The languages leaders use to motivate and inspire their staff: that’s the lesson for this week.

“To a hammer, everything is a nail.”

That’s our quote for the week and I have no idea who said it but I hear it all the time. It’s so true that when trying to communicate to our staffs, I hear people use the same language to motivate everybody. In that sometimes the hammer is threats. We know leaders who do that. They threaten to fire their staff or they threaten to give them a pay cut. They’re constantly threatening. So that the language they use is a hammer; they just hit on people. They beat them down and threaten them. And that’s just not an effective language.  Here are the nine languages of leaders.

Some people think that they can motivate. They’re great motivators. You know, I think I’m a pretty good motivator, but that is only one seasoning within the entire dish. You’re not going to cook a dish with one seasoning, at least not a good one. So even though motivation is helpful, it’s not enough.

Having built many companies with many diverse staffs, diverse skills, and diverse partnership groups, I have learned over twenty years that I’ve got to speak different languages to everyone on it. What I need to speak to my partners, to get them excited, may be different to what I have to use to motivate my office staff. It may be different then what I have to use to motivate actual workers who are in the field, contractors, things of that nature. Maybe what I need to use to motivate my subcontractors or contractors is different than what I use with all of them.

The point is, there are a lot of languages you need to be very fluid in. And I’m just going to throw out these today. I’m not going to elaborate greatly on these. I think actually at some point this is going to be a great book so no one copy it.

1. Affirmation and Appreciation

There’s a great book called the five love languages by Gary Chapman and it really refers to marriage, but he talks about the one language that may be very helpful to learn is affirmation. You know, how you pat someone on the back, make them feel good through your language through what you say and it’s not always what you say, it’s how you say it. Some of your staff may need verbal affirmation, and this is huge. And you can tell when you compliment them they just light up. They get a bounce in their step.

Some people you give a compliment to and it means nothing to them. It’s not their language. But again, be on the lookout for those who need honest affirmation and appreciation. This is so important and it’s so easy, just basically verbally finding something to brag about in front of them.

2. Security

Security is huge. You have an employee and he has five children or you have someone who’s maybe a single parent. Security may be the language they need to hear. You don’t ever threaten to fire this person. You never threaten to fire this person. That is not something you put in your toolkit to motivate this person. You constantly stress the strength of the company to this person, and how excited the future is. So again, the second language is security. And again, you’ll see how speaking of the strength of the company and how job security this person has will excite them, so that’s a language.

3. A Seat at the Table

Some people want a seat at the table. What I mean is that they want to be involved in setting the direction. “Hey, if you want me to be involved in leading and managing the company, then I want to be involved in setting the direction.” It doesn’t mean they need to be an owner. They want a seat at the table. They would like to have some input in the direction that they are going to be asked to manage anyway. Again, you need to get them involved in some of the meetings. If you do this they will have great buy in.

4. A Monetary Award

There’s no substitute for money sometimes. There are employees that I treat like I’m running a bingo hall. I’m constantly offering spiffs: “A hundred dollars if you finish this, two hundred if you finish this. Hey, I’ll give you two extra days on a vacation, paid.” It’s like a bingo hall. I literally feel like I’m running something close to a Vegas Casino. I have to motivate them. I want them to hear the slot machines ringing in the back of their ears because I’m constantly offering them something when I’m asking them to do more. I don’t do this all the time, but when I’m asking a person to go above and beyond what their job description is, whether it’s in hours or in responsibility, I have a monetary reward that I’m waving in front of them. They understand this.

5. Ownership

There are certain people, who, if you don’t bring them in, they are never going to be loyal and you are going to be competing against them at some point. You have to pick up on people who are constantly asking, “How did you set this up?” or “What did it take?” You start hearing buzzwords that make you feel that this person possibly has the skill set to do it and you need to be concerned. Sometimes, you need to bring them in as a part of your ownership group. Ask yourself very simply, do you want to compete against this person? Do you want this person to work for your competition? If the answer is no, you may need to find a creative way to bring them into your ownership. Some people will not listen to anything but ownership.

6. Team Culture and Atmosphere

Some people are very motivated to be on a team. Culture is very important to them. They want to be a part of something, a group. They want to know that we are doing something neat here. We are setting a new direction. We have a new kind of company. Whatever it is, they want to be a part of that team atmosphere. They light up for staff meetings. They do better in groups. Sometimes you need to speak culture and you need to create a team atmosphere to get them involved. It may be that you create something for your company like bowling leagues, softball leagues, or whatever it takes. They really want to be involved with a team and a culture.

7. Mission

Some employees want to be a part of a mission. They want to know that the profits of their company are going towards something that they believe in. Simply put, they understand that they need to work for a living but they want there to be an ancillary benefit to their hard work. I’m sure the people that work for the Toms shoe company feel like, “Hey, I’m making shoes, but for every shoe I make that gets sold, another shoe goes to somebody in another country.” That’s admirable. I can see how it would be very easy to go to work and work very hard for a company like that.

Again, some people want to be a part of a mission. It may only be for a season that you have these people. In other words, sometimes missions aren’t indefinite. You may be involved in a mission and it’s a one-year project or a two-year project. I just want to prepare you, sometimes these people move on when there is not a mission waiting. Be aware of that because you can’t always have an exciting project, one after another. They may only be with you for a season. They may be with you just during the start-up phase because that’s exciting, that’s a mission. Don’t be offended when they leave and don’t take it personally. Pat them on the back and thank them.

8. Flexibility

Some people need flexibility. Period. That is their language. When you negotiate a salary with them they want to hear that they don’t have to come in on Fridays if all their work is done. They want to hear that on certain days of the week they can work from home. They’ve shown that they can produce, whatever it is. They want flexibility. They want to be able to attend all their kids’ activities. Period. Let them figure out how they are going to get it done, but if something is going on, they want to be there. They want to pick their kids up from school every day. They want to put their kid on the bus every day. Guess what? If they are worth it, figure it out.

Over the years I have created schedules that are comical. I have given people a month off to go deer hunting. They love deer hunting and are going to take days off anyway with some sickness. I’ll give them the month of January off. We’ll create something that works. I’ve also had people that love horseback riding. I had a secretary, a lead secretary, the most talented person I think I’ve ever had work for me, and she loved riding horses. During springtime at four o’clock, you could see it in her face. She died in the office because she wanted to be horseback riding. I learned to let her off. I told her, “When the time changes you are off at four.” I can’t tell you how hard she would work for me over the winter just because she knew I did that.

I had another person who was attending school and had a class on Fridays that was around eleven or twelve o’clock. It was the only time she could take it or else she would have to take it at night, and that was not her best time. And I said, “Listen, don’t come to work at all Friday until after class and after you’ve had lunch. So come into work at two on Fridays. I’ll give you Friday mornings to do your schoolwork if you have anyway. That way you’re not even thinking of your job. You have all Friday until after that class to focus on that.” She couldn’t believe I said that. Again, flexibility was the language that that employee needed. Look at each situation and remember, “To a hammer, everything is a nail.” You don’t want to be like that. You want to have a lot of tools in your toolkit.

9. Opportunity

Some people just need opportunity. It may not be ownership, but you need to look at where you can possibly provide education for them. They may be looking for advancement. Sometimes the opportunity is that they just need a challenge. Whatever it is, you’ve got to let them know that the future is better than what it is currently. “Trust me, I’m going to give you opportunities for advancement. I’m going to give you opportunities to grow your skill set. I may even give you ownership if you can do this or that.” They want to know that they’re going to be further along a year from now then they are today.

Today I shared with you the languages of leaders. Again, “To a hammer everything is a nail,” but we’re not going to speak like that. We’re not going to assume like that. We’re going to use affirmation, security, we’re going to give them a seat at the table if that’s what it takes, we’re going to give them a monetary award (Again, think of running the business like a bingo hall), we’re going to give them ownership if need be (if we don’t want to see them working with someone else or compete against them), we want to create a team atmosphere (great culture if that’s the language they need to hear), and we want to create a mission because people want to be a part of a mission.

Maybe we need to create flexibility within their schedule because time with their family is important, vacation etc. They may need opportunity. They want to know that they will be further along a year from now then they are today. These are the nine languages that leaders use to motivate their staff and I encourage you to use them.  They can help you be an effective TEAM BUILDER.

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