Tag Archives: motivation

Oxytocin, trust, motivation and employee engagement


By Elisabeth Goodman, 9th March 2017

Introduction and a caveat

There seems to be a real wave of articles and seminars on the relationship between various hormones, mental health, and our performance at work.

I am definitely not an expert in this field, although I did complete a Biochemistry degree some years ago, and have kept generally in touch through my work in and with Life Science organisations.  I would certainly invite those who are more knowledge than me to clarify any aspects of the following article that might benefit from their greater expertise.

The Neuroscience of Trust. Jan-Feb 2017 HBR article by Paul Zak

That said, there is an impressive amount of research (see notes) behind Paul Zak’s article on “The Neuroscience of Trust” in the Jan-Feb 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review, pp. 84-90.  And the conclusions echo many points that we have come across and make in our training for managers and teams.

Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training, workshops and coaching for managers and teams

His conclusions echo many points that we have come across and make in our training for managers and teams.

oxytocin and trust or motivation?

Zak’s research has established that certain behaviours can increase the level of oxytocin, and that there is a clear link between this increase and trust.

He describes the following behaviours – some of which could arguably be ways to increase motivation rather than trust.  Although the end-result of increased productivity, collaboration, higher energy, happiness, loyalty and engagement could be the same (more on this below).

  1. Recognition (of excellence).  We know that recognition for having done good work can be a strong motivator for people.  Zak claims that this will be most effective if it’s immediate, from peers, is unexpected, personal and public.  My experience is that some people would be very uncomfortable with this form of recognition and would prefer something more low-key.
  2. Introducing a “challenge” stress. This is a stretch but achievable goal for a team.  Again, different people may respond to the perceived level of challenge in different ways.
  3. Give people discretion in how they do things. This echoes the point made by Dan Pink in “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” about how motivating autonomy can be, resulting in important increases in innovation.  Micro-management is the flip side of this.
  4. Enable “job crafting” – giving people a choice of what projects they work on.  This also sounds a bit like “holocracy”: organisations that self-organise, rather that using traditional hierarchical structures.  I read about how the Morning Star tomato company was successfully adopting this approach in a December 2011 HBR article.
  5. Sharing information broadly. We  know that people can perform more effectively if they understand the purpose of what they are doing.  Open and frequent communication also help people when dealing with change. So the same goes for information about company goals, strategy, tactics.  Lack of information will certainly be counter-productive to creating trust.
  6. Intentionally build relationships.  High performing teams are typically those where there is a good balance of attention to relationships as well as tasks.  And for some people, it is the social interaction at work that is a great motivator for them to be there.
  7. Facilitate whole person growth.  Good managers will pay attention to the personal as well as the professional goals of their direct reports.  They will do that through coaching, mentoring and constructive feedback.
  8. Show vulnerability as a leader.  This seems to me one of the most powerful ways to demonstrate and promote trust, albeit within certain boundaries.  Good leaders will have direct reports whose strengths complement theirs – be it in areas of expertise, or in softer management skills.  They can give people the space and the opportunity to demonstrate these strengths, by asking rather than telling them about aspects of their work.

The positive effect of trust on self-reported work performance

Zak concludes his article by citing that greater trust has been found to increase:

  • energy
  • engagement
  • productivity
  • loyalty
  • recommendations of the company to family and friends
  • alignment with company purpose
  • closeness to colleagues
  • empathy
  • a sense of accomplishment

and to decrease burnout.

He also found that people working in companies with greater trust earn more – possibly because these companies are more productive and innovative…

So, however the neuroscience works, this certainly seems like a topic worth paying attention to!

Notes

  1. Paul Zak is the founding director of the Centre for Neuroeconomic , Studies, Professor of economics, psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University.  He and his team measured the oxytocin levels of blood in volunteers before and after they completed a strategic decision task designed to demonstrate trust.  They also administered synthetic oxytocin or a placebo in a nasal spray to prove that oxytocin causes trust.  They carried out further studies over 10 years to identify promoters and inhibitors of oxytocin, and created and used a survey instrument in several thousands of companies to measure the constituent factors of trust.  In addition, they gathered evidence from a dozen companies that had taken action to increase trust, measured brain activity in two companies where trust varied by department, and referenced an independent firm’s survey of about one thousand working adults in the US.
  2. Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

    RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

    Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

    She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

Understanding when we are at our best


By Elisabeth Goodman, 26th June 2016

Why seek to understand when we are at our best?

Two of the most popular topics in the 3-day Introduction to Management course that I run with RiverRhee Consulting are motivation, and Belbin team roles.  The way we explore them is by examining what motivates the delegates on the course, and what their most natural and preferred ways of behaving are.

Delegates at the June 2016 RiverRhee Introduction to Management course

Delegates at the June 2016 RiverRhee Introduction to Management course

It’s through this understanding that we appreciate how different we each are from one another, and what this therefore means about the people that we work with, and those that report to us.

For instance some of us will enjoy our work most if we have lots of opportunities to learn and develop, or if we can help others in their work, or if we feel that what we are doing will make a difference to people’s lives.  Or we may feel happiest in our work if we have the ability to shape strategy, make decisions, or work independently of others.

Given the diversity of our motivators, and preferred ways of working, we need different conditions, types and levels of support to help ourselves and others perform at their best.

Click here for information on RiverRhee’s training courses for managers

And yet, we don’t always know what motivates each of our colleagues or direct reports, what their natural or preferred ways of working are, or how we can help them to be at their best.

So how to find out what will help us and others be at their best?

Direct questions such as “what motivates you?” don’t necessarily work. Other open questions might though, such as:

  • What do I / you enjoy most about my / your work?
  • What do I / you like least about my / your work?
  • What would cause me / you to be more / less satisfied about work?

Observation might help too. When we are at our best we are “in the flow”, time just seems to fly by. The chances are that we are totally focused and content, and our body language should demonstrate that. There will also be types of work or tasks that we and others volunteer for or take on gladly, and others that we or they are less enthusiastic about.

Psychometric questionnaires will of course help to identify Belbin team roles and other personality types such as MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator).

I’ve been playing with another aid to understanding in recent workshops and training courses, which is based on my NLP training. I ask people to remember a situation at work when they have been at their best, or the conditions that have enabled them to do so.

I ask them to picture the situation, or the conditions, or to recreate the sounds that they heard, what they felt, or how they would describe it.

They then, if they can or want to, choose a postcard that illustrates the situation, would help them to talk about or describe it, or just feels right.

A selection of postcards courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

A selection of postcards courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

This personal reflection, and subsequent conversation with colleagues, can be a powerful way of helping people to appreciate the different opportunities and conditions that will enable themselves and their colleagues be at their best.

When are you at your best? How will you promote and support the right conditions for the people that you work with?

Do you know?  How will you find out?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.

Creating the conditions for growth at work


By Elisabeth Goodman, 16th February 2016

It’s performance review and appraisal time

It’s that time of year again: performance appraisals were either completed just before the end of 2015, or are in full swing. Objectives are being set for the year ahead. Managers and those being managed may be feeling ‘stressed’ by the challenge of finding the time or the skills to do it properly: to ensure that people are feeling valued and/or fulfilled in their work. Performance review time is surely the time to ensure that the conditions are right for the growth of the individual, the team, and the organisation.

Creating the right conditions for growth

Creating the right conditions for growth

Is stress getting in the way of growth?

My attention was caught this week-end by the cover story in The Observer’s New Review “Is there too much stress on stress?” (14th Feb 2016, pp. 8-11). I was fascinated to learn that the term ‘stress’ was coined as recently as 1946 by Hans Selye, an Austrian-Canadian endocrinologist, who was intrigued by the common symptoms experienced by humans to all sorts of diseases and “diverse noxious agents”. The Observer article quotes statistics from the 2015 “WorkStress” annual conference of the UK National Work-Stress Network. Apparently there were 440,000 cases of work-related stress in the UK, and 43% of all working days lost due to illness in 2014/15 were due to stress. And these are just the reported cases.

I remember when I was an employee, before I started running my own business, hearing about the difference between ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ stress. The argument went that we needed enough positive stress to ensure that we were achieving our potential. Apparently Selye also referred to ‘good stress’ or “eustress”, and ‘bad stress’ or “distress” but the article suggests that this distinction never really caught on. I am no physiological or psychological expert, but I know, from discussing motivation with delegates in our RiverRhee management training courses, and from my own experiences, that not enough of the right kind of challenge, as well as too much of the wrong kind of challenge can lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness, and other symptoms of stress.

Motivators and demotivators

I’m currently reading Caitlin Walker’s “From contempt to curiosity” in my exploration of ‘clean language’ as a tool for creating exceptional managers and teams. She references the ‘triune brain’ from Eric Jensen’s “Brain-Based Teaching and Learning”. It’s a reminder that our reptilian brain origins are those for which physiological safety is important. Our mammalian brain thrives on social belonging. The neocortex is the focus for cognitive thought: our centre for creativity and learning. There are echoes of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs here: only if we feel safe, secure, accepted and trusted can we free up our brains to grow as an individual and so benefit the team and the organisation.

the major contributors to stress

Back to the Observer article, which suggests that the contributors to stress at work include:

  • emails – too many, too frequently and intruding into home life
  • level of demand on people’s time / long hours
  • reduction in personal control over work
  • poor relationships
  • lack of clarity of roles and responsibilities
  • inability to adapt to change
  • generally insensitive management practices

managers as role models

Again, back to our management training where we put a lot of emphasis on skills to understand and support individuals within their teams, as well as role modelling working practices to better manage their time.

Managers also have a responsibility to see that change is initiated and implemented in a way that addresses our basic need for information and involvement, so that we feel better able to cope. (More tips on the RiverRhee Managing Change page.)

Performance appraisals are an ideal opportunity to review and nurture the conditions in which every individual, team and the organisation as a whole can reduce (negative) stress and focus on thriving and growth.

What will you do to create these ideal conditions?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, facilitation, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Internal Collaboration theme of the Enabling Change SIG committee.

From stoical survivor to natural navigator – strategies for proactive change programme managers.


By Elisabeth Goodman, 26th February 2015

Roles of those associated with change programmes

I’ve just come back from delivering a seminar for the Midlands branch of the APM, with my colleague (and Chair) on the APM Enabling Change SIG, Martin Taylor. The event, “How to keep programmes on track and teams inspired during periods of change”, attracted a lively set of people.  About a third of them were managing change programmes, another third were supporting programmes in some way and a further third were frequently (!) being drawn into change whilst addressing their day to day responsibilities.

This blog reflects some of the points that came up on the theme of proactive management of change programmes.

(By the way, this was our second visit to the Midlands branch of the APM.  I spoke last year on Facilitating operational excellence in and for business change projects.)

Railway destination for 24th Feb 2015 APM Midlands branch event

Railway destination for 24th Feb 2015 APM Midlands branch event

The nature of change within change programmes

I was impressed by how some of the people I spoke to were doing what they did because they enjoyed the challenge of change. They were often dealing with continuous change, rather than discrete periods of it, had multiple change programmes on the go, sometimes juggling equal priorities, whilst at the same time coping with change within the programme itself.  These ‘internal’ programme changes include, but are not limited to:

  • Sponsor turnover
  • Shifting objectives
  • Additional constraints on timelines, budgets and resources
  • External impacts – legislation, competitors, politics – the typical components of a PESTEL analysis. (We are now entering the “purdah” period for the forthcoming UK elections which brings additional constraints for those operating in or with the public sector.)

Strategies for keeping change programmes on track

Some of those present mentioned how they would like now and then to have just a few change programmes to deal with at a time.

They’d like to see some joined up thinking between programmes, especially where they are affecting the same stakeholders.

They’d also like the decision makers to remember why individual programmes are happening in the context of the bigger organisational strategy.

All of these and more formed the basis of a check list that Martin and I developed with the delegates for how they could proactively keep programmes on track during periods of change. (The full list, other notes and slides from the event will be posted shortly on the APM Enabling Change SIG microsite.)

Victims, survivors and navigators of change

The above proactive approach to change is also an illustration of how programme managers can effectively be navigators rather than victims or survivors of change (terms defined by Richard McKnight and further described in one of my publications – The Effective Team’s Change Management Workbook, RiverRhee Publishing 2013).

Victim, survivor and navigator mindsets in change

Victim, survivor and navigator responses to change

Being a victim of change, as the name implies, is an unproductive ‘us and them’ mindset where we blame others for the situation we find ourselves in and expect them to sort it out. Whilst we may occasionally need to give way to our emotions in this way, as leaders of change we do, at some point, have to shake ourselves up and get on with it.

Stoical survival techniques can also only be temporary. It’s a kind of “in limbo” state where we are only just coping, and it will bring its own stresses.

Navigators on the other hand are people who ’embrace’ change and explore what they can do to make it happen in a constructive way: tackling the issues, anticipating the risks, and taking advantage of the opportunities that come their way.

Helping your team to be inspired during change

In the seminar we also discussed how managers can help their teams to be ‘inspired’ during the changes that affect the team: the sorts of changes that we outlined above. These changes can ‘hit’ the team at any stage of its development: whether newly formed, already storming or in full high performance flow.

We discussed how the programme manager can and should adopt the situational leadership approach: being highly directive during periods of uncertainty and ensuring that members of the team have one-to-one time to discuss their concerns and explore their ideas.

Creating the conditions for inspiration during periods of change

Creating the conditions for inspiration during periods of change

Members of the team, as much as the stakeholders affected by the outcome of the change programme, will benefit from plenty of communication. We all respond best when we have some degree of certainty and control over what happens to us.

Any information, however negative, or preliminary will help towards certainty.

Clear roles and responsibilities, and some level of involvement, will help people to feel more in control.

If, as a programme manager, you can provide this level of direction and support for your team, you will create the conditions where team members can feel more motivated, become navigators themselves and take more of a leadership role within their own domain of responsibility, and ultimately be more creative and inspired!

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Capabilities & Methods pillar for the Enabling Change SIG.

Elisabeth Goodman’s 2012 blogs in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for my blogs.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog (Recognising reactions to change, and responding to them) had 14,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 3 Film Festivals

These were the top viewed blogs:

  1. Recognising reactions to change, and responding to them  November 2011
  2. What can Lean and Six Sigma and Dilts’ Logical Levels of Change bring to effective change management? March 2012
  3. Why is employee engagement such an important topic?  March 2012
  4. Top Tips for Motivating Teams  January 2012
  5. Lean and Six Sigma in R&D and Service Delivery – opportunities and challenges  February 2011

Click here to see the complete report.

Top Tips for Motivating Teams


By Sue Parsons1

When times are tough, some teams sink into lethargy, feeling anxious about the future. Alternatively, the business may have been restructured or downsized, with the remaining team members feeling vulnerable for their own positions. Whatever the cause, it’s exactly at these times, that teams need to feel valued and motivated.

There are some simple things business owners and leaders can do to improve team motivation, and therefore business performance:

1. Create an atmosphere of trust

Trust enables people to admit to weaknesses and ask for help. Leaders can create this atmosphere by being open and honest with them, and not “punishing” weaknesses or mistakes.

Encourage team members to share with each other.

2. Involve the team in your planning

Talk to your team members about your business plans. Ask for their ideas, what they believe the key issues are, and how they can be solved.

This will also help build that atmosphere of trust.

3. Set clear realistic goals

The goals will come out of the planning. There will be goals for the team as a whole, but each team member should have their own set of objectives, which will feed into the team goal. Make sure the goals are “ SMART2 ”.

4. Get to know your team members as individuals

Spend time talking to each of your team members. Find out what’s important to them, both inside and outside work. Get to know their individual strengths, and their preferred way of working.

5. Recognise your team members individually

Having got to know your team members as individuals, use this knowledge. Everybody likes to be valued and recognised for their contribution. Give praise where it’s due.

6. Make sure each individual knows the part they play

Once goals have been agreed, then ensure progress is reviewed.

7. Seek feedback from team members

There are a number of ways of achieving this, during reviews with individuals, through regular team meetings, or on an ad hoc basis.

8. Concentrate on strengths

We all do better when we’re doing things we’re good at! You’ll get a better performance from a round pin in a round hole, rather than complaining that the square pin doesn’t fit!

9. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Keep your team informed. Consider how you make sure your team knows what’s happening. A daily or weekly briefing is a good starting point. And the best communication is always two-way! So make sure there’s opportunity for the team to contribute.

10. Make time to have fun!!

A happy team is a motivated team! “Fun” means different things to different people, so it might be about friendly competition – meeting targets. Or it might be taking time out to have a chat about non-work stuff. It doesn’t necessarily mean going for a drink after work.

Notes

  1. Sue Parsons is owner and principal trainer at Vámonos Training & Development, a training organisation specialising in team and leadership development. Sue has over 25 years experience in retail in management and training roles, and wide experience in the third sector, as volunteer, trustee and paid member of staff. She is a qualified MBTI Step 1 practitioner, and an associate member of the CIPD.
  2. SMART  goals or objectives are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic / Relevant, Time bound
  3. Editor’s note: as Sue says, maintaining motivation is essential when times are tough, in times of change, and indeed throughout the life of a team.  Although motivation is not a main offering of my company, RiverRhee Consulting, it is one that comes into a lot of the work that we get involved in, in enhancing team effectiveness.  So it’s great to have the opportunity to host this blog from Sue on this theme alone.  Our latest RiverRhee Consulting Newsletter made several references to individual motivation and the role it plays in enhancing team performance, and a previous blog on employee engagement, may also be of interest to readers.