Buy In Isn’t Bought (part 2 of 4)

By Tom Davidson

In case you missed them the last time, here are the Ten Tips for Motivating the Paid-Volunteer Workforce, this time with commentary on the first three.

New managers often want to know the tips and tricks for motivating people and management folks like to use the term “buy-in.” I don’t happen to like that term very much as its use tends to imply an approach that manipulates others into doing something they would otherwise not choose to do on their own. 

I prefer the term “ownership” and the notion that this term implies, which has more to do with choice and alignment. Choice is the degree to which people opt in to an idea or plan rather than being forced or cajoled into accepting it. Alignment is the degree to which the idea, project or plan fulfills the other person’s need, interest or aspiration. The more the issue is in alignment with a person’s intrinsic motivations, the more ownership is earned, but this is easier said than done. 

Therefore, this blog series is exploring my “Ten Tips (not tricks) for Motivating the Paid-Volunteer Workforce.” What I mean by the “paid-volunteer workforce” is this. Today’s workforce resembles true volunteers more than ever before; even though they may be paid for their skills and services, they choose exactly how much energy, initiative and creativity they give. Just like a volunteer. It’s their choice. 

In case you missed them the last time, here are the Ten Tips, this time with commentary on the first three. 

Ten Tips (not tricks) for Motivating the Paid-Volunteer Workforce 

1. Treat them with respect.

– By this I don’t mean just being polite. I mean caring deeply about their opinions, their challenges and their experiences. When people sense that they matter to a leader, not just in terms of how much they can produce but how much the mean to the organization, people tend to offer even more – voluntarily – because they want to.

Questions that demonstrate your respect, include the following:

– What are your challenges?
– How can I help you?
– What advice do you have for me? 

2. Put them in jobs that interest them the most.

– This is about alignment, and it takes two main steps. The first is uncovering what is intrinsically interesting and naturally motivational for each person on your team. The second is finding ways to give them the chance to do more (even a little more) of what’s fun, interesting and rewarding for them.

Questions for learning what motivates people include the following:

– What part of your job do you like the most?
– What would you like to learn more about or do more of?
– What kind of assignments or projects have been most rewarding?
3. Show them how what they do, matters.
– This is about ensuring that people see how what they do has contributed to the greater good, the bigger picture or to the overall mission of the organization. It’s important because people get so focused on their part of the organization that they lose sight of the importance of what they do.

Things to say and do that help people see how what they do, matter:

– When you thank or recognize someone, also say why what he or she did mattered, why it was important, or what it solved or improved.
– When you recognized people for outstanding accomplishment, don’t forget to thank the ones who worked in the trenches to make that possible.
– When you delegate a task or project, show them exactly what part of the organization’s mission they are supporting. In some circles this is called a “clear line of sight” to the goal.

4. Give them as much choice as possible.

5. Get them involved in the decisions that affect them.

6. When something has to be decided without them, then get their fingerprints on it anyway.

7. Get them the training and tools they need.

8. Ask for their help.

9. Trust them to do their work but verify that they are on track.

10. Hold them accountable because the rest of the team is watching.

In the next few blogs, we’ll visit this again and elaborate on more of the Ten Tips (not tricks) for Motivating the Paid-Volunteer Workforce. 

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