Transforming Church Team Blog
resourcing leaders…reenvisioning the future

The Basics: Motivation

Dr. Jim Osterhaus

Motivate the Players

Let me say it plain and simple:  You must focus on people’s strengths. In other words, you must let them become more of who they already are. That goes contrary to most management thinking that says, Identify the weaknesses, then coach them, threaten them, send them to workshops, whatever, to make sure they overcome their weaknesses. Well, I just say you must manage around each person’s weakness, and get to their strengths, where the true power lies.

            So let’s now focus on motivating your people.

  • Turn one person’s talent into performance. As a manager, you serve the organization by serving the employee first.
  • The starting point is each person’s talent. The challenge: figure out the best way to transform these talents into performance.
  • You are charged with other responsibilities, but your managing succeeds or fails based on your ability to make employees more productive working with you rather than with someone else.
  • To pull this off, employees must genuinely believe that their success is your primary goal.
  • The employee will give her all only when she feels supported, challenged, understood, and stretched to be as successful as her talents allow.
  • One of the talents most characteristic of great managers is an ability to derive satisfaction from seeing tiny increments of growth in someone else.

Let me add, spend most of your time with your best people. There’s no use in spending all of your energy on non-performers, or low performers. To the best of your ability, you need to get those folks into more productive jobs, if that’s possible. Pay attention to the behaviors of your superstars.

You obviously can’t ignore everyone except your stars. But several things to consider. First, is your poor performer motivated? If the answer is no, I’d try whatever means are in my power to get them out of the organization. If they are motivated, but not doing well, I’d think, Is this person on the ‘right seat on the bus?’

I think it’s important that you realize that, as a minister and as a manager, you’re always on stage. What you do, who you notice has tremendous repercussions. If you misplace your time and attention, it will never go unnoticed. So let’s write up a few important points: 

Recognize excellence immediately and praise it.

    1. The consequence that follows a certain behavior will significantly affect whether or not a person will repeat this behavior.
    2. Consequences can be positive/negative; future/immediate; certain/uncertain.
    3. If you want to see specific behaviors repeated, you must make sure these behaviors meet with consequences that are certain, immediate, and positive. Recognize excellent behavior and praise it!
    4. Show care for your people. 
  • Be deliberate and explicit about telling people you care about them, that you want them to succeed.
  • This doesn’t mean you’re soft on people.
    1. Discover what is unique about each person, and capitalize on it.
    2. Great Managers play chess (learning how each piece moves, then incorporating these unique moves into an overall plan of attack), not checkers (assuming all managers are motivated by the same things).
      • Employees differ in how they think, build relationships, learn, whether they’re altruistic, patient, how they’re challenged, etc.
      • Great management is not about transformation, it’s about release.

Develop the Players

Okay, let’s now look at this final aspect of great managing. You could say that the first quality of great managers is the instincts of a coach. The second quality is the ability to recognize individual differences in people. Remember what we said about knowing your people. This is where that comes in. You really need to know three things:

  1. Strengths and Weaknesses
  2. Triggers
  3. Styles of Learning

First, let’s look at strengths and weaknesses.

ü  Mediocre managers believe most things are learnable. Therefore the essence of management is identifying each person’s weaker areas and eradicating them.

ü  Great managers believe the opposite. S/he knows the most influential qualities are innate and the essence of management is to deploy these innate qualities as effectively as possible. Spend most of their time either challenging each employee to identify, practice, and refine her strengths, or rearrange the world so as to take full advantage of those strengths.

ü  If you want people to apply themselves, you’ve got to make them believe that the tasks they are engaged in are challenging. Imbue them with awe for the difficulty of their assignments.

ü  Overemphasize employee strengths (don’t continually give a realistic assessment of her limits). People often have difficulty understanding their strengths, while emphasizing their weaknesses.

When an employee fails:

ü  Assuming failure is not attributable to factors beyond his control:

  • Figure out whether the person’s struggles are being caused by lack of skills or knowledge, rather than lack of talent.
  • Find her a partner.
  • Rearrange employee’s working world so that her weaknesses are no longer in play.

For Strengths: 

ü  What was the best day at work you’ve had in the last three months?

ü  What were you doing?

ü  Why did you enjoy it so much?

For weaknesses:

ü  What was your worst day at work in the last three months?

ü  What were you doing?

ü  Why did it grate on you so much?

Next, let’s look at triggers. Strengths require precise triggering to keep them switched on. So what triggers each of your people? People answer this in many different ways. Some are triggered by confrontation, others by periodic check-ins, still others by independence – ‘Just leave me alone.’

Here are some questions to ask for triggers:

ü  What was the best relationship with a manager you’ve ever had?

ü  What made it work so well?

ü  What was the best praise or recognition you’ve ever received?

ü  What made it so good?

Finally, consider styles of learning. Each of us has a different style that best suits us when we learn. Here’s a list to keep in mind:

ü  Analyzing. These people crave information. Must be given ample time in the classroom.

ü  Doing. Throw them in the middle of a situation and tell them to ‘wing it.’

ü  Watching. Must see the total performance.

Here are some questions:

ü  When in your career do you think you were learning the most?

ü  Why did you learn so much?

ü  What’s the best way for you to learn?

Let’s do a little review.  First, the primary focus for you as a manager is people.

Your primary function is that of  a catalyst, turning individual talent into performance, and that performance toward the goals of the organization.

The three critical elements to job satisfaction are relevance, measurability, and the fact that I’m known.

            And what you need to do well as a great manager is:

You must Sing…

  • The mission
  • The values
  • The vision, and
  • The strategy

You must Coach…

  • Select Your Players
  • Set Expectations for Your Players
  • Motivate Your Players
  • Develop Your Players




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