By Terry Wall

I come across a lot of examples of how NOT motivate employees, but this one has to be the worst.

A friend who’s a sales executive with a national company had a boss, the sales manager, who told him in an angry and threatening tone, “If you don’t get out there and close more sales, I won’t get my bonus!”

I couldn’t make this stuff up.

“It infuriated me,” my friend said.  “The jerk really has some nerve, trying to get ME to work harder for HIS bonus.”

So instead of getting my friend to think of ways to do better at sales, this sales “manager” has actually de-motivated him/her.

The thing is, avoiding this kind of mistake is pretty simple. I tell managers all the time, “It’s not about you.  It never is, so quit talking about YOU.  Focus on the other person.”

The idea is hard for some people to grasp.  Most aren’t as bad as the sales manager, but their comments have the same de-motivating effect.  This happens when we talk about an employee doing something that cuts into our budget, or reduces our profitability, or makes our lives more difficult that’s all we can think about.

But the employee, like my friend, goes away thinking, “Why should I care about his budget?”  Or profitability or any of the other things we say when we’re not thinking straight.

If you can’t focus on the other person, then make it about the customer:  We need to increase sales because the products and services we sell make customers’ lives better.

Take the spotlight off you, and put it where it belongs. That’s how to motivate and engage your direct reports.

Then the employee walks away thinking, “You know, she’s right.  I should try to do better.  I want to do better.  I WILL do better.”

Keep leading the way!


Terry Wall is president of T.G. Wall Management Consulting in Washington Township.