Managing People - Motivation
Creating a Sense of Urgency

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Creating a Sense of Urgency

"If you can get your staff really excited about their work and the business as a whole, their performance can absolutely leap ahead!"

Get 'Em Fired Up!
I bet you know the feeling. You get to work and you're all revved up to do whatever it takes to push up sales, to pound down costs, and to yank up your profits. But you look around your office and notice that other people, while they hope the business succeeds, just don't have the same sense of urgency about them.

I try telling people we need more sales, we need more profits-but such general talk falls on deaf ears.

On the other hand, once you give people some realistic, specific objectives, then they start to listen.

If you give them some micro-goals-things each person can individually do-and show them how it relates to the whole company-they listen more. Give them some responsibility, some room for decision-making-and then you really begin to get them on board.

Remind 'em that they're on a winning team, heap on praise and rewards for positive achievements, and before you know it-they'll be pulling you along!

Bring 'Em Together!
Sharing information and having some common goals are great ways to create a feeling of unity and a sense of urgency as an organization.

Try a company meeting once a month where you share sales, cost, and profit information. An in-the-flesh meeting adds to the sense of common purpose, direction, and involvement.

Compare the actual results with your goals. Where did you succeed? Where did you not? What can be done better next month?

Unfortunately, my tendency is to focus on what went wrong and who's to blame-big mistake!

Single out people who did a great job, not people who blew it.

Even after a bad month, it's up to you to show everyone that you have the energy, positive attitude, and "can-do" enthusiasm to turn the situation around.

Divide Up Responsibility!
If you've got more than six or seven employees, company-wide goals and meetings aren't going to be enough to push a sense of urgency throughout the organization.

You need goals for each work group or even for specific individuals. Get their input, but keep the goals as quantifiable as possible, such as "We'll increase our direct-mail response rate from 2 percent to 3 percent" or "We'll reduce our defect rate from 0.5 percent to 0.4 percent."

To really get people humming, divide up areas of responsibility as widely as possible. For example, if you have three people in your marketing department and you serve three different types of markets like consumer, business, and government, give each marketing person primary responsibility for each one. Don't just have the marketing manager be responsible for all three.

Wal-Mart, for one, has followed this principle, aggressively assigning a lot of responsibility to many department managers at each store, rather than centering decision-making at the store manager level.

Focus On Fresh Objectives!
If your goal setting is limited to the same kind of objectives every month such as overall sales or cost and profit goals, people's attention will begin to wane.

So from time to time focus on different kinds of goals. Do a product quality review, a customer satisfaction review, or a cost review-or have a new product idea brainstorming meeting.

Try to limit the focus to a few days at most and build some excitement around it.

Consider assigning people into different groups. Encourage suggestions from everyone. Announce prizes for the best suggestions. I find announcing specific contests with specific cash awards even of modest amounts such as $50 or $100 works wonders.

Have a kickoff meeting where you announce specific objectives and a wrap-up meeting where you go out of your way to compliment contributors and hand out prizes.

This is a great way to show everyone that their contribution matters and that anyone can contribute new ideas to running the business better.

More Ways To Get People In Motion!
Here are some additional ways to create a positive sense of urgency throughout the organization:

  • Tie in monthly, quarterly, or annual bonuses to specific goals.
  • Share with all employees how your cost and profit numbers compare with industry averages.
  • Pick some of your most direct competitors and benchmark your progress against theirs.
  • Get your staff more interested in the industry by taking them to trade shows, passing around trade publications, and talking about industry-wide news.
  • Success motivates more success. Talk up how you're all on the winning team and find every reason you can possibly think of to celebrate your success: Five years in business-celebrate! First million-dollar month-celebrate! New product launch-celebrate!

* Source Streetwise Small Business Start-Up

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