Tag archive for "Motivation"

by Bill, by Richard, Management, Motivation

Sometimes It IS About the Money

No Comments 22 October 2013

Few issues in the domain of business are thornier, more complex, and emotion-packed than that of how much money to pay someone for the work they do. Employee compensation thrusts its tendrils into considerations no less substantial than motivation, employment law, labor unions, production, and the very profitability of the enterprise. Oh, yeah. That.

Corresponding almost exactly with the arc of the Great Recession, we’ve been blinded of late by arguments put forth, like shiny objects, suggesting that the paper stuff that goes in your pocket (cash compensation) isn’t as important as the cornucopia of less extrinsic factors that have entered the deal in the workplace… things like concierge-type services, telecommuting, or participating in Habitat for Humanity builds alongside your co-workers.

Whoa, full flaps, brakes, stop! To be sure, there is considerable attraction and motivational impact in achieving a state of camaraderie, and in job-related perks that are special. Indeed, one of us helped launch FedEx, and for a while when the business was running on fumes, it certainly helped to be working alongside a charismatic CEO with a warrior spirit, to be a participant in reshaping commerce, and for every employee to have the opportunity to ride free on company planes, because the mixture of cold, hard cash was pretty lean.

But at the end of the day, people, nearly all of us are motivated, at some level and to a significant degree, by money. We are. Aren’t you? Sure, it’s not everything, but it’s definitely in the mix. And it’s more in the mix of late for two reasons:

1. Due to a still struggling economy and a slack labor market, real hourly earnings are mired US$0.24 below the December 2008 high.

2. Employee engagement levels are abysmally low, to wit the deal in the workplace tends to be more transactional, where cash is the coin of the realm.

So chewy and multidimensional is the comp issue that an entire professional association, WorldAtWork (formerly known as the American Compensation Association), exists to help employers figure it all out.

Credible studies abound, suggesting that higher compensation won’t necessarily buy you a better performing organization. In chapter 5 of our latest book, Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk, we illustrate that with some NFL stats showing that many of the highest paid football teams in the US consistently turn in some pretty middling results.

Still, most of us don’t lead entire organizations; we lead individuals. And taken one person at a time, let’s be clear. Sometimes it IS about the money.

It’s sometimes about the money, because people who are struggling to make ends meet, or who believe they can earn substantially more somewhere else, or who feel taken for granted spend more time thinking about their comp-related woes than they do thinking about their work, their customers, and your business. When that happens, they can’t possibly be as engaged as you need them to be.

It’s sometimes about the money because, let’s face it: right or wrong, in our society, money sends a message. A message about a person’s worth. One’s composite view of his or her “deal” at work consists of at least these four factors:

  • Leadership: How do I feel about the person I report to, and the big guns who run the place?
  • Meaningful work: Is what I do valuable and important to others, and do I get frequent reminders of that? Expressed appreciation is a HUGE part of this one.
  • Lifestyle fit: Does this job support and promote the kind of life I want to live? Schedule, benefits, amenities, time demands, etc.
  • Compensation “Worth-its”: Am I satisfied with the money I earn?

You’ll notice that the above list is heavily weighted in favor of intangibles. Only one factor – the last one – is tangible. Most of us would like to maximize the mix of these elements, but they don’t all have to be perfect. If I really like my boss, and the work provides a real sense of meaning to me, I may be willing to work long and inconvenient hours for less than optimal pay. But if I have to work for a jerk doing stuff that doesn’t provide much emotional satisfaction, you’d better be prepared to fork over the big bucks, or I’m outta here. Mentally if not physically.

Think about your competition for talent. Someone else can always outbid you on the tangible; not necessarily on the intangibles.

Here’s our position, and some tips to go along with it:

  • You should never pay anyone more than you can afford, or more than they’ve earned. And not substantially more than the market dictates.
  • Without violating anything in the above bullet point, make your very best offer to attract and retain the best people for your organization, and keep them interested.
  • The question of whether or not you can afford a certain amount for a certain person must be balanced with the question, “Can we afford not to pay that certain amount?” Consider the cost both if the person were to leave, and if they were to power back. If you really are underpaying someone, do you really expect to get their best work?
  • Stay educated on what the market demands. Take advantage of current salary survey data for your industry. Your professional association probably has some. Be sure to filter for geography, profession, education and most of all, demonstrated capability.
  • You can offset the desire for more monetary compensation – to a fairly substantial degree – by paying lots of attention to the intangibles mentioned above. Especially appreciation. Simply saying “thank you” – and meaning it – can go a long, long way. It’s worth real money. But be careful about using these intangibles to justify paying less than you can, and less than you should.
  • Apart from paying “stay bonuses” or step increases, never increase anyone’s base compensation simply for hanging around another year. If given a choice, your compensation dollars would be much better spent as merit-based differentiation than endurance pay.
  • Paying people by the hour is intellectually bankrupt. Find a way to correlate people’s pay with the income or value they provide to the organization.
  • Give everyone as much information and control as possible over how much they earn. Here’s a conversation we love to hear (and have): “You want to make more money? Let me show you how.”

Until next payday, wishing you the best!

by Bill, Leadership

Some Advice for New Leaders in the New Year

No Comments 08 January 2013

This week I’m recording an interview with Kathy Tuberville, a University of Memphis Fogelman College of Business instructor who has elected to use our book, Rebooting Leadership in an upper level undergrad course on leadership. As a precursor to our discussion, she posed two questions for me to address in our interview. I did my best to answer them in a fashion that I thought would be most useful to her students, and have shared my thoughts below. To the degree that you have new or young leaders in your organization, or perhaps you are one yourself, you/they may find this of interest:

What are today’s biggest leadership challenges for emerging and newly appointed leaders? The greatest challenge perhaps is that the on-ramp to today’s leadership highway is short, steep, and unforgiving. Less than a decade ago it was still conventional for newly appointed leaders to experience the benefit of some pretty intensive leadership training in their first few months on the job (if not prior), and be on a relatively short leash with their reporting senior during that period. Within reason, mistakes were expected, and were considered part of the learning curve. Today, not so much. Most of the prep work is a DIY proposition, and mistakes are things that your boss may be less able or inclined to provide air cover on, so it’s probably best that they happen to other people.

Not unlike the world of professional football (the U.S. variety), where yesterday’s rookie players (quarterbacks in particular) could expect to ride the bench for a year or more before being inserted into the starting lineup, today’s players are paid (and expected) to be fully productive from day one. And sadly, once on the field, we tend to forget that they are still rookie players, and not fully developed.

I will submit that had a lot to do with the recent re-injury of Washington Redskins’ rookie phenom quarterback, Robert Griffin III during the team’s first (and only) game of the 2012-13 NFL playoffs. As a 22 year old man who, to my knowledge has not spent any time in med school, Mr. Griffin was allowed to be the sole decider as to whether or not his previously injured leg was ready for action. He guessed wrong. It wasn’t, and hopefully he will recover.

Perhaps the most challenging part of this for the rest of us has to do with the fact that today’s newly appointed leaders can’t always count on having a good example set for them. By virtue of having a sour economy for the past five years, it is entirely likely that their boss hasn’t had the benefit of any leadership training either, ergo it’s not unusual to have the blind leading the blind.

The good news (and it is good news) is that, due to the fact that most of today’s workers are more likely to engage with (and on behalf of) their leader rather than the broader organization, the efforts of each individual leader tend to matter quite a bit more. It’s truly motivating when you realize that what you pour yourself into every day is indeed mission critical.

What are your recommendations for students to achieve success as leaders? For better or worse, here’s what I said.

1.    For openers, be bone honest with yourself about whether or not you are up for this particular ride.

  • Do you have the courage to make tough, unpopular decisions, and to deliver bad news without blaming them on someone else? How about telling a friend that they either need to change or leave?
  • Do you have the resilience to take shots and beatings that are intended for other people (your team) without whining? You better be, because that’s part of the job.
  • Are you willing to subordinate personal interest for the good of the team?
  • Are you willing to liberally share credit with others, perhaps even more than what they deserve at times? If so, proceed. We need a lot more like you.

2.    Early on, it’s important that you become a real master of your time and priorities. On day one, and every day thereafter, you’re going to have a hundred fresh emails and other incoming items of varying importance before you even get to work, and a line out the door (oops, doors are a thing of the past) when you do. How you handle that stuff and keep it in proper context will materially impact your success as a leader, not to mention your sanity.
3.    Though you must be ever mindful of the fact that accepting the mantle of leadership means that you are held to a higher standard, you must at the same time, be authentic – be real. People who are not comfortable in their own skin have a habit of becoming petty tyrants.
4.    Be grateful, and show it, every day. Really. Leadership is not about you. It’s about the mission, and it’s about them.
5.    Become a good listener. It’s one of the quickest ways of gaining the respect and trust of others, not to mention being a great path to the answers you need.
6.    Lastly, unless you find that you’ve been blessed with having a really good boss who is both competent and willing to invest a lot of time in your development, get a coach or mentor that you can rely on – somebody who has been around the block a few times, who cares about you, and won’t blow smoke up your nose.

These are my thoughts. You are invited to join the discussion.


A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

Avoiding Burnout, by Richard, Management, Motivation

Instant gratification: the ultimate motivator

1 Comment 07 September 2011

Of all the reasons my wife may have had for marrying me nearly 25 years ago, being ultra handy around the house is not among them.

That fact notwithstanding, last weekend I decided to pressure wash our house. The all-white structure has a large expanse of siding at the back that faces due north, and is therefore hospitable territory to a gray-green coating of mold and algae. Although the heat index was in the triple digits, I was actually looking forward to the task. And I knew why.

It’s the same reason that I actually enjoy mowing the lawn, even though there’s a fully capable onsite teenager, who would do it more often if I’d let him. The reason I like these tasks so much, and eschew others, like laundry and disinfecting toilets? Instant gratification.

Every swipe of the pressure washing nozzle was like applying graffiti in reverse. Expend labor – see result. It was magnificent! And enough to keep me at it in less than ideal conditions until the job was done. At which point I stood at the back of the house gazing up and admiring my handiwork.

We all need at least a little instant gratification at work, too. A strong need to know that what we do makes a difference. Some jobs come with this feature onboard. With others, this feeling of accomplishment is more elusive.

If you lead others, and help manage and design their work, here’s an assignment:

  • Pick one job you manage and assess it for instant gratification potential. Does it happen often, occasionally, rarely, or never?
  • If the answer is rarely or never, change that. Build into the job at least the occasional opportunity to see the fruits of the labor that goes into it.
    • Give back office people some direct customer contact.
    • Balance sales professionals’ account portfolios of tough customers with a few easier sales.
    • If the task is an intermediate step in a process, let them at least see the finished product and have a clear understanding of the part they played in it.
    • Make sure no job is all frustration – no fulfillment.
  • Once you’ve had a little immediate gratification with this experiment, do the same with the other jobs under your direction.

We all need to see the needle move from time to time. It’s part of what keeps us going.


Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results with a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the acclaimed business classic Contented Cows Give Better Milk, and Contented Cows MOOve Faster, and the brand new book Rebooting Leadership, written with Meredith Kimbell. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

by Bill, Leadership, Motivation

On Mission, Motivation, and Discretionary Effort

No Comments 24 May 2009

This morning, as I watched TV coverage of the space shuttle Atlantis touching down at Edwards Air Force Base in California, I said a silent prayer of thanks for the safe return of the craft and crew. Today’s landing completed the 124th successful space shuttle flight (of 126 attempts). That’s an admirable success rate for something that is still a quite dangerous activity. But is it really successful? What exactly have we succeeded at? More to the point, what did we set out to do? What is the mission of our space program?

Full stop. I’m not, repeat NOT beating up on NASA. It’s just that their purpose, their raison d’etre isn’t so clear any more. When President Kennedy announced the moon mission in 1961, it was crystal clear. Today, not so much. Similarly, when we took military action against Iraq in the first Gulf War, our purpose was entirely clear. Today, not so much. So what’s the point? Simple…

When you ask a group of people to come together and really lean into an activity, any activity, the odds of getting selfless, truly committed, balls to the wall effort are entirely dependent on them having a clear sense of purpose and direction. That is especially the case when you’re asking them to sacrifice, to bleed for the cause, and continue doing it over a protracted period.

Today, owing to intense global competition, a sputtering economy, and a financial meltdown of epic proportion, we’re all asking workers to suck it up, expend copious amounts of their discretionary effort, and in general to TOFTT. That’s perfectly appropriate, but we must understand that motivating people to do something out of fear (of financial penalty, losing one’s job, extinction, what have you) is effective only in the short term. Not unlike the jolt one gets from a cup of coffee, the benefits quickly wear off. As leaders of the currently out of favor political party are figuring out, it is simply not sustainable. In a sprint, fear works. In a marathon, hope wins… every time. So what to do?

1. As leaders in the midst of a storm, we must redouble our efforts to explain and reinforce for all hands on deck what it is we’re about, what the organization stands for, and where it’s headed. Do not assume that people remember something that you think you made clear six months or even six days ago. There are simply too many other competing thoughts in their minds at present.

2. Make darned sure that your people understand, explicitly, where they fit in and why their work, their best effort, matters. Don’t just tell them, show them.

3. Once the mission and expected contribution are clear, advise your folks that they are at liberty, no, expected to discontinue any activities that do not support those purposes. You’ll be pleasantly amazed how much wasted effort comes to a screeching halt.

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ContentedCows

by Bill, Motivation

Pay & Bonuses… Be Careful What You Incentivize People to Do

No Comments 16 March 2009

Chapter 22 of our latest book, Contented Cows MOOve Faster deals with the subject of motivation and rewards. A central tenet of the chapter is that organizations (and individuals) need to be very careful what they incentivize people to do, because, more often than not, that is exactly what they are going to do. While there is nothing new or remarkable about this precept (Psychologist, B.F. Skinner wrote and taught extensively about it in the mid-20th century), it seems that some of us have serious learning disabilities when it comes to our need to continually re-learn the lesson, often the hard way.

Witness the revelations over the weekend that insurance giant AIG planned to proceed with bonus payments ranging from $1,000 to $6.5-million ($US) to about 400 employees in its financial products division, the arm of the company that brought AIG, and the entire U.S. financial industry to the brink of collapse.

While word of these payments has led to a hue and cry about how a firm that recently posted one of the largest quarterly losses in the history of commerce, and has dined at the public trough to the tune of $170 billion can be paying bonuses to its employees, it should be of greater concern that company management, backed up by the board’s compensation committee, has evidently deemed the bonuses “earned”, consistent with established compensation plans, ‘er schemes. Yikes!

Before we get too sanctimonious, though, it would behoove all of us to revisit how pay and incentives work in our own organizations. How many of us, for example, are still paying people purely as a function of how long it takes them to do something? How many of us are incentivizing people who should be cooperating to compete against each other, and, how many of us, under the auspices of a poor economy have slashed or eliminated recognition and incentive programs altogether?

A thought leader in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com

by Bill, Management, Motivation

Staying Entrepreneurial in an Uncertain Economy

No Comments 01 July 2008

Business Week is currently soliciting solutions to a list of “tough challenges” identified by its readers. While my response to their challenge goes thru the editing process it seemed a good idea to let our readers see it first, before it appears at BW. Here’s my reply to the question, “How do you continue to innovate when the economy is in a recession?”

Truth be known, operating in a difficult economy gives everyone a better appreciation for what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. The wind is chronically in your face, and it seems there’s never enough time, capital, or runway to draw an assured breath. You’re scared, but you keep going. Maybe it’s because we’re too Committed or just too hard headed to give up.

Whether in a start-up or a high-performance team deep inside a larger institution, entrepreneurial behavior involves the relentless and passionate pursuit of an endeavor in which one has a vested interest. By definition, this behavior is contingent upon Focus, Passion, and Trust.

Focus: In the words of former NFL head coach, Jimmy Johnson, “confused players are not very aggressive.”  Even more so in difficult economic times, it is imperative that leaders at every level make darned sure that all hands on deck understand, really understand where the ship is headed, why it’s going there, and what that means. Despite having more communications modes, gear, and doodads at our disposal than ever, we probably do a poorer job of communicating (as in making meaning) regarding this stuff than at any time in history. As a quick litmus test for your own organization, ask the next ten staffers you bump into to jot down a list of the organization’s three (3) highest priorities. If they’re all the same, call me. I’d love to hear more about how you do what you do. If not, get busy.

Passion: Operating in the incredibly difficult, commoditized air transport business, Southwest Airlines flies the same planes to the same places, serving the same stale peanuts as its competitors. (Actually, some of their competitors have recently decided that eliminating the peanuts will be the ‘secret sauce’ to achieving prosperity.) For better than thirty years, Southwest has beaten the competition senseless not so much with planes or routes, but by hiring people who are capable of, and inclined to be a bit more passionate about what they do. In short, Southwest recognizes that there are more folks who have the talent to fly and fix their planes than those who, by virtue of pace, preference, and values fit their merry band. Unlike the competition, they’ve figured out that it should be unlawful to lock customers up in an aluminum tube for long periods with cranky employees. In other words, talent is important, but so is attitude.

As leaders, we need to realize that passion is not a static condition that can be ignored or taken for granted. We must cherish it, invest in it, see that it is well directed, and above all else, set the example to be worthy of its expenditure in our workplace.

Trust:  At the end of the day, trust is the central lubricant that allows the entrepreneurial juices to flow – trust in one’s self, your ideas, the people around you, and in your support systems. Sadly, due to the ongoing reinvention of the ‘deal’ in the workplace, trust is in as great a demand and low supply as well, uh… oil. The pressures of an eroding economy make this even more the case.

If you’re truly worried about keeping alive the entrepreneurial instincts in your organization, this would be a great place to start. Consistent with the premise that people would rather “see a sermon than hear one”, turn off the PR machine, put the lawyers back in their sound proof offices, and begin taking visible steps to demonstrate that you personally, and your organization can be trusted to do what you say you’re going to do. Make it abundantly clear that you’re not going to stop at doing what’s legal, but what is right. In similar fashion, be strident and unapologetic in demanding that those with whom you work and partner are similarly convicted.

I can’t promise you that doing these things will convert your organization to a bunch of fire-breathing entrepreneurs, but it’s pretty safe to say you’ll never get there without them. Good luck and Godspeed!

A thought leader in the areas of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard, and their work, please visit their website at www.contentedcows.com


Considered thought leaders in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden speak to, train, and coach managers on leadership practices for better business outcomes.

OUR PREMISE: Having a focused, engaged, and capably led workforce is one of the best things any organization can do for its bottom line.


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