Why you can't motivate other people

Thanks to Ann Iverson for linking up this classic McKinsey article about customer experience. We are reminded that you can manage your company culture and incentives, but you cannot actually motivate people--they decide to act based on their motivation. All you can do is set the stage for them. 

When your organizing your team, you have to anticipate a range of good and bad motivations, plan your own reactions, make some announcements, and consider the messages your own actions are sending. Incentives should allow you to elevate some people as role models without generating too much negative competition. It's one of the hardest jobs we have to do as leaders. 

McKinsey.com: The Moment of Truth in Customer Service, 2006-Feb by Marc Beaujean, Jonathan Davidson and Stacey Madge

As everyone knows, a range of motives drives human beings: from the purely selfish (fear and greed) to the more creative, altruistic, and personally fulfilling (problem solving, artistic excellence, service to others). Great customer service companies are invariably good at allowing people to discover their motivations themselves. After all, these companies know that most frontline employees actually want to help customers and to gain their goodwill. The trick is to allow these employees to express this urge while simultaneously restraining their selfish motives, which experience suggests are incompatible with good behavior at moments of truth.

"People will work hard when they are given the freedom to do the job the way they think it should be done, when they treat customers the way they like to be treated," observed Jim Nordstrom, the former copresident of Nordstrom. "When you take away their incentive and start giving them rules, boom, you've killed their creativity."


Asking to get (what Sarah said)

Medium: The art of asking: or, how to ask and get what you want, 2013-Sep-9 by Sarah Kathleen Peck [highlight added.]

Put the ask on the table. Make it easy to find. Make your wishes known.

  • Give alternatives if you’d like, but stick to two, maximum three. Sometimes it’s easier for people to say yes to one of two options rather than having to choose between many. Stick to just one or two things.
  • Start with small wins. Ask incrementally for specific, small things. Get a foot in the door. Don’t ask for the big thing until you’ve established rapport, responsibility and demonstrated follow-through with someone.

14. Pay attention to context and surrounding cues. People make decisions based on their physical surroundings—much more than they would probably believe.


New customer benefit: sharing back data

A few companies are already giving data back to their customers, such as Pandora and Waste Management. We should always be looking at the data in our order systems and CRM platform to see how it could strengthen our customer relationships. 

I believe that in the future, companies will be entitled to request the data we are collecting. Might as well get ahead of that curve. 

Venture Beat: Why smart companies will start giving back data to their users, 2015-Mar-7 by Brent Dykes of Adobe

Just like informed marketers make better decisions, so do informed customers. An automobile maker could monitor driving behaviors and share tips on how you could become a better driver (e.g., you rarely use the sixth gear when you should be, which will conserve x% more gas). A software provider such as Adobe could report on which features a user touches, how it compares to other users, and share how-to videos for those areas that aren’t being used. In both cases, the product user is enlightened and the company benefits from the positive halo effect created by proactive data sharing.


Practice, practice, practice

Sigh. I'm addicted to learning and not to practicing. It's really biting me now.

JamesClear.com: Stop Thinking and Start Doing: The Power of Practicing More, 2015-March

We assume that if we knew about a better strategy, then we would get better results. We believe that a new result requires new knowledge.

What I’m starting to realize, however, is that new knowledge does not necessarily drive new results. In fact, learning something new can actually be a waste of time if your goal is to make progress and not simply gain additional knowledge.

It all comes down to the difference between learning and practicing.


If you say Houston is 4th-largest, be prepared to be disappointed by our influence

Yesterday I was talking with some friends who were trying to raise publicity for a project and they tossed out the "4th largest city" meme with regard to Houston. 

When we are trying to be influential, we have to understand our status. Houston city limits may provide the meaningless 4th-largest designation, but in terms of influence, Houston is the 10th largest metropolis in America. As a metropolitan area, we are smaller than Dallas, WashingtonDC, Boston, SF and (OMG) Detroit. (Okay, we may be able to displace Detroit soon. But not Dallas, and certainly NOT Chicago.) 

Houston's weight in controlling the destiny of people is in tune with being TENTH-largest city. FOURTH-largest makes people outside Houston frown with confusion... 

JUST STOP. 4 million residents is NOT a big deal. We are NOT about to displace Chicago. That's BS, and if you try to defend this idea outside the city limits, you'll be recognized as a FOOL. 

Not-4th-but-10th

P.S. There is one way that "4th Largest" is not meaningless, and that's if you are Annise Parker. She can boast about managing the 4th largest city. But if you want to talk about the influence of Houston, you have to recognize it's only 10th largest U.S. metro area. City boundaries don't make that much difference. It's all about being a population center, and we're the 10th largest.