Small business employee motivation

As an entrepreneur or manager, I’m sure you’ll agree that motivating employees is one of the toughest parts of your job. You’ve got passion, you’ve got ambition or you wouldn’t be where you are today. But how do you get others to see things your way? Like so many things in life there’s no silver bullet solution, but I’d like to share something that has worked for me: the formula for change. Are you ready? Here it is:

(D * V) + F > R

.. where
D = Dissatisfaction with the current state
V = Vision of the future
F = First steps
R = Resistance

When my business coach taught me this formula, the engineer in me thought “That’s not really a mathematical equation.” It’s not supposed to be :)

As I’m sure you know, we all have in us some level of “resistance” to change (for a really great book on the topic, check out The War of Art by Steven Pressfield). The idea behind the formula for change is that our dissatisfaction with our current state, our belief that things can be better, and our seeing the way to accomplish that must be GREATER than our resistance, or we will never change.

How does this apply to employee motivation? It’s actually really simple. If someone who works for you (or you yourself, for that matter) is having trouble making a change that they need to make, there is something missing from this equation.

For those who are not dissatisfied with their current situation, you must help them see the long term consequence of staying where they are. Questions are very powerful — what do you want to accomplish in your life? What happens if you don’t do anything about this attribute? How long have you had this problem, and how much has it cost you? Where does this fall in your list of priorities of things to fix?

For those who are perhaps dissatisfied but lack in vision of the future, you must become an excellent storyteller and help them see what the future CAN be like. Again, questions are very powerful — what is an example of someone who has accomplished this task? What is their life like? Do you think they would agree that it was worth the effort to get there? How long do you think it really took them to get there? How long would it take you?

Now, if you just go around making people dissatisfied with their current state and longing for a future state but having no idea how to get there, you’ll just create a lot of depression in the world! The “F” is a critical step.. first steps to getting there. It’s amazing how even very complex tasks can be made simple if you spend some time PLANNING. Sit down with your employee 1-on-1 and make a PLAN for accomplishing this task. Your plan should be VERY detailed and specific. It’s much easier to tackle a big problem when all of the thinking has already been done and there’s only executing left to do. It’s also a lot easier to hold people accountable if specific tasks have been outlined. If you leave the planning only partially done, the resistance will beat you because it’s much tougher to motivate yourself to do something when you really don’t know how to do it.

How do you motivate your employees?

  • Katie Hawkes

    I feel compelled to write my own blog in which I compare this formula to life situations outside the business world. For exampe, dating. I imagine many of my single cohorts are doing quite well at the “dissatisfation with the current state” idea, maybe vaguely well (although perhaps slightly deluded) in the “vision of the future” arena, but perhaps become stymied by the whole “first steps” idea. Score one for resistance, eh?