As a leader of more than a dozen volunteer organizations and a founder of three not-for-profit organizations, I have extensive experience in trying to motivate people who are extremely talented but aren’t financially reimbursed for their time. In addition, as a supervisor in government work, I know the challenges of inspiring employees who are older and more experienced, or younger and may not feel that they have the skills or abilities to tackle a new responsibility.
This year, I’ve written about reward programs to incentivize the performance you want repeated, and I’ve covered using authentic compliments to build closer relationships with your team. But what about when you simply need to get a job done today? You don’t have time to create an employee recognition program or build that relationship with an employee whose nose you need on the metaphorical grindstone. The job needs to be done now and you may have to work with limited resources who are constrained by other work obligations. How can you do it?
First: Perform A “Sanity Check”
Before you step out of your office, perform a quick “sanity check” on the plan you want to put into action. I always recommend using S.M.A.R.T. goals, which helps to ensure that you’re giving someone a task they can accomplish. S.M.A.R.T. is a classic business acronym which stands for:
- Specific: The goal must be detailed and focused, not vague or too broad.
- Measurable: The goal must have targets that can identify under performance and over performance.
- Attainable/Achievable: The goal must be able to be accomplished with the time, budget and resources available.
- Relevant (Some use Realistic): The goal must meet the mission of the organization.
- Timely: The goal must have a deadline for completion.
When you perform this quick analysis, you can be confident that you have created a goal worth pursuing, and that will help you in the next phase.
Next, Get “I’ve Had Way Too Much Coffee!” Enthusiastic
Remember, at this point, your goal is exactly that; yours. You need to build enthusiasm and support for this solo mission to become a team effort, and this starts from within. Make sure you are aware and confident of the importance of this project to the agency, and that will be conveyed when you begin promoting it to your team. After all, how many times have you had to watch your manager try to push senior leadership’s “mission statement” on you? You can tell if they believe in it or if they’re just toeing the company line because they have to. You must be convinced that this is a mission-critical task that will make or break the organization. Make sure you communicate this with all of the answers you developed in making your goal S.M.A.R.T., so the team member knows exactly what is expected and when it is due.
Finally, Follow-up With Your Full Support
Don’t forget, you are delegating this task because the resource has the talent you need to successfully meet the objective. Ensure they have the resources and time commitment (especially if this is a multiple department or inter-agency project) to be successful. Check in with them at a frequency they designate, and do so in-person (do not send an email), to see how they are progressing. Ask how other teams are cooperating, or if they need additional support to accomplish the task. Most importantly ask; “are you still as excited about this task as I am?” And follow up with authentic compliments to help recognize the individual’s work and build professional rapport as the project progresses.
This Technique May Work Better Than You Expect
Recently, I needed a member of another team (who is brilliant, and is constantly tasked with more than his fair share of work) to help me out by developing an API (computer code that let’s one system talk to another) that was very important for my team’s success. It involved partnering with a third department in our agency to create a real-time link with our phone systems to ensure my disaster recovery alerting system always had the latest contact information to reach employees. After checking with another department supervisor to make sure my goal was S.M.A.R.T., I approached the employee with the task and explained how amazing it would be for our organization to have this information available at the touch of a fingertip. Before I could even complete my sales pitch, he was already telling me how excited he was to work on this project, and how the information could be used in other areas of government business. I’ve pledged him my full support and I will be checking in with him on a weekly basis (his requested follow-up period) to find out how I can help clear the way for this project.
How can you apply this method at your agency?
Daniel Hanttula is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.