Merge's Blog

How to motivate employees – the first tip in our new video series

At the end of last year, I promised that this year I would give you a series of frequent video blogs focusing specifically on zero and low cost ways to motivate, encourage and excite your people.  So that you can create positive and productive workplaces that inspire higher performance and greater commitment.  Today, I’m excited to be kicking off this brand-new series with one specific idea on how to motivate employees, and expect many more in the future in the weeks and months to come.

But before I give you today’s tip, I want to remind you about one fundamental concept in employee motivation which is …. different people are motivated by different things.  So don’t think of each strategy I share with you as the one that will be effective with all your employees.  Instead think of each one as one more tool that you can add to your motivation toolkit.

With that in mind, here is today’s motivation strategy: Be flexible.

Be flexible

When I say be flexible, I mean be flexible in the application of rules.  Your company no doubt has a rule book, or a policy manual; in some organizations it’s a VERY BIG policy manual.  And, all those rules are there for a reason.  But … as a supervisor or manager, one of the most powerful motivation tools you have available to you is that of flexibility in judgement.

Red rules vs blue rules

Some rules relate to health and safety and those are what I call red rules.  Red rules should never be broken.  For example, many of you know that I came from 14 years of leadership in a large multinational oil company.  We had a lot of rules there. And one of those rules was that you should never smoke at a gasoline station.  This is a red rule!  Because if you break this rule, there is the potential for injury or death.  Therefore, this is a rule that should never be broken!

But then companies also have a whole host of rules that have more to do with process and procedure and administration.  I call these blue rules.  And blue rules are where you can exercise your good judgment. Flexibility means not letting the rule book constrain you.  Blue rules are guidelines, so use these as a framework within which to exercise judgement.  For example, you may have a rule that says that employees must start work at 8 AM.  But if you have an employee who has to make childcare arrangements, and therefore wants to start at 8:30 AM instead, your flexibility can be a huge motivator for this employee!

Be flexible.  Sometimes you’ll have to take some flack from others if you choose to exercise flexibility with an employee, but understand this is a very powerful way to motivate your employees.

Well, what do you think about my perspective on blue rules being guidelines?  Agree or disagree?  Would love to hear your experiences and point of view.  Please share by commenting below.

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