We are all familiar with the “Sell ‘n’ Tell” approach to communicating change messages, and we know to think in terms of the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) for our audiences. But do they always “get” (or want) the WIIFM we offer?
A trip down Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can provide a roadmap of the different “what” that people may be after.
Quick Primer on Maslow’s Theory
Each stage represents a type of motivation. People move through the five stages: satisfaction of one, in most cases, precedes advancement to the next level. The process is fluid, and applies to all motivations, not just motivations in the workplace.
Level 1 – Survival Needs
Many organizational-behaviour theories will tell you that money does not motivate, but the almighty dollar falls into this category when people are actually “working to live.” Others may be able to completely satisfy the higher-level needs outside of work. It is dangerous to assume that those in lower-paying jobs are more motivated by money, but this may be a significant driver based on the individual’s economic situation.
Worth noting: Most people would say “yes, please” to offers of making more, but past real survival/subsistence levels, you can often find needs to which people are more responsive. (See Level 4 for more discussion on dollars.)
Level 2 – Safety Needs
Similar to the Survival Needs, we are focussed on avoiding adverse situations. The threat of job loss is a reality for occupations in certain sectors today. Given all that we read about the shortage of skilled labour, there are likely other areas to explore that will allay this fear, though they may demand a significant career shift.
Worth noting: In a very real sense, actual on-the-job safety falls here. Concern for safety should be a focus for all process improvements.
Level 3 – Belonging Needs
With Belonging Needs, we enter the murky waters of emotional motivators. These stem from feeling included, which can involve being “in the loop” or feeling part of a team. Many people will look to the workplace to satisfy these social needs, at least partially. Workplace cliques develop around any condition that creates an “in group.” These can be based on similar jobs, approaches or interests, for example.
Worth noting: No clique or team will “include” everyone. Some people aren’t necessarily looking for this inclusion from the workplace. Also, efforts to recognize an individual will not be well received by those whose overriding drive is to “fit in.”
Level 4 – Ego/Status Needs
The necessary “out group” that stems from the Belonging-driven motivations may actually serve to fulfill this set of needs. (Recall Woody Allen/Groucho Marx’s refusal to join any club that “would have me as a member.”) There tends to be a negative connotation to “ego” in the workplace, but ego is pervasive in reality.
Worth noting: Money, as a means of keeping score, can come into play here. Also, extreme care should be taken in introducing changes that require employee education. Having to learn something new can be a direct affront to the ego, and can hinder overall motivation and involvement.
Level 5 – Self-Actualization Needs
The pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy transcends the “What’s In It For Me” and enters the altruistic world of the greater good. This may come from our personal set of values, or from such wider trends as corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability.
Worth noting: In certain situations any of us can act with a larger purpose in mind. I have written before about playing to the selfish nature of individuals, but it is much too cynical to discount this set of needs altogether. People can really surprise you here!
As Always, What Do I Do? Like all theories or guidance in effectively motivating workers, never forget that people are individuals. Here are some additional things to keep in mind:
- Money is not everything, but may well satisfy higher-order ego needs;
- Belonging and not-belonging may be equally desirable;
- Providing “team recognition” can straddle belonging and ego needs;
- Giving the opportunity to self-actualize may be a matter of positioning the message in a larger context.
NOTE: Many rewards are entrenched in organizational policies and procedures, but, in practice, there is an opportunity for leaders at all levels to personalize their approach. I welcome examples from readers who have had success or challenges dealing with others up, down or across the organization.
This originally appeared in the May 2008 e-Newsletter for the Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council (www.supplychaincanada.org).
Interactions between people produce perceptions of customer service, and a significant part of those interactions are questions and answers. There are classic information gap (I need A, do you have it?), but the issues can be clouded by a myriad of factors from a sense of entitlement (I am the customer here!) to mismanaged expectations (What do you mean you don’t have it in stock!) to negative experiences (for an ongoing saga, please see Rob Kozinet’s Q&A session with Costco.ca).
The extent to which you get the “benefit of the doubt” from another person can be a fluid process: less benefit of the doubt means more scrutiny and “reading into” your wording. When you have no benefit of the doubt, you have to bulletproof your wording. Recently, I was the recipient of one such question from one of the barristas at a local Starbucks.
Full disclosure: I was recently recruited to be on the Starbucks Passion Panel. I have no idea to what extent this is a distinguishing an honour.
“Do you need room for milk or cream?” was the question following my ordering coffee in my own (Starbucks) mug. The reason that this stood out for me so much is the headaches that I have been through in my quest to get a full mug of coffee (I drink it black, so I don’t need room.) I have tried to tell people that I take it black so, “Fill it up,” but they are often already away from the counter so don’t hear me. I have even, on occasion, asked for a “top-up,” explaining, of course, that it is only because I like the coffee so much, and not that I a cheap value-for-money coffee drinker… when really I am.
Long and short, that simple question equated to real customer satisfaction from me. I have no idea if it was deliberate or lucky, nor can I comment on whether such a question delivers universal customer experience value.
In contrast to the bulletproof question, here is another example. I was asked if I was “OK with stairs?” by someone who was a potential client of mine as we were about to move to a second floor meeting room. I noted and genuinely appreciated the query. To me it showed interest and empathy toward me. Upon further discussion, I learned that the individual had recently had back problems that allowed him to walk normally, but not climb stairs.
Had I been in a different frame of mind (offering less benefit of the doubt), I could have easily read into that question. Do I look that tired? Do I somehow seem ill-prepared to climb stairs? What exactly do you think is wrong with me? Verbalized or not, these are the potentially sensitive issues that we can rub up against when people find a reason to question our motives.
I recall witnessing a quickly deteriorating exchange between a friend of mine and a woman when I was a student. The question sought to identify her hereditary cultural definition. It was the wording “where are you from?” that caused the spiralling problems. That particular question is a tough one to bulletproof, so, when dealing with people where my “benefit of the doubt” is uncertain, I find myself asking about languages spoken in order to get around to this topic. Sometimes the ounce of prevention is well worth it!
This week’s Longwoods newsletter (www.longwoods.com) lists instances of LHINs “starting to show some muscle” in enforcing balanced budgets for hospitals. The tally of resolved vs. delayed agreements from the London, ON, area is on the Longwoods Healtcare Blog. There is specific mention of a resolution, whereby the South East LHIN lent one of its area hospitals the shortfall to balance the budget for 2008; and of a conflict, whereby the North West LHIN and the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre dig in on there competing positions.
The people working in these negotiations must feel like Gary Sinise in Apollo 13 when he is trying to simulate the landing procedure while not exceeding an unprecedented voltage level. In the movie (and the real story), he does it, which provides more evidence that the impossible is attainable when we work together.
What if the impossible is really impossible?
I can guarantee you that the word “impossible” has come up in the discussions and negotiations between Ontario’s hospitals (legally bound to budgets) and funders (LHINs whose job it is to enforce this accountability). I am equally certain that, in the end, some of the things deemed “impossible” were so in actuality, while others were not. The only way to separate the two is discussions (apparently still ongoing in Thunder Bay) that remain open and solution-focussed amid a cloud of rising tension. This is no mean achievement.
Unfortunately, “out-of-the-box” solutions are not always there, but they won’t even be entertained if there is a breakdown in the shared goal, which is getting a sustainable health care system in place. If a situation is truly unmanageable, then there is a responsibility to find a solution together. It demands a different approach than traditional “us vs. them” negotiations. A healthy dose of mutual trust will be necessary for resolutions or re-evaluations.
I am intrigued by the cost savings at Quinte Health Care from implementing third-party (Murphy Walsh) consultant recommendations for improved quality of life for nursing staff. Such experts can add tremendous value in honing systems. Of course, time tells whether the dollar return on these efficiencies will help with the budget shortfall. People also have to embrace the changes, and time also tells whether the changes are actually workable for the staff. One hopes that there is a peppering of “sell” in the “tell” for any change required.
Tom Blackwell raises a the dynamic of the “right to choose” in this piece on canada.com. The question is: who gets to decide what is best for a sick child: parents or doctors? I think we can all take comfort that the situations where this sort of dispute escalates to the Children’s Aid Society are “rare,” and needless to say, “emotional.”
Both doctors and parents, one can assume, have the best interest of the child at heart. But it may be more complicated than that: I recall hearing commentary on an instance in Vancouver–raised in the above article–whereby the parents of sextuplets refused blood transfusions because their Jehovah Witness faith did not allow the procedure. The commentary (I will try to find the source; you will have to trust me for now) was that in such instances, loving parents need to be legally forced, because it allows them to save the child, while also saving religious face.
If, in fact, both parties are focussed on what is truly best for the child, both are responsible and accountable. Parents need to be ready to make their case with more than just “this is what we want” or, worse “this is what our child wants.” With all due respect, it should not take a psychiatrist to determine that a child is unfit to determine the cancer-fighting procedures that they will receive. The medical profession must be granted some degree of trust and authority to make these decisions for people. This sort of latitude should be granted, but also needs to be earned.
Information is everywhere, and Google could probably help find a source to support that a diet of raw vegetables beats chemotherapy or that alternative care in Mexico will be more effective than Ontario hospital care. If these sources of information are being given the nod over what the doctor says, the doctor has some “selling” to do. Understanding the real concern takes time, and usually requires (1) creating a relationship of trust and (2) asking questions. Did the doctors do this? Did they have the time? the skill? Not everyone is going to take a doctor’s word as gospel; nor should they.
Medical research and past results are not the only forms of evidence, but will only be effective if the other party is listening. Fostering a dialogue can get people to open up to some grim realities. It must be a horrible decision to pick between a grueling medical procedure that might help, and a less extreme treatment that almost certainly won’t. That decision, however, should not be the parent’s, and definitely shouldn’t be the child’s!
What I really enjoy about John Ivison’s discussion of contraband cigarettes is the realistic approach to a complex problem. There are several sets of views, priorities and values at work. Two of those are Stockwell Day and the U.S. law enforcers, who have differing views of how strictly to apply the laws governing production and sale of tobacco products.
Rather than saying, “the law is the law,” Day asks the public to stop buying bargain-basement contraband cigarettes. He appeals to the greater good, imploring that money from such cigarettes fuels more dangerous illegal activity. Demand reduction is a great strategy for stemming market economy problems. If there is no demand for contraband cigarettes, the market will disappear. What you run into is summed up in dialogue from the movie ” The Break Up,” whereby the plea “I want you to want to wash the dishes,” (Jennifer Aniston) receives the reply (Vince Vaughn) “Why would I want to wash the dishes?” Day wants smokers to want to pay punitive taxes… and it may work! My grandmother, who lives in a border town, has always factored “made in Canada” into her purchase decisions. Frugality has lost to patriotism, whenever possible, and, increasingly, where “made in Canada” is discernible. Day is counting a great deal on prioritizing “societal good” over “money in my pocket.” (This notwithstanding that people will actual believe him!)
Assuming Day had there attention when speaking, the U.S. Enforcement Agencies reply suggesting they have bigger fish to fry makes no sense. They are more likely discounting the argument because (a) it is flawed and there is not connection between cigarettes and the “big fish”, or (b) they have additional priorities beyond upholding the law of the land. Assuming Day has it right–so no (a)–one could speculate endlessly as to what those (b) priorities might be: appease a potentially volatile First Nations community? provide some air cover to local manufacturing jobs? allow criminal activity to continue until there is a “big bust” that will survive the court system?
On the surface it would be confusing to see why Day would not get buy-in from U.S. law enforcers: they appear to both want the same thing. It is not that easy, nor should it be, but until there can be a clear discussion of what each party wants, there can be no resolution. Clear objectives may demand some heated internal discussions, and hopefully take into account other interests. At some point the First Nations community should be asked what they want from the situation, as well. Entering into negotiations, there is risk in clearly stating your objectives, appealing to the “greater good” and creating an in-group dynamic, may enable objectives oriented toward sustainable solutions to some of these incredibly complex issues.
“The Boy Who Cried Wolf” was written by Aesop in the 17th century. The premise of the fable is that lying will diminish your credibility. Perhaps a modern take on the fable is: assume that people don’t believe you. This may be the result of the “urban myth” or of the constant onslaught of spinformation, but there is nothing wrong with some healthy skepticism.
I think some skepticism is warranted toward a community warning regarding Withrow Park in Toronto. There was apparently a incident involving a rape in the area. One member of a community group took it upon themselves to e-mail the warning the rest of the community and confirm that the incident did indeed take place. Further more, a man (who did not want to be identified) suggested in the National Post account that police ought to do something because the source was “reliable” and something serious took place. His argument: put the unsupported information out there and let people make up their own minds!
Forcing people to “make up their own minds” in this situation is calling to murky underlying beliefs that have no place in solving the problem. “He said; she said” forces you to side with “he” or “she.” Who gets the benefit of the doubt in that case depends on many variables. “We can’t tell you what she/he said or who she/he is, but please listen to how serious this is” makes it much less rational and begs for overgeneralization. Knowing the details (as uncomfortable and private as they may be), will shine some light on what should be done.
The police have work to do in order to be a trusted partner in finding the solution. Not being brought “into the loop” is a strong indication that they are viewed as an “out-group” in this community. Once the right information is out, we can start to clearly address the issue. Until then, as interesting as it is to observe, the issue gets increasingly clouded by unsubstantiated claims.
There are still some simple things in life. Despite the continuous blurring of our “lines in the sand” from the waves of globalization, some issues are tough to straddle. We can no longer discuss things in the safe harbour of “well, it depends.” You are “in” or you’re “out.” (For a great discussion on a surprising range of “lines in the sand” see this editorial piece on clothes drying.)
The labour-union/management debate is rich with long entrenched lines (trenches?) in the sand. I would suggest that deep down, each one of us is either with “the worker” or with “the man.” Maybe not. I won’t tell you which side I’m on. The split between these views carries ample political baggage. Look for it in these two editorials: (1) Buzz Hargrove’s piece in the Toronto Star, Not the Better Way to Bargain; and (2) Robert Fulford’s response in the National Post, This is why we hate unions. (Between the author, the newspaper, and the title, you will be able to guess which is which, and arguably much of the content, without even reading!)
I wrote earlier about “moments of truth,” whereby the right information surfaces. Not “right for the worker” or “right for the man,” but just right in the larger scheme. Idealistic? Absolutely! Unrealistic? Probably! Worth a shot? Why, not?!
The problem is that the “sides” in the argument have their own interpretations of things like “fair” and “reasonable,” and are quick to point out “isolated incidents” (Buzz on the two-day strike) or “sneak attack” (Fulford’s view of the same). The more polarized the divide, the noisier the discussion because “give them an inch and they’ll take a mile” becomes “try to take a mile because we should be getting at least and inch and half!” Zero benefit of the doubt is exchanged (or warranted), and the discussion spirals aimlessly back to “the worker” vs. “the man.”
Those ignorant of the history may repeat its errors, but I believe Mr. Hargrove’s references to the history of collective bargaining are irrelevant and dangerous. Too much has changed. Look at Canadian politics and ask, “who does a pro-union person vote for?” The answer has to include “it depends” (e.g. the line has blurred).
So, what is the answer for the TTC? Those running the system have to have sufficient funds to do so safely. Those funding the system have the right to demand the resources be used as effectively as possible. Those working in the system must receive a fare wage. Those using the system have to contribute their fair share. It is classic triple bottomline problem. To get even close to the “right” solution, (to even see the three lines!) the parties have to get the noise out of the dialogue.
This will require sufficient leadership (from somewhere) to foster mutual trust. This also means that everyone is vulnerable, and will rightly balk at any perceived breach of trust. Someone has to start the process, but until it gets going, the discussion will remain noisy, polarizing, and unproductive. Toronto needs a better fix soon.
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