Even ants work more harmoniously. Why aren’t your employees producing results?

Even ants work more harmoniously. Why aren’t your employees producing results?

Three misconceptions about the team that managers and entrepreneurs need to rethink

When we create a business, we imagine it quite idealized. For example, suppose that all employees work in harmony, like ants building an anthill. Or like bees – a hive. Let’s imagine that everyone knows their role in the company, what result they should bring. And the efforts of each employee merge into a single miracle-stream that increases profits from month to month.

And there is no confusion. No one tries to shift responsibility to others or avoid their task. There is only a clear mechanism where one person harmoniously complements another.

However, it often turns out that for many managers such a scenario is visible only on the pages of management books. They describe the amazing culture of Netflix or the turquoise in SmackVilla. Reading these examples and being inspired by the results they give, I really want to borrow them and land them in my company.

But as soon as the entrepreneur closes the book and returns to the reality of his project, he faces constant obstacles. Employees perform their tasks casually, as if they do not particularly need it. They do not understand priorities, complicate simple tasks and play ping-pong with responsibility instead of a ball. To keep the team on the right track, the manager spends a lot of energy and time. “Is everyone’s business like this? Does everyone live like this?

At this moment, everything around begins to hint: no, not everyone lives like this. In time, an advertisement appears in the format “I exited the operating system and now I will teach you too.” Some people buy a magic pill, some bypass it, some really manage to “get out”. But in the end, many companies still do not start to work harmoniously. At least until the entrepreneur changes his attitude to what is happening in business.

Well, we know the mistakes that prevent many people from setting up a team.

Employees have to be pressured, otherwise they don’t work

One of the main symptoms that make an entrepreneur think about the fact that things are going dubious – employees perform tasks due to force and, as it were, “for nothing”. At such moments, managers often tighten their grip even more, micromanagement and other dubious things begin. As a result, a bleak picture emerges: it seems that everyone is working, the tasks are being carried out, but the atmosphere is more reminiscent of hard labor, and not the turquoise company that was written about in the books.

To motivate employees, you have to use the whip in the form of strict deadlines, control and motivation systems. To squeeze the result by force, as if from an unwanted slave. But the results of the team do not start to grow at this moment (which is not surprising). No enthusiasm appears, engagement falls or at best remains low.

Okay, but how to act then? Change the motivation system? Raise salaries? How else to make people work with more inspiration?

To understand, we suggest looking into the very essence of human nature. In the book “Drive”, Daniel Pink, based on many studies, argues that true human motivation is based on three elements: autonomy, mastery and purpose. External incentives, coercion with money or punishment are ineffective for complex tasks that require creativity and conceptual thinking.

To put it simply, we are not created for blind obedience to some boss, but for self-realization. This is the instinct that drives us – the desire to make a choice of our own free will, not because of coercion.

Think of a child who is asked to get into a room – he will resist as much as he can. But if you go for a trick and offer him a game of “who can fill the basket with toys faster”, then he is more likely to plunge into it without sparing any effort. The same logic applies in adulthood. Employees enthusiastically take on projects and tasks that are close to their personal interests and values. But following instructions if they don’t see any sense in them is hard work.

The design team can happily work on corporate identity for a prestigious brand. But at the same time, it is banal to ignore routine editing of layouts for insignificant (according to them) orders.

Copywriters work with great inspiration on an interesting brand project that they like. But writing primitive announcements based on boring wildberry card templates is a torture that is easier to hand over to AI.

If we summarize all of the above, then the pressure on employees will not correct the systemic problem of “emptiness in the eyes and indifferent work”. It arises due to the lack of a motivation system (and it’s not about money), which takes into account the interests and goals of each employee.

If you are in a situation where employees have to be “pressured” to work – work with the system and honestly answer yourself: does it take into account the interests and motivation of each team member? Are the personal goals and interests of employees aligned with the company’s goals or the opposite?

The team does not understand the depth of tasks and priorities

Another common problem of managers is that the team does not understand the essence of the work, does not understand what is important for the project, and what has a small effect, is not a priority and can be “dismissed”.

Even when all tasks are scheduled, priorities are set, strategic plans and visions are passed down to line employees, executors manage to complicate everything, invent idiosyncrasies and follow the wrong course like blind kittens.

If we take an IT company, then it can look like this there. The development team constantly questions the requirements of new functionality from the customer. They begin to fantasize about how it can be done differently, complicating elementary tasks with unnecessary architecture where it is not needed. And the project manager has to painfully convince and return everyone to the original task of the customer.

Such a situation can only go down on the brakes at first. But time will pass, and it will not disappear anywhere, but will begin to itch even more. Like a reliable fly early in the morning. Sooner or later, managers come to the fact that something must be done about it. Will it be necessary to additionally train people to better understand tasks and set priorities? Isn’t that the point?

In fact, the root of this problem most often lies in the lack of responsibility on the part of employees. Not nominal, but real responsibility. And here we turn to the literature:

Теория самодетерминации (Self-Determination Theory) Эдварда Л. Деси и Ричарда М. Райана гласит, что одна из трех врожденных психологических потребностей человека - это потребность в автономии, т.е. ощущении себя источником собственных действий. Когда людям предоставляется автономия и ответственность, это повышает их внутреннюю мотивацию и вовлеченность.

Now in plain language. When people do not feel like masters of the process, they work according to the principle “you are the boss, I am the fool.” Follow instructions formally, without delving into the context. They have no particular interest in predicting the consequences of their actions. After all, in the event of a mistake or failure, they will not have to answer.

The team begins to understand the details and subtleties of the work only when it takes responsibility for the overall (or individual) result. When everyone is aware of their role and influence on the ultimate goal. In such a situation, people themselves are interested in the nuances, because their inner feeling of victory or defeat directly depends on their actions.

Therefore, if the team does not understand the depth of the tasks and priorities, it is worth digging not into the employees themselves, but to look for what cultivates a superficial approach and formalism in work. Most often, this is due to the fact that people lack real (and not nominal) personal responsibility for the result.

The employee does not work for the benefit of the company, he acts only in his own interests

Another common way to rationalize one’s own management failures is to believe that employees are not interested in the overall good of the company. “Instead of taking and solving tasks, they constantly bombard you with questions, look for flaws, offer to redo everything” – an entrepreneur can struggle.

For example, the marketing department is briefed to conduct an advertising campaign for the launch of a new “some cool product”. And here it begins. Instead of taking concrete steps to implement the campaign, employees face inexplicable resistance. They begin to doubt the initial data – is it worth doing at all, or is the idea sufficiently worked out, and let’s throw it into the backlog next year?

And how can one not ask the question: “Do people really want to work in this company and on its projects?” One gets the impression that if they wanted to, they would offer ideas and not look for problems. And if so, then the employees are definitely not interested in the success of the company and pursue only personal goals: work less, earn more.

And here you should ask yourself another question: why should people put the interests of the company above their own?

One must honestly admit that by definition they work based on their own interests and values. If we return to the same theory of self-determination that was mentioned earlier, one of the basic psychological needs of a person is the need for autonomy, i.e. opportunities to independently determine their activities. When people feel the consistency of activities with their internal interests and values, their internal motivation increases.

We tend to devote ourselves completely to those things that we feel are our personal, close to us in spirit. And vice versa – we try to avoid externally imposed tasks that seem alien to us. Even our brains often go “dumb” when we sit down to do these tasks.

Let’s take, for example, a person who works on his own project in his spare time, which does not yet bring in money. And when at work he is assigned a code modification project for a client’s project, in which he does not see much sense, then he does not have much enthusiasm anymore. It would be faster to finish with the work task and move on to your project.

When the management of the company sends instructions from above to the team, without taking into account the personal interests and values ​​of the performers, an inevitable value conflict arises. It should not be surprising that a person will only imitate work, because it is difficult to work on something that is foreign and does not correspond to internal motivation.

If the idea “the employee does not work for the benefit of the company, he acts only in his own interests” floats in his head, the solution lies in the area of ​​coordination of these interests on both sides. People work in their own interests and love those matters that correspond to their interests. Therefore, it is worth “matching” the interests of the company with the interests of the employees.

Apparently, with all this material, we wanted to emphasize the key idea:

Most often, managers think that the desynchronization of the team’s work is related to the employees. But this is often not the case. The reason lies in the management environment created by the manager. And in how and which people he recruits to the team.

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