Here is the author’s thesis, in a nutshell: an intrinsic feeling of pride based on the relentless pursuit of worthwhile endeavors is a lasting and powerful motivating force. By “pride,” he means that wonderful feeling of well being when your employees think they have done something worthwhile...and people whom they respect agree.
In 1991 a GM corporate official told the 3500 workers at the Wilmington Car Assembly Plant, “ To reduce costs, we’re shutting you down in three years. I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do to affect this decision.” When the official had left, Plant Manager Ralph Harding challenged his employees to make headquarters regret their decision. Harding galvanized the plant by creating problem-solving teams, sharing progress data on quality and costs, and engaging the union and the workers’ families. All of this activity was fueled by a rallying cry, “be the best.” The plant became the lowest cost producer of all GM plants. Auto dealers began requesting cars built in Wilmington. In the end, the fateful decision to close was reversed.
Why did they try? Why did they bother? The employees knew there was no hope, but they excelled anyway. It became a matter of pride, says Jon Katzenbach, the most powerful–yet strangely neglected–motivator available to managers today. Pride gets results. He quotes data from the Manufacturing Managers Council at General Motors. Their twenty best “pride builders” plants outscored other plants on safety (83, vs. 65), quality (53, vs. 47), cost (69, vs. 65) and people satisfaction (79, vs. 69).
Now, our left-brained, numbers-driven leaders do pay lip service to pride. They evoke it in speeches and in annual reports. They talk a lot about it but generally don’t really value it. And they fail to tap into its immense power. What a shame. What a wasted opportunity. Why? Because pride…
- Is an intrinsic motivator. That is, it wells up from within the individual. Intrinsic motivators are the most powerful ones because they reflect what the individual values.
- Can have a lasting motivational impact on your employees. People remember how good pride felt and want to experience it again and again.
- Will induce your people to excel, to achieve superior performance levels. (Paying them decently and fairly, of course, is necessary and will get them to show up daily and give you perhaps a satisfactory contribution. But it will do little more.)
- Finally, unlike monetary rewards, pride is an inexpensive motivator. It’s downright cheap. The cost is only (1) some of your time, (2) your attention directed to measures to which employees can more easily relate, and (3) your genuine, good intentions.
Lower down in the organization closer to the front line, however, these bottom-line indicators don’t translate readily into factors that make sense to most employees. And such corporate metrics certainly tend not to be emotionally engaging to staff. This reality often puzzles and frustrates senior managers: “Don’t they realize that without profits and growth, they won’t have a job at all?”
The author says that, for most employees, motivation must include a strong emotional component. Major pride-instilling factors turn out to be:
- What my family and friends think about my employer and our products or services
- How customers regard the usefulness of what I do
- How compatible my values, skills and work efforts are with my work peers and how much we respect one another
- The quality, reputation and results of the direct work that I do
- The important mission of the company (e.g. Microsoft making “products that change the world,” KFC’s “Colonel’s Dozen” values for the right way to run a family-affordable chicken dinner business.)
For example, Marriott has a Guest Service Index that shows how each employee is rated by the customers with whom he or she comes into contact. Employees know their individual GSI scores, their unit’s scores and how they compare with similar units at other Marriott properties. General Motors, with union involvement, created a scorecard that measures safety, people (absenteeism/training/suggestions), quality, responsiveness (time order in through to time product leaves the plant) and cost.
While this book offers ideas for instilling pride in peak performance work environments, its good news is that it is entirely possible to do the same thing in more traditional workplaces.
But the point that most caught my attention was an intriguing angle Katzenbach uncovered about pride as a motivator. The anticipation of feeling proud is just as strong a motivating force as experiencing the pride itself. This means you don’t have to achieve a tangible success before the power of pride kicks in. You can activate pride (“Imagine how great we’ll feel about ourselves and our contribution when we have…”) at the front end, before the effort has generated successful results!