Throughout the past 10 years, I’ve served as a supervisor a few times. The first time around I was asked to hire and then oversee the work of an editor and a Web master. The two gentlemen I selected were just a few years younger than me, and I treated them as friends and team members more than employees. Because they both got the job done and responded to the guidance I provided, I didn’t think much about how to be a good manager.
The second time around was only a few months later, but it was quite different. I was hired as the executive editor for a two-person magazine edit team, and when the managing editor left to go to graduate school a few months later, I needed to hire someone to replace her. Only one qualified person responded to the initial advertisement for the position, and my boss told me to hire him despite my serious reservations. During the interview process, this middle-aged freelance writer told me he had applied for the job because he needed health insurance to pay for some surgery.
That was the beginning of a bad year. My new employee and I were tasked with producing a daily e-mail newsletter and a monthly magazine by ourselves. But while I was frantically scrambling to meet each new deadline, my managing editor was about as laid back as they come. He arrived on time each day, plodded through his assignments and left as soon as his required time was up, whether his work was done or not.
I could not have been more frustrated, and I had no idea how to instill in him the sense of urgency I felt about our work. I tried to use words to pressure him into working harder, to convey some small iota of the stress I felt about our situation and finally to squeeze the work out of him faster. This had no effect.
When I think about it now, it’s no surprise. How can we expect any of our relationships to work if the wants and needs of both parties aren’t being met? And what are the chances they will be met if we never ask the question of what those wants and needs are? Like many supervisors, I assumed that the salary and the benefits that went along with the job my company was offering was plenty of motivation. But studies have consistently shown that employee satisfaction is about a lot more than just money. And there’s probably nothing more demotivating than a boss who believes the key to increased productivity is more pressure, especially in today’s economy when we’re all under plenty of pressure already.
As you might have guessed by now, I’m no expert on what motivates people in their jobs. But it’s an area that holds great interest for me.
That’s why the next book on my reading list is “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” by Daniel H. Pink, set to debut in January. I’ll let you know if it holds any great lessons for the marine industry.
Here are some of the other books I’ve read this year: Seth Godin’s “Tribes,” Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval’s “The Power of Small,” Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles’ “Raving Fans,” Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff’s “Groundswell” and Juliette Powell’s “33 Million People in the Room.”
I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading lately and how it has made a difference in your working life. Share your reading list or your thoughts on employee motivation by commenting below.