“Can you get people to want to be better?”
Lots of people ask this question, and my trite answer is yes, there is something as a leader you can do. But only when people feel it is in their interests to be better. When there is something in it for them.
I am thinking of my teenage nephew, who is incredibly bright, but who underachieved academically for most of his school years because he wouldn’t apply himself to subjects he found boring. The penny dropped that self-improvement was in his interests, when he discovered the fascination of digital animation. Against all the odds, he won himself a place on a highly prestigious animation further education course, only for it to dawn on him that he didn’t understand the subjects of mathematics and physics well enough to pursue his beloved animation qualification.
Having shunned these subjects at school, he is now working like the blazes to make up for lost time.
You can probably think of colleagues at work who (like my nephew) have much more potential to contribute than they do. But what can you do?
“All motivation is self motivation, Tom Peters”
If you want to get your people to pick up the self development baton, are you brave enough to do what one of our clients did? When putting together our latest development programme, he refused to take the standard route and assign people a project to do. “I would be delighted if people choose to do a project, but I’m much more interested in them developing in whatever way works for them.” This was a bit of a leap of faith from him, but gave participants a real confidence boost, and fired up the best people to step up and take responsibility.
As a leader, you can only set the agenda, and then encourage and support people in their efforts. But the energy for change has to come from the person themselves.