Business Brains

If you want great results, don't coddle your employees, challenge them

Posting in Sustainability

Happiness isn't the best motivator of your employees, according to a new book. Instead, give them difficult goals to achieve.

Looking for ways to get better performance out of our team in 2010? You should be, because a new book claims that about three-quarters of them are just skating by without pushing the limits of their capabilities.

But instead of worrying about making your employees happy to inspire great performances, worry instead about pushing them to the limit. That's the central message of the new book, "Hundred Percenters: Challenge Your Employees to Give it All, and They'll Give You Even More," by Leadership IQ founder Mark Murphy.

There are a whole bunch of tips in this book that are sort of counter-intuitive to things that you might have held close for a long time, like this one: Set HARD goals (this is the foil to the SMART goals philosophy that has been drilled into your head about making goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound). Here's Murphy's explanation of what this means.

H = Heartfelt (they existing to serve something bigger than ourselves)
A = Animated (they're so vividly described and presented that to not reach them would leave us wanting)
R= Required (they're as critical to our continued existence as breathing and water)
D = Difficult (they're so hard they'll test every one of our limits)

Kind of intimidating and inspiring at the same time, don't you think? Actually, kind of like a corporate sustainability job.

Here are other topics that Murphy covers:

  • Creating accountability
  • Correcting people when they fall short
  • Figuring out exactly what demotivates or motivates a specific employee
  • Converting the "talented terrors" who demoralize everyone else with their bad attitudes into people who WANT to contribute
  • Assessing employee satisfaction

In Murphy's view, giving 100 percent is kind of like an addiction. Once someone gets there, it's hard to slack off without feeling some kind of letdown or withdrawal.

"It's hard to abandon your quest for greatness once you've gotten a taste. Once you've realized that limitations are more fluid than fixed, that the deepest fulfillment comes from climbing the highest mountains, it's hard to go back to satisficing."

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure