is the key, the first step towards a successful negotiation.

Trust, which is the core element of a successful relationship, depends on it. As a consequence, successful category management and effective sourcing strategies rely on it as well.

This is a simple piece of advice that is often overlooked.

Did you embrace the second position the last time you were at a negotiation table or, you had to work with a supplier or customer to resolve and issue or create a solution. What would you have done differently?

Innovation: SCAMPER – A Practical Guide – Part 2

In the previous blog I discussed the different facets of innovation and introduced SCAMPER as a great creative thinking tool for everyday use by all of us. I also looked at the first two of SCAMPER’s methods. Substitution and Combination. Now, let’s look at the rest – SCAMPER.

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Adapt something to it

As part of my team’s practices we are developing a tradition of making small presentations about our successes and projects to the rest of the team. These presentations have been adapted to have different uses. We use those for:

a) sharing successful stories, best practices and knowledge on complex projects with the rest of the team,

b) as training, after the presentation I provide feedback to the presenter on how well the presentation went and what could be improved in the future based on a specific checklist developed.

Hence, one simple event can have multiple uses and have value on a 360 degree ankle. At a later post I will share the list put together for assessing the presentation in a quantifiable and very straight forward way.

Back to SCAMPER though and Adaptation: You can extend the thinking by asking questions like: What other contexts can I put my concept on? What can I emulate?

Modify or Magnify it.

Think about cappuccinos and lattes (the coffee lovers in Melbourne will understand). On one hand, a Cappuccino is 1/3 coffee, 1/3 milk and 1/3 froth. On the other, the latte is 1/3 coffee, 2/3 milk. Not much of a difference but, some people are avid supporters of one or the other. I am sure the person that came up with the idea is feeling quite proud about the effect a bit more milk (or a bit less froth) has.

In this context you can also think of what else could be added, extra features, extra functions, frequency, what can be exaggerated and so on!

Put it to some other use

An interesting example could be the use of a T-shirt as a personal message board – I am sure you have seen them around. Another familiar one would be the use of Facebook for company marketing whereas the platform was first conceived for personal interaction.

Eliminate something

I guess over time we all start to get full calendars, filled with meetings and “urgent” projects. A good exercise is the following: Every 3 or 6 months go through the list of meetings and standard reports and establish a) what adds value b) what is absolutely necessary c) what can be consolidated or merged into another report or process and d) what can be delegated? Then modify, scrap, merge and delegate what is necessary. Repeat after a set period as a matter of process.

In this context you can also think of what else could be omitted, subtracted, what rules could be eliminated/consolidated / made simpler, what is not necessary, what can be delegated.

Reverse of Rearrange it

Michalko, in Thinkertoys, mentions a great example worth repeating:

“Consider the alphabet: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ. These twenty six marks have been arranged in countless ways to make you laugh, cry, worry, wonder, question, love, hate, and ponder. They’ve been rearranged to form the words in Hamlet, Tom Sawyer….and the general theory of relativity”.

I think the above example says it all. When you think about how 26 marks are used and the diversity they provide, this truly provides perspective that as the saying goes:

“You are only limited by your own imagination”

In this context you can also think if we can change the sequence, the pace, the schedule, the pattern.

Well, that is SCAMPER. For inspiration, please also have a look at a great compilation of quotes about innovation here. You can also look at a range of questions and thoughts on SCAMPER here.

Happy SCAMPERing!!

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