Hi, I’m Ian McClean. I’m the founder of Flow Group and GreenLine Conversations. And this podcast has grown out of the chaos that’s been thrust upon us. During the podcast, I’m going to try and share with you the best of 25 years of helping corporate organizations deal and cope with change. So, as you’re out there, busy making sense of it all, trying to cope, and maybe, in some cases, trying to rebuild your organizations, I’m hoping that some of this can be of some assistance. We’ll keep it deliberately short, because I know you’re busy. Let’s dive in.
My colleague Aidan McCullen likes to use a quote from Vladimir Lenin. Which is, “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen”. And we’re into week 12 of the podcast series, and it seems a little bit like the Twilight Zone.
This duality of time which feels like it’s been with us forever, and at the same time it feels like it’s only been five minutes ago that life seemed normal. As we move into the release of the handbrake on lockdown in many countries, it seems like what Churchill might describe as the end of the beginning.
And I want to go back and reflect on where we started with this podcast 12 weeks ago and the whole purpose behind it in the first place. The purpose originally was the fact that through the last crisis, which has many many of the same elements as we have here, 12 years ago, we saw that there were leaders who shone and rose, and there were others who crashed and burned. The purpose of this whole podcast series was to try to identify and isolate some of the behaviours that the best leaders demonstrated and emerged victorious from at the end of the whole crisis, and that’s where we’re going to go.
So if I go back to the very beginning principle, is this going to be over, and it is going to pass? And at the end of it, your reputation will have risen, or it will have dropped, and it will be based on one thing, and that is how others are judging you and how you showed up. I guess you’re already seeing around you those who are really emerging, surprisingly, and those who are diminishing, perhaps equally surprisingly.
And people are going to judge you on one basic criterion. The extent to which you were able to meet their needs. When you could be at your best for them, at times, that mattered most for them. That’s what’s in it for them. The payoff for you, obviously, is exactly the same as we described earlier on when we talked about the brain.
Because the more you can turn up in the right way for people, the more it’s going to help them connect with their thinking brain, and it’s going to calm and soothe their survival brain. And the thinking brain means that they’ve got access to more of their capacity, and they can be better and more creative.
It enables them, just to reiterate, to problem solve better, to deal with complexity more, to be able to be more agile and creative, and finally, to focus on future. All of the things that you want your people doing to enable you to best deal with the current crisis and chaos, and that you will be able to be in the same situation yourself and access your own faculties.
One of the most fascinating things to me, always about leadership, is the fact that you need no qualification to become a leader. Hell, you need a license for a TV or a dog in some jurisdictions. You need to be certified as a coach if you want to coach a sports team. But to be a leader, you just need to be appointed. No questions asked.
I remember one outstanding interview that I did, a public fireside conversation with the CFO global for Facebook, Dave Wehner, in front of an audience of a few hundred CFOs. And at the end of the Q and A, one of the questions came from the floor to Dave Wehner, which was, “If you were advising somebody who is newly qualified as an accountant, what would be the thing that you would give them as a piece of advice as they begin their career?” And his answer was very succinct. He said, “study psychology”.
So, we’re going to talk about how to keep people motivated in times of chaos. And we’re going to do it in two parts. So, for the rest of this episode, I’m just going to describe, a very simple lens through which to look at motivation. And then, in the next episode, we’re going to go into it and unpack it in a little bit more detail.
There are many models of motivation out there. What I found particularly useful over the years and practical is based on the work by the Neuroleadership Institute and David Rock. There are basically five core factors that influence human behaviour and motivation. And if you were to ask any leader out there how to read a balance sheet or how to prepare a presentation, most people would be able to tell you. Ask them what the five core motivating factors of human behaviour are, and people will really struggle.
So how could you be any good at the game if you don’t understand the rules? How could you be good at chess if you don’t know what way the pieces move?
The five core human motivators are as follows. The first is called Status, and what I mean by status is people need to understand where they are in the world and where they fit with regard to the people around them, like in their teams or in their organizations. They need to know their relative worth. And if you think about status in the context of the current chaos, so many people’s self-worth, their idea of themselves and their identity is wrapped up in work.
The second ingredient is the idea of Certainty. People need to know what the game is. They need to know what’s happening, they need to know the context, they need to know the details, and in the current situation, you can see how difficult and challenging providing certainty is.
The third element is Autonomy. People need to feel that they have a certain level of control or at least the illusion of control and that they’ve got the freedom to choose, which in the current climate is under threat.
The fourth element is Relatedness, and this is the ability and the need that we have as human beings to be connected and related to some other people. This helps with collaboration and teaming, and effectiveness in problem-solving collectively, and it’s easy to see in this remote world how that relatedness need can be compromised.
And finally, there’s a very deep human need for the fifth element, which is Fairness. All you’ve got to do is look around, probably at home, and you will see that one of the things that causes people to get stressed amongst your kids, for example, is when they don’t feel that they’re being fairly treated relative to their siblings.
This is a very core human need and all the neuroscience suggests that a way in which we get inspired or we get uninspired. is when our fairness is being met. Therefore, the perception that can develop particularly in this economy where nothing seems fair, or we don’t feel fairly treated, or some people are working and some people are not, or some parts of the organization are remotely on our furloughed and some are back working. You can see that it’s a very tricky time to deal with fairness.
The five elements can easily be remembered by thinking of the word scarf. The status, the certainty, the autonomy, the relatedness, and the fairness. The interesting thing to bear in mind, and this is something to reflect on before our next episode, is everybody has or is dominant in one or two of those driving traits or core needs.
And It’s different for every individual. So if you think of those people that you’re managing or that you’re leading in your organization, each of those has got a relevance and there’s a hierarchy amongst them for every individual. No two individuals have the same particular hierarchy. So, if you think about it through the lens of your people, what is the dominant need that each individual has?
And another point of reflection is for yourself: what are the two pieces or one or two of the five elements that we’ve identified that most apply to you? It’s only understanding and by understanding what the core needs and drivers are for yourself and for others that you will be able to meet those needs. And by meeting those needs, motivation goes up and by helping people with their motivation, their capacity goes up and their commitment level rise. And the biggest payoff of all, you become the better leader.
In the next episode, I’m going to go into more detail of how you can play to advantage, understanding and using the SCARF model from the point of view of motivating people, talk about some do’s and don’ts, give you a story actually from the last crash and last crisis of what I learned with my own people frontline, and put some meat on the bones of this episode.
In the meantime, stay safe, stay sane, stay connected.