How to Motivate an Unmotivated Employee.

I was thinking about this as I was watching the new season of the Biggest Loser. Normally, I am not a big fan of Jillian Michaels and I was a bit disappointed to see her back on the show. But oh my goodness, I love how she has been this season so far. She has been very tough on the competitors and unfortunately they have not been able to keep up. Whats funny is that as I was watching the show with my wife, she looks at me and says, “that reminds me of you.” Now what really bothered me about the first two episodes where she lost 3 competitors was that she never got around to the point where she would try and have the competitors understand that they had an opportunity of a life time and that if they could just conquer something small, then they can conquer anything.

And this is where my thoughts about unmotivated employees comes in. In my experience what it all really comes down to is the big question, “why are you here?” In addition a lot of the employees I have inherited always tell me how there has been a big lack of communication between them and their superior. And again, it comes back to the question, “why are you here?” What a lot of managers don’t realize when they inherit employees is that each one of their employees is different and they all have different needs. As silly as that is to say, that’s what I have come to find out.

There was once an electronics retailer I was working for, a manager from another store of the same chain, said to me, “I need to get rid of somebody.” It was all due to performance, unfortunately his employees just were not up to par at the moment, so I asked him to send me his bottom performer. At this point I didn’t really know that manager that well but I was willing to work with somebody to help them be successful in their job. So a few days later the store gets a new employee, he was a transfer from another store and he was 1 of the worst performing employees, out of about 100 he was about 98th. The first thing I asked him is, “Do you know why you are here?” he said to me. “No, I was just told to come here today.” I told him something along the line of, “It was either fire you, or send you over here.”  Followed by the big question, “Did you know that?” his answer was, “No.” One of the things I have always tried to be is honest and direct with employees. It was not until then that this employee realized how serious the situation was. His job was based on his sales performance, how much he could sell per customer and how well he could add on warranties and accessories. I began by introducing myself and let him know about myself and what kind of job and management experience I have. Then we talked for a bit about him and I asked him about his previous job experience, education and life experience. And then I asked him how all that translates into his job. At the end of it all I asked the magical question, “Why are you here?” Two weeks later when the new employee rankings came out this employee was suddenly in the top 20. So I decided to share the good news with him and again I asked him the question, “Why are you here?” He was excited about the good news and understood that he could conquer something. Two months later when the new employee rankings came out he was still in the top 20(12th I believe). I shared the good news with him again and again we had another conversation almost like the first but went further into detail as I once again asked him the question, “Why are you here?” After understanding the hard work he had put into his job and seeing the results in a consistent pattern he saw the bigger picture about who he was and why he was there.

In the same store there was this other kid. He was a forced transfer. The manager for this store got a call to let him know he was getting a new employee which was transferring in    from who knows where. He was a good kid, smart, about 22 years old, extremely capable with lots of potential. But there was one problem, he felt that because he was young he didn’t need to be responsible. Through the many chats we had in about a 3 month course he finally came to understand what I was trying to teach him. In these chats I would always ask the question, “Why are you here?” through out this time he would fight me in telling me that he was doing his job and that nobody was better than him at his job. Now I believe very firmly that for somebody to tell you what to do, they need to be able to do it too and do it better than you. This is where my sales skills come into play. I would show him how he would miss out on sales because he was too busy not wanting to help the customer. He would attempt to talk to customers who were “just looking” and when I would tell him to follow up he would tell me he already had. So I would talk to the customers and time after time the customer would walk out spending a few hundred dollars. I would use these instances to show this employee that he was not the best because I could do his job better than him. Through the many conversations I had with him I made it very clear that he had an opportunity of a lifetime just like those contestants of The Biggest Loser show and he was about to throw that away.

Whats incredible about the top 2 stories is that they were both happening at around the same time. And to top it off there was a third employee he also came from another store as a bottom performer. I had the usual ,”Why are you here?” chat with him.

Now I had to put in a lot of work with the manager of this store too while all this was going on. I also had the ,”Why are you here?” chat with him. In the end what it all came down to was answering the question, “Why are you here?” Each one of the above individuals had different reasons and aspirations. And the answer to the question changed as their understanding of what their job was matured.

I always ask the question and at through the chats and with time I enable people to understand the question and I help them answer it. Whatever the answer is I always bring it back to something like this(of course the actual conversation depends on what the actual answers are to the questions):

“So why are you here? I want you to understand that if you are just here because you have nothing better to do, I don’t need you here. If you are here because you just want to collect a paycheck, I will cut down your schedule to the bare minimum. I want you to understand that I can find somebody who can do your job better than you and for a better price. So what is it that you want? If you are in school, what is your major?  If you are using this place as a stepping stone for your future, why not be the best here? If you can be successful here you can carry your experience and your success onto what your really want to do. If you want to grow in this company and move up, why would somebody want to promote you if you are not the best?  If you can be the best here then you should be able to carry that over onto your school work. There is no reason why should have anything less than an ‘A’ in any of your classes. If you are looking for a better job, then do your best here so that you can also do your best at your next job. Whether it’s here or any where else, I just want you to be successful. At the end of the day, it doesn’t affect me any if you try or not. It only affects you. I spend this time here with you because I want you to understand that once you over come something, there is nothing that can interfere in what you want to do.”

In the end, the answer to , “Why are you here?” should only be, “To be the best.” Realistically, why would you want to be anything less than your best? If you have kids don’t your kids deserve to have the best mom or dad? doesn’t your significant other deserve to have the best partner? Don’t your parents deserve to have the best kids?

One of the biggest reasons for not wanting to be the best is fear- fear of failing. If you fail at your best there is no shame to be had. If your going to fail, fail because you did your best and not because you sold yourself short.

As for the 3 employees and the manager of this electronics store, they are second best in their respective district, coming in second to a store whose manager also reached out to me at about the same time and was ready to give up at the job.

None of this is to toot my own horn. At the end of the day the work of each individual is their own pride. I am just proud of them when they realized that there is nothing in this earth that they can’t do. And how you see your job can translate into your personal life. The first employee being a heavy man decided he could stick to a diet to lose some weight, he had tried several times before he told me but it had not worked he just couldn’t stick to it. The difference this time was that he saw what consistent hard work did, it made him happy made his pockets fuller and allowed him to lose so far 36lbs.  The second employee understood why I would push him so hard to understand that good enough is not good enough. He went from failing some of his classes and barely passing others to focusing on school and be studious so that he could be the best that he could be in his education. And the third employee, he is now looking to start up his own shop within the passions of his life and has asked me to help him build it.

As always I am always willing to help. And If you are somebody who has a company that needs some help get in touch with me, I am here to serve.


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