Leadership Lessons for Today’s World
By Leadership Keynote Speaker Connie Podesta
When did it become our job to make other people happy? Our kids? Our partners? The people on our team who follow our lead? Isn’t it about all we can do on most days just to make ourselves happy? Somewhere along the way, managers have been told by well-meaning people (and probably a few motivational speakers) that one of their priorities is to make sure all of their employees are happy. WRONG! Psychologically, it is IMPOSSIBLE to make someone else happy. I know you know that. You’ve certainly tried hard enough throughout your life, right? So, let’s just take the “it’s your job to make them happy” off the table and get back to the work of a true leader.
A leader’s job is to create a healthy, safe work environment for employees to be successful in their roles. Therefore, management IS responsible for creating a climate that is functional, respectful, fair, and purpose-driven. However, you are NOT responsible for motivating your employees or making them happy. Whoa! That hit a nerve, didn’t it? How can I, a professional speaker, tell you to stop motivating your employees? Because there are two sides to motivation—intrinsic and extrinsic. What leaders need to understand is that as the external motivation increases, the internal motivation decreases. Yep. It’s true. The harder you try to motivate your employees and push to make them happy, the less desire they have to look within themselves and develop their own internal drive to accomplish greater goals. Not a good thing at all, right?
Listen, here’s the deal: it’s time for managers to stop thinking they need to surround their team with rainbows and unicorns. Work is WORK; it’s not a vacation. That’s why we pay our employees—because we knew we would be asking them to work hard, embrace change, cope with stress, and have a good attitude even when work isn’t fun.
You might be thinking, if an employee isn’t working to potential, then they are probably not happy. Well, that could be true, but unhappiness is usually a symptom, not the cause of low performance. If you as a leader find you have employees who aren’t performing to the levels expected of them, then you need to ask yourself if the employee is either unable or unwilling to perform to standards.
Maybe they are UNABLE to grow because of a lack of education, expertise, coaching, training, or resources. These are problems that can be addressed by you the leader. It’s your job to get them to a place where they are capable of completing the tasks given to them. But, if an employee is UNWILLING to change despite the fact that they are trained and operating in a healthy and safe workplace, then the job of the manager is to work towards letting them go in a fair, legal, and respectful way.
Bottom line: Stop trying to make your team happy and start making sure they are respectful, hard-working, resilient, engaged, and knowledgeable about what is expected of them. Step up to give them the support they need. Take the necessary time to train them on difficult processes. Have the tough conversation. Remove obstacles in their path and model to them at every turn what good, responsible behavior and high performance look like. Their motivation will come from watching and witnessing YOU in action. Anything else is a recipe for a toxic workplace, with or without the external rah-rah motivation.
To learn more about this topic, check out my short video above, “Quit Trying to Make Everyone Happy,” which is part of my series called Top 10 Things You Need to Quit to Be a Better Leader. Click here to check out my YouTube channel.