Managers are people who do things right, while leaders are people who do the right thing. - Warren Bennis, Ph.D. "On Becoming a Leader"



A person's motivation is a combination of desire and energy directed at achieving a goal. Influencing someone's motivation means getting them to want to do what you know must be done. A person's motivation depends upon two things:
  • The strength of certain needs. For example, you are hungry, but you must have a task completed by a nearing deadline. If you are starving you will eat. If you are slightly hungry you will finish the task at hand.
  • The perception that taking a certain action will help satisfy those needs. For example, you have two burning needs - The desire to complete the task and the desire to go to lunch. Your perception of how you view those two needs will determine which one takes priority. If you believe that you could be fired for not completing the task, you will probably put off lunch and complete the task. If you believe that you will not get into trouble or perhaps finish the task in time, then you will likely go to lunch.
  People can be motivated by beliefs, values, interests, fear, worthy causes, and other such forces. Some of these forces are internal, such as needs, interests, and beliefs. Others are external, such as danger, the environment, or pressure from a loved one. There is no simple formula for motivation -- you must keep a open viewpoint on human nature. There is a complex array of forces steering the direction of each person and these forces cannot always be seen or studied. Also, if the same forces are steering two different people, each on will act differently. Knowing that different people react to different needs will guide your decisions and actions in certain situations.

As a leader you have the power to influence motivation. The following guidelines (1) form the basic view of motivation. They will help guide you in your decision making process.

  • Allow the needs of your people to coincide with the needs of your organization. Nearly all people are influenced by the need for job security, promotion, raises, and approval of their peers, and leaders. They are also influenced by internal forces such as values morals, and ethics. Likewise, the organization needs good people in a wide variety of jobs. Ensure that your people are trained, encouraged, and provided the opportunity to advance. Ensure that the way you conduct business has the same values, moral, and ethic principles that you seek in your people. If you conduct business in a dishonest manner, your people will be dishonest to you, for that will be the kind of people that your organization attracts.
  • Reward good behavior. Although a certificate, letter, or a thank you may seem small, they can be powerful motivators. The reward should be specific and prompt. Do not say, "for doing a good job." Cite the specific action that made you believed it was a good job. In addition, help your people who are good. We all make mistakes or need help to achieve a particular goal.
  • Set the example. You must be the role model that you want your people to grow into.
  • Develop moral and esprit. Moral is the mental, emotional, and spiritual state of a person. Almost everything you do will have some impact on the moral of your organization. You should always be aware how your actions and decisions affect it. Esprit means team spirit - it is defined as the spirit or the soul of the organization. It is the consciousness of the organization that you and your people identify with and feel a part of. Is your workplace a place where people cannot wait to get away from, or is it a place that people enjoy spending a part of their lives?
  • Let your people be part of the planning and problem solving process. There are several reasons for this. First, it teaches them and allows you to coach them. Second, it motivates them. People who are part of the decision making process become the owners of it. It gives them a personal interest in seeing the plan succeed. Third, communication is clearer. Everyone has a better understanding of what role they must play as part of the team. Next, it creates an open trusting communication bond. They are no longer just the doers for the organization. Now they are part of it. And finally, it shows that you recognize and appreciate them. Recognition and appreciation from a respected leader are powerful motivators.
  • Look out for your people. Although you do not have control over their personal lives, you must show concern for them. Things that seem to no importance to you, might seem extremely critical to them. You must be able to empathize with them. This is from the German word, einfuhling, which means "to feel with." This is the ability to perceive another person's view of the world as though that view were your own. The Sioux Indian Tribal Prayer reads, "Great Spirit, help us never to judge another until we have walked for two weeks in his moccasins." Empathy differs from sympathy in that sympathy connotes spontaneous emotion rather than a conscious, reasoned response. Sympathizing with others may be less useful to another person if we are limited by the strong feelings of the moment.
  • Keep them informed. Keeping the communication channel open allows a person to have a sense of control over their lives.
  • Make their jobs challenging, exciting, and meaningful. Make them feel that they are individuals in a great team...not cogs in a lifeless machine. People need meaningful work, even if it is tiring and unpleasant; they need to know that it is important and necessary for the survival of the organization.
  • Counsel people who behave in a way that is counter to the company's goals. All the guidelines before this took the positive approach. But, sometimes this does not always work. You must let people know when they are not performing to acceptable standards. By the same token you must protect them when needed. For example, if someone in your department is always late arriving for work and it is causing disruptions, then you must take action. On the other hand, if you have an extremely good department and once in a while they are a few minutes late, then do the right thing...protect them from the bureaucracy!




Counseling has a powerful, long-term impact on people and the effectiveness of the organization. Counseling is talking with a person in a way that helps that person solve a problem or helps to create conditions that will cause the person to improve his behavior. It involves thinking, implementing, knowing human nature, timing, sincerity, compassion, and kindness. It involves much more that simply telling someone what to do about a problem.
  Leaders must demonstrate the following qualities in order to counsel effectively.
  • Respect for employees. This quality includes the belief that individuals are responsible for their own actions and ideas. It includes an awareness of a persons individuality though unique values, attributes, and skills. As you attempt to develop people through counseling, you must refrain from projecting you own values onto them.
  • Self- Awareness. This quality is an understanding of yourself as a leader. The more you are aware of your own values, needs, and biases, the less likely you will be to project your feelings onto your employees.
  • Credibility. This quality is achieved through both honesty and consistency between the leaders statements and actions. Credible leaders are straightforward with their subordinates and behave in such a manner that subordinates respect and trust their words.
  • Empathy: This quality entails understanding a subordinates situation. Empathetic leaders will be better able to help subordinates identify the situation and develop a plan to improve the situation.
The reason for counseling is to help employees develop in order to achieve organizational or individual goals. At times, the counseling is directed by policy, and at other times, leaders should choose to counsel to develop employees. Regardless of the nature of the counseling, leaders should demonstrate the qualities of an effective counselor (respect, self-awareness, credibility, and empathy) and employ the skills of communication.

While the reason for counseling is to develop subordinates, leaders often categorize counseling based on the topic of the session. Major categories include performance counseling, problem counseling, and individual growth counseling. While these categories help leaders to organize and focus counseling sessions, they must not be viewed as separate and distinct types of counseling. For example a counseling session which focuses on resolving a problem may also have a great impact on improving job performance, and a counseling session focused on performance may also include a discussion of opportunities for growth. Regardless of the topic of the counseling session, you should follow the same basic format to prepare for and conduct counseling.

Steps for counseling:

  • Identify the problem. Ensure you really know the problem - the Japanese use a practice called the Five Why's. They ask "why" five times when confronted with a problem. By the time the fifth why is answered, they believe they have found the ultimate cause of the problem.
  • Analyze the forces influencing the behavior. Determine which of these forces you have control over and which of the forces the worker has control over. Determine if the force has to be modified, eliminated, or enforced.
  • Plan, coordinate, and organize the session. Determine the best time to conduct the session so that you will not be interrupted or forced to end too early.
  • Conduct the session using sincerity, compassion, and kindness. This does not mean you cannot be firm or in control. Your reputation is on the line...the problem must be solved so that you department can continue with its mission. Likewise, you must hear the person out.
  • During the session, determine what the worker believes causes the counterproductive behavior and what will be required to change it. Also determine if your initial analysis is correct.
  • Try to maintain a sense of timing of when to use directive or nondirective counseling (see below).
  • Using all the facts, make a decision and/or a plan of action to correct the problem. If more counseling is needed, make a firm time and date for the next session.
  • After the session and throughout a sufficient time period evaluate the worker's progress to ensure the problem has been solved.
There are two type of counseling - directive and nondirective. In directive counseling, the counselor identifies the problem and tells the counselee what to do about it. Nondirective counseling means the counselee identifies the problem and determines the solution with the help of the counselor. The counselor has to determine which of the two, or some appropriate combination, to give for each situation. For example, "Put out that cigarette now, this is a nonsmoking area," is a form of directive counseling. "So the reason you are not effective is that you were up late last night. What are you going to do to ensure that this does not effect your performance again?" is a form of nondirective counseling.

Hints for counseling sessions:

  • Let the person know that the behavior is undesirable and not the person.
  • Let the person know that the leader cares about him as a person but expects more from him.
  • Do not punish employees who are unable to perform a task. Punish those who are able to perform the task but are unwilling or unmotivated to succeed.
  • Punish in private soon after the undesirable behavior. Do not humiliate a person in front of others.
  • Ensure that the employee understands exactly what behavior led to the punishment.
  • Do not hold a grudge after punishing. When a punishment is is over.



Performance Appraisals

The performance appraisal is one of the most powerful motivational tools available to a leader. It has three main objectives:
  • To measure performance fairly and objectively against job requirements. This allows effective workers to be rewarded for their efforts and ineffective workers to be put on the line for poor performance.
  • To increase performance by identifying specific development goals. "If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there", Lewis Carroll in Alice's Adventure in Wonderland (1865). The appraisal allows the worker to target specific areas for job should be a time to plan for better performance on the job.
  • To develop career goals so that the worker may keep pace with the requirements of a fast paced organization. More and more, every job in an organization becomes more demanding with new requirements. Just because a worker is performing effectively in her job now, does not mean she will be able to perform effectively in the future. She must be allowed to grow with the job and the organization.
A worker should not walk blindly into a performance appraisal. Past counseling sessions, feedback, and one-on-ones should give her a pretty clear understanding of what to expect from the appraisal. If you blind-side her, you have not done your job as a leader. Helping your people to grow is not a once or twice yearly duty, but a daily duty.

The appraisal should be a joint effort. No one knows the job better than the person performing it. By turning the appraisal into a real discussion, the leader could learn some insightful information which could help boost performance in the future. Before the meeting, have the worker complete her own self-appraisal. Although you might think they will take advantage of this by giving themselves unearned high marks, studies have shown that most workers are harder on themselves than the leader would have been.




1. U.S. Army Handbook (1973). Military Leadership.

2. Eliza G. C. Collins & Mary Anne Devanna. Portable MBA. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

3. Craig, Robert L. (1996). The ASTD Training and Development Handbook. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill.

Created May 11, 1997. Last update - February 6, 2000.
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Donald R. Clark