Many managers struggle with how to motivate employees. The problem is that people are different and what motivates one person may not motivate another. I’ve discovered that if you listen closely, people will tell you how they’d like to be motivated.
One morning, while reading the newspaper, I saw an article about our local food bank needing emergency donations. I wanted to do something to help and decided to make it a community service project for my employees.
The next day, I gathered everyone into our warehouse and challenged them to collect 500 pounds of food.
“What do we get if we do it?” Asked one employee.
“You get the satisfaction of helping others,” I said.
“Will you wear a dress if we meet the goal?” Asked one employee. I heard snickering in the audience and I was a bit frustrated by this exchange.
“Are you serious?” I asked.
“I’m serious as a heart attack,” he said. “I would have asked you to shave your head, but it’s too late for that.” This time the laughter was more pronounced.
Without thinking, I blurted out, “Yes, I will wear a dress.” The audience grew quiet. I guess they didn’t think I would call their bluff.
“Really?” said the employee who issued the challenge.
“I will do it,” I said. “But you have to bring in twice as much food. Make it 1000 pounds and we have a deal.”
After some discussions among themselves, the employees agreed.
I went back to my office and questioned the wisdom of my impulsive decision. In the back of my mind, I was hoping that they would fall short of the goal. We’d still collect some items for the food bank and I wouldn’t have to wear a dress. Win/Win!
To my surprise, my challenge motivated the team beyond my expectations. I knew I was in trouble when one employee drove into the parking lot with his pickup truck filled with canned goods. Soon more pickup trucks filled with food arrived in the parking lot. We had to clear out space in the warehouse to store the donations.
Although I wasn’t keen on wearing a dress, I was pleased with the atmosphere that my challenge created. Employees were having more fun, collaborating, and being more productive. It’s funny how a common goal can bring people together.
On the last day of the challenge, I gathered the employees in the warehouse again. This time, I entered wearing a blue, floral print dress. The employees cheered and yelled my name. I was a little embarrassed, but I was proud of my team for surpassing our goal. In fact, we had to rent a large U-haul truck to carry all the items to the Food Bank. It was one of the largest single donations they received that year.
I could have easily disregarded the employee’s suggestion to wear a dress. If I had, I would have missed a huge opportunity to improve employee morale, motivate my team, and make a difference in the community.
You may not have to wear a dress to motivate your employees, but you have to do something. Give compliments, listen to their ideas, include them in the decision-making process. These small steps can have a huge impact on your employees and motivate them to do incredible things.