In Art Of Coaching Podcast, Podcasts

Less than 31.5% of the US working population report being “engaged” in their work.

51% report being “not engaged”.

And 17.5% report being “actively disengaged”. (Gallup, 2014)

With numbers like that, it should come as no surprise that many of us feel like we’re dealing with lazy or unmotivated staff members. 

But why? Is it a lack of ambition? Of skills and abilities? Of work ethic? Of character? Or is it something else?  

Today’s episode will help you identify what’s causing your staffing woes as well as give you a blueprint for re-engaging and motivating them. 

Before giving up or moving toward firing, give this a listen: 

  • How to assess what’s causing the lazy behavior (9:45)
  • Figuring out if you’re being too trait focused (17:50)
  • Identifying the best influence tactics to be used in the given context (25:55)
  • When to consider if a restructuring of roles is an option (35:00)

All of these questions, and more, are unpacked on an even deeper level in our weekly newsletter and at our live events

By signing up for our weekly newsletter, you’ll unlock access to our latest resources, tips and advice from first hand experience, as well as exclusive discounts and promotions

If you want to learn more about using influence tactics and gain actual practice having the hard conversations – a part of the messy realities of leadership – you need to check out our Apprenticeship™ Workshop.

On the other hand, if you’ve noticed that your team or staff is connected but constrained, or stagnant and struggling, and you’re looking for a way to fix it, our Brand Builder™ event is for you.

At the end of the day, none of these points are mind blowing or overly complex.  They are basic and straightforward, but often overlooked.  Don’t be the leader that gives up on someone, then watches them go change the world working with your competition.

It’s about context and creativity, patience and pragmatism.

Referenced Material:

Today’s episode is brought to you by Dynamic Fitness  & Strength and DFND.

Dynamic Fitness & Strength: These guys are our go-to equipment partner. Fully customizable and manufactured in the heartland of America- whether you’re looking to outfit your home gym or entire weight room, visit to get started. Tell them Brett and the Art of Coaching Team sent you!

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Brett Bartholomew  00:04

All right, everyone, today we’re gonna get into something that is a timeless leadership related problem. And that is how I motivate a lazy staff or even a staff member who seems to have lost their way. Now, if this sounds familiar, it’s because we talked about it a little bit on our newsletter, and we don’t often cross pollinate things from our newsletter onto our podcasts and our podcasts onto our newsletter.

But periodically, we like to give you guys samples of all ends of our ecosystem, because what we really want to do at Art Of Coaching is have this holistic frame and view of helping you guys solve some of your biggest challenges. And there are some times that we can’t go as in depth on one medium that we can add a little bit more character or color to another one. And the bottom line is people like getting their information in a wide variety of ways.

So if you’re only a podcast listener, I highly recommend you check out our newsletter because we put a ton of stuff there that you’re not always going to get here. And you can do so for free at  If you’re new to the podcast, and you came over from our newsletter, thank you so much. I think you’re going to enjoy the wide range of things that we do here.

We try to have some fun episodes and really deep episodes. And then of course, expert interviews that we’re not ever gonna be able to really represent in our newsletter. So with all that being said, I hope you guys enjoy this. And I think that this is one that you’re gonna be able to share with friends and family members. We got a great response out of it, probably our highest performing newsletter to date, or at least one of them.

So, let’s dig in. Now, when we think about a “lazy staff”, there’s often this question of, is it an ambition problem? Is it skills and abilities problem? Is it a knowledge problem, or is it even just a character problem? And is there a great, really great or clean way to figure those things out? Because the fact is, it can be something else entirely. Now, stay with me because we’re gonna give you a lot of tactics and things to work through.

But a little bit of data first, according to Gallup, which is one of the leading workplace analytics companies in the world, less than 1/3 of US workers, and that’s 31.5%, are engaged reported being engaged in their jobs in 2014. The average is up nearly 2% points from 29.6% in 2013, and represents the highest reading since 2000. When Gallup really first began tracking the engagement levels of the US working population. However, when they looked later on, they said a majority of employees 51% were still not engaged and 17.5% rated themselves as very actively disengaged in 2014.

What does all this mean? Well, and also I think it just pays to say how does Gallup define engage, then here it is, in their words, Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work, in the workplace. The 2014 employment engagement average is based on those tracking interviews conducted from January to December 2014. And this was 80,837 adults. Guys, even if you don’t like data, and you’re like Brett, just get to it. You have to appreciate that kind of sample size.


Brett Bartholomew  03:20

You have to look at that. And you can’t just think well, it should just be a matter of want to, I shouldn’t have to engage them. That’s not how that works. So when we look at this and you say like, alright, well, so how do I save myself from losing my mind? When it seems like my staff is stuck on autopilot? You know, the first step is just to take a second and put some things down on paper, so you can strategize effectively and not overreact. I want you to consider the following three points if it feels like you have a staff member that’s not engaged or a staff that’s lazy.

Consider these following three points to help you get back on track and make sense of your next moves. And remember, this is just an appetizer. We’ll continue to go deeper. Step one is look to the past. You know, there’s this phrase that history may not repeat itself, but it certainly does follow certain patterns. And those patterns influence our behavior. If we quit thinking about terms like culture as some mystical phrase that most leadership books really love to bastardize and we look at it more as a dynamic process that’s characterized by the shared values, beliefs and expectations of a specific group over time, then it shouldn’t take much to really imagine that most behaviors even those related to lazy staff members have a bit of a historical context to them.

And so what I’m saying is, ask yourself if the behaviors you’re witnessing in your staff are really new, or if they’re inveterate to the organization in general, is this happening from the top? Is it happening from the bottom? Where are they learning this from? Where might they be learning this from? Where might this be showcased? In  medical terms, right, the last few: Is there a family history? Now I just spent almost my entire day yesterday in the ER, I have some really complicated things going on with my health right now that we do not have answers to, but I had to go through a lot of my family history. And it’s tricky because I don’t even know if the doctors really pay attention to it. If some of you understand how bad healthcare related communication is, you get that?

But the point is when we know if there’s a family history, right, there’s this example of like, Alright, there’s something to go off here. And same thing with organizational history. There’s a behavior that preceded you coming in there, you know, or knowing is it something new that emerged? So I’ll give you a very specific example, with a case study. And if I get a little short of breath again, please just bear with me. Like I said, I’m dealing with some medical issues. We don’t have a ton of answers, but I wanted to really show up for you guys today. We don’t, we’ve never missed a week since December 2019. We didn’t want to start now. 


Brett Bartholomew  09:04

A former client of ours that had worked in elite sport had an issue with a staff member they had to retain from a previous staff who had incredible technical skills, but also harbored major trust issues. And after several notable mishaps and miscommunications, the problematic staff member eventually revealed that a dog eat dog mentality was really sewn into every part of the fabric over the previous staff. And he said that that was because there was this historically high turnover. Everybody he worked with was always positioning themselves for the next job.

And so given that environment and the fact that social factors are critical determinants of behavior, right, it makes sense that this Game of Thrones type of environment is the thing that had to change. If the original bad actors you know, are going to kind of be taken out of that power dynamic hierarchy. Because remember, like that’s the thing that influences behavior most, I can’t say it enough, environment and social factors and what I mean by social factors that can just mean your peers, that can mean the media that means all the whispers in your ear, and we shared a document about this in the newsletter.

I can’t obviously show it here on the podcast we do for those of you that have come to our apprenticeship leadership development workshops, you’ve seen it, but what you just want to think about is when you’re in a workplace and when you’re in a work situation, and something goes down and you have this case study that you’re trying to make sense of.

I’d asked you guys to get out of pen and paper and what I told them to do is I said listen, record this, record the date, the location that the interaction happened, who all of the involved parties were, you know, what was the nature of the interaction in this case, it was like this person, you know, they wanted data stat, data records and historical records.

Another one there is condescension to junior members on a zoom call and somebody in the organization seemed like they were withholding information. Then we asked them think of all the other power bases involved. Now if you’re not familiar with what I mean by power and power dynamics, we have a previous episode that we’ve linked in the show notes all about power dynamics that I highly recommend you listen to.

And then the bottom line guys is what we said is we just like we want to get some data here. Remember, it’s like medical history. Right? So in this case, we knew I here’s this gentleman who seems unmotivated. We start digging into the history and we start saying you know why? Why is it seeming this way? Then we start figuring out, okay, the previous staff was like that, how did that manifest itself? Why might he still feel like he can’t trust us even though the previous staff isn’t here? Then we start diving more deeply. And if you don’t document what you’re experiencing, it’s really hard to see the full picture. I mean, think about how ridiculous it is.

People will track their macros and their nutrition, they’ll track their sleep, they’ll track their workouts, they’ll track their finances, but they won’t track some things that are all about the difficulty interactions they deal with daily. Hey, I had this issue with HR. Here’s what I tried to do, here’s what they tried to do, here was the result, here might be the power dynamics at play, here’s a persuasive technique I could use last time. You do that kind of stuff.

And I mean, I’ll just say it bluntly, if you follow our material, you guys are gonna have a lot more success. Because frankly, and I’m not trying to be proud when I say this, we’re the only organization trying to help people make sense of these things. And that’s simply because we made these mistakes over and over. And that’s why you’ve got to deconstruct it. 


Brett Bartholomew  09:31

So when we’re looking at this, you know, you also wanna understand that you need to quit being trade focused. Let me explain here. There are traits, there are behaviors, They’re the situations we find ourselves in, the people that whisper in our ears, there’s timing related factors. There are so many things that influence the way people behave. So many things that influence the way people behave. So it’s lazy thinking, like really denounced somebody as unmotivated, clueless, uncommitted, or unambitious without considering the larger context. I’ll say that again because I think it makes for a really key soundbite.

As a leader, you need to understand that it is lazy thinking to denote someone as unmotivated, clueless, uncommitted or unambitious without considering the larger context. Leadership is a messy lonely full contact sport. And there are so many things that you have to look at under a microscope to really discern why somebody is behaving the way they do. But it’s easy for people just to take the path of least resistance and say not now. It’s just their personality. You know, it’s like my personal favorite is when people say things like Oh, kids just don’t have attention spans. Despite video game designers and those who create other forms of online content, being able to get them to engage for hours on end with no issue, you know.

To lead well guys is to be socially agile, and to be socially agile is really in part to be skilled at identifying and connecting the dots that others don’t see. And then creating strategies that engage, entice and influence others. It’s not the kids don’t have attention span. It’s that you have to work harder to make your message matter to them. I am the father of a toddler. Any other parent out there knows that like to get your kids to go to bed, to take a bath, to do these things. You’ve got to find ways to almost trick them and engage them and it’s no different at work.

So if you just want to write somebody off his lazy, you have to ask yourself, have I really done all I could do to engage them? Have I really tried to get as creative as I could be? Now if you don’t have time for that guy’s that’s the problem, right? Because we have to be things take time and that’s why you’re in that position. That’s why you’re paid to do that. That’s why not everybody’s cut out to be a leader. But when you take, when you really see beyond traits, the static, you know, in a vacuum way of looking at things, and you take an interaction as perspective, you remember, okay, it might not just be, you know them, it might be them in this environment.

And then in this context, I’ve shared plenty of examples in the past where there was a colleague I didn’t get along with, and then when I met up with them outside of work, it was fine. I’ve given other examples. We had a great guest on a long time ago named Jess ELLs, who talked about, he could not get through to an athlete in one context, but then when he changed the environment, changed the situation, change the timing, they had great connection points. And still we have so many people that try to solve problems and relationships via zoom and text and all this.

That’s not how that’s gonna work. And I don’t have an answer for those of you that are like, Oh, well, I don’t really want to, you know, get to know my staff out of where I believe it or not. We’ve heard that we’ve heard somebody say like, I don’t really want to connect with my staff out of work, my work lives, my work life. My personal life, my personal life. Guys, nobody’s saying that you have to become best friends with your staff. But there is something to be said for being relatable. There is something to be said, to have a team barbecue, to have a team outing, to do some things where they can get to know you in a different environment and you can get to see how they interact in different environments. That gives you so many unique clues of what to do. You cannot be insecure about that.

You know another example is we had a previous client of ours who worked in a military setting, who struggled with one staff member for years and was about to fire them when suddenly they saw a resurgence of productivity.


Brett Bartholomew  13:30

What changed? Well, when we ask them it’s interesting, you know, that lazy and I put that in quotes that lazy staff member said they finally made it through what they it is close to be an incredibly nasty divorce. Not to mention a custody battle for their kids, which had previously eaten up a ton of emotional bandwidth. And it’s funny because then when they said, Well, why didn’t you say anything? You know, why didn’t they say anything to their boss, because they didn’t want to bring personal issues to work. And because their boss never asked if there was anything else going on that was impacting their performance.

The boss was tasked and trade focused, not relation focused. Another term that makes sense for those of you that are apprenticeship alumni, but you know, do you see this simple but not obvious lesson there. Sometimes when we don’t let those that we manage in, it leads to far bigger issues. Oftentimes, it’s us as leaders who get caught up in the process, and people feel like they can’t relate to us or that they don’t want to bother us or even let us down.

So I can’t really, you know, inculcate this enough and you guys, vulnerability isn’t weakness. Brene Brown is right when she says that it’s armor. And that really shouldn’t be something that is like, oh my god, mind blowing to people. But coaches really have a hard time being vulnerable leaders have a hard time being vulnerable. Oh, and from a leadership perspective. Remember, not everybody who underperforms is dealing with things that we can understand or that we can fix. Sometimes it takes a change in the situation, a little bit of patience and the ability for you to ask the right questions.

Now, if you’re more of a visual person, one thing that we shared in the newsletter was this image and it’s from an apprenticeship slide and it just talks about causal variables and leadership. And so you know, you’re talking about things like motives, somebody’s values, their biases, their skills, their personality, their level of commitment. What was the nature of the work? What are internal and external distractions? What was the timing, like, what’s the geographic location? What’s the past history of the organization? We give people at our apprenticeship, this huge list of things it says, hey, if you think that this person is the issue, make sure that you’ve at least looked through all these other variables first, and not just look through them, investigated them. Because you have, I mean, we are all different versions of ourselves at different times, and often not the best version of ourselves because of a wide variety of reasons, but it’s like when we put that leadership hat on, man, we just get in a vacuum, and we forget that people are just like us. Imperfect. 


Brett Bartholomew  16:21

All right, number three, we’ve talked about a number of things so far, right, we talked about consider the history of an organization, we talked about quit being so trade focused. This one I really want to talk to you guys about is looking at the symmetry in a different way. And I want to think about how to explain this because this was a little differently. It was explained a little differently on our newsletter.

But you know, when we think about leadership, you have to think of it as a process. of influence. You’re trying to change somebody’s behavior. And there’s influence tactics that people use, while these tactics depending on what you use, and how well you use them are going to lead to really three outcomes. And this is from the work of Gary Yukl at the University of Alberta who you guys have heard me reference, plenty and he says that you’re either gonna get commitment, which is somebody who’s going to perform a task with great effort, excitement, personal identification with the task and the mission and the individual who perform the requests.

So if my colleague Ali likes and respects me, and she feels really strongly about in a positive way, when I asked her to do that’s commitment, then there’s compliance, where that’s somebody not connecting with the task, or the person informing the request, right? It’s this idea where there’s asymmetry, there’s apathy. So I might say, hey, Ali, Ali might like me plenty, but I might say I need your help hiding the body. Well, she might not like that, that’s compliance. Or a boss might ask their client or colleague to do something, and they don’t feel good about you know, a boss, but the task is fine. Now you might say, Well, hey, if they have any personal pride, they’ll do it at the highest level guys.

I’m not here to argue this with you. I’m just saying there’s a difference between commitment and compliance. And commitment is more like buy-in, true buy-in and I feel great about you. The person asking me to do this, and I feel great about the mission and the request. Right? There’s asymmetries there, so you don’t want compliance. You don’t want this mismatch there. And then of course, there’s resistance. That’s when somebody is overtly opposed to both the request and the individual. And in that case, you need to be really ready to be challenged directly or indirectly through subversive behavior. Or if you’ve read my book Conscious Coaching, you’ll see the manipulator archetype and things like that, and what you need to do.

And I know some of you are probably tired of hearing this, but remember, it’s just kind of like saying business. Good business isn’t an ideas. It’s an execution. Guys, it’s the same thing with the things we tell you here. I can give you all the knowledge you want. But if you’re not actually practicing this, this, any other podcasts or any other book isn’t going to do it for you. What you need to do to ensure that you’re enhancing your chances of getting commitment is vary your influence tactics, and tailor your messaging style and we have so many resources for this. It’s silly, or you can literally will link another podcast below, why logic doesn’t change people’s minds and what to do about it. If you’re the hands on type, this is what our apprenticeship workshop.

I know I keep talking about it, but this is what it’s made to do. You can’t learn this stuff. Unless you’re hands on but you need to look and see how you’ve been influencing them in the past and what might not be working because it’s not all them. Even if you’re like the most closed minded person in the world, you have to still understand that you play some role. Right? So going back and saying well, I mean, my mom expects and I love her to death but she expects everybody in the family to change if he just gives them the facts. Well, doesn’t your uncle no, this doesn’t mean I go, mom people are not influenced by logic. You know, you need to try other tactics.

Why do I try this and that, but it’s always the same kind of either logic or inspirational appeal. And that’s not really what he works well with. Right? There’s a lot of people out there that work really well with pressure tactics, and they’re backed up against the wall. And so this is a deeper discussion and can be addressed and you know, just one podcast, that’s why we have other podcasts on it. So for now, just take a global approach and really reconsider you know, whether you really understand your staff as well as you think you do in these contexts, you know, because you’ve got to get to know them in those areas.

Now, when we look at some other pieces here, all right. We’ve talked about three key points to consider when it comes to knowing how to motivate lazy staff. And we looked at a couple of other things. You know, you have to remember that maybe your staff development practices could use an overhaul, you know, and I get it the demands of your job already have you going on overdrive, and you feel as if you shouldn’t have to really continually babysit your staff, but any parent will tell you otherwise true development is never done. Then any coach worth their salt is gonna say the same. You know, I just like Sorry, but all the athletes that I train, don’t they don’t stop training the fundamentals just when they get to the pros. Continual practice and refinement are an absolute necessity. They are.

So, I would say this before you start lobbying more boring meetings at your staff or sending them stockpiles of emails with motivational articles or TED Talks. Consider where your staff currently is as an organization. so hear me out on this. We do something that our Brand Builder workshop where we say hey, look at your organization or your company, and try to think of archetypes within.

I’ll give you an example. At art of coaching, we were an archetype and I’ll give you three total. This is one of them, that was really connected, but constrained. So we have a clear vision. But there have been many times where we just didn’t have enough resources and talent to do all the things we wanted to do at the speed we wanted to do them. You know, we always have to over deliver at the pace of now, and we have great morale, but you know, we definitely need to hire more people over time to ensure sustainability. And we need to make sure we’re developing people really intelligently. Now to other staff archetypes and organizational archetypes, however you want to phrase it, they’ve been stagnant and struggling. So ask yourself, you know, you’re in this stagnant and struggling if you feel like you have all these new ideas, but they get stuck. The team seems really gassed out, and you have too many priorities. Everything’s a priority.


Brett Bartholomew  22:36

Those situations are really hard to overcome, but perhaps not as hard as the last archetype, unclear and skeptical. This is where you and your team are unsure really where the organization is headed. Or the business again, I’m gonna use these interchangeably because we work with individuals, organizations, businesses, whatever. When there’s a lot of debates about the direction and the efforts to move forward, feel disjointed and you’re really slow to is that adapt. That’s your archetype. And if you can just say like, where am I? And of course, these aren’t exhaustive, we could probably create 90 more, but you have to kind of get an idea of where do you skew? And then what can you do?

So case in point from you know, and I just said it early on from 2019 to the early parts of this year, my staff very much fit connected and constrain we have a fairly robust hiring and onboarding process that has been painstakingly refined after learning a lot of valuable and costly lessons. The fact is, we’re doing a lot and we’re moving at breakneck speeds and working on projects are very complex. So we have the vision but not always the bandwidth and if you’re not careful, that’s where breakdowns are likely to occur if you don’t find time to pump the brakes. So once I identified this, it led me to the next step where I was like, alright, we need to reevaluate not only our pace, but how we approach each of our roles.

And for this I turned to what is known as Roger Rogers discretionary leadership model. Now, I’m not going to go into this in depth on this podcast that’s going to be a future episode, so make sure you’re subscribed. And again, there is an image on the newsletter it’s discussed in depth in our Brand Builder, but the point was, is a fancy way of saying we had to look at how we distributed power across certain roles and responsibilities at Art Of Coaching.

You know, much of the time, like, I was still leading in a way that was commensurate with when AOC was a one person company. So if you think about, alright, there’s these areas where I have high expertise, and there’s other areas I have low expertise. But then there’s other areas where I’m highly involved in all the details. And then there’s got to be other areas in the business where I’m not highly involved in the details. So if we look at that, and we kind of make quadrants of areas where it’s high expertise, and areas where I’m highly involved in the details, okay, that’s some projects, those are things that I need to own, there’s other projects where I might have low expertise, but I still need to be highly involved in the details. Right?

That’s where things I need to learn more about somebody else needs to take the lead. I still need to learn some pieces because when I say I’m highly involved in the details, that might be stuff related to okay, well, we still have to have this component to make it authentic to AOC. But I might have a low expertise in making some augmented reality kind of thing related to a live event. Then there’s some things that I need to delegate. Those are things where I have low expertise, and I don’t need to be highly involved in the details. So my point is, is, you know, thinking about how you develop your staff, rethink what you and other people are owning, still need to learn, what you need to be delegating and what you need to be teaching, and then diving into those things.

Then some of you also, especially in the performance realm, need to get out of doing these staff in services. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times in my first year in Art Of Coaching before our business expanded into so many other organizations and professions, pro sport teams would bring me in and you know, I’m always grateful, but it was like, you know, when I’d ask them what they do for staff development, it’s almost always bringing people in, they don’t really go other places.

And they’ve kind of used the excuse, and I’m not saying it’s not a valid one. But they’d say, Oh, our schedule, blah, blah, blah. And what I tell them is like, but yeah, you’re also always in your comfort zone. You’re always able to kind of you’re bringing an outside expert in, and you’re always in an environment where you’re really comfy and you can kind of you need to there’s value to getting in environments and talking about subjects where you just feel like I am way out of my depth here or I’m in an uncomfortable position. That’s really important.

I’m going to take a pause here, because I know we’ve talked about a lot. The next thing I want to bring to mind is changed positions, and I’ll try to keep this brief.


Brett Bartholomew  26:51

If you have a staff member that seems to be struggling in a certain role, maybe consider changing their roles. Not everything needs to be a matter of firing somebody for underperforming. Now, I’m also not suggesting that there’s no consequences for somebody doing poor work. What I’m saying is that it’s well known in the world of sport, and sometimes certain athletes struggle with one team or in a certain position. But later on, they find massive success playing another position, or even playing the same position in an altered scheme. You guys know this, right? Like there’s levels to this.

It just requires you to think in a divergent fashion and be willing to see things with fresh eyes. There have been staff members that we can think of in plenty of organizations when and even my own where it’s like, alright, this just isn’t working out. Is this person slow to learn? Are they doing this? No, no. Let’s just get them in a different project. And I think this is something that I really enjoy.

With one of our newest staff members renames back to gold. And you know, we’ve given her the title of Chief everything officer and Becca is getting thrown into the pit with so many aspects. She helps on the creative side, the content side, the admin side. It’s just like, it’s like childhood. Development. It’s like throwing your kid in a bunch of sports and seeing where they really take to and they develop. And for us we think it’s, you know, a really smart thing, even though can probably make Becca feel like she’s drinking from a firehose, because there’s things that Becca thinks she’s interested in.

And I’m not saying she’s not but she likely will find other things that she’s like, wow, like I am really good at this. I didn’t think I’d be good at that. I didn’t think I’d enjoy that as much as I did. And this is the importance of being able to experiment with different roles and expose people to different positions and different challenges. You know, you’re gonna just have to decide if you have the patience and the desire, to guide them as they adapt to that new role. 

If you’re a movie person you think of the movie Moneyball. Think about when Billy Beane goes and gets what’s his name? One of the guys that’s in the Marvel movies now he plays Star Lord Chris Chris, something one of the Chris’s and he had been a catcher his whole life and he’s like, Nope, you’re gonna play first base now. Just look up first base, Moneyball YouTube. You’ll have a laugh there, but it’s a great example.


Brett Bartholomew  29:20

Alright, the last one I’m going to talk about today is rethink your incentives. All never forget when I heard it from my boss at the time, and I quote, Brett, if we made this accommodation for you, we’d have to make it for the rest of the staff as well. And what I had written in the newsletter is the leather and wood of the dilapidated chair I was sitting in made a groaning sound. As I shifted my weight. I tried to process what was just said.

As a matter of fact, it was as if the grown from the chair and my internal groaning are one in the same. I mean, just a year earlier, I’d sat in that same chair and wrote down what I was told were the objectives I needed to meet if I wanted to earn or raise and the opportunity to accept more speaking invitations, external to the organization, speaking opportunities that would have allowed me to continue growing personally and professionally and financially.

Now, in this situation, I remember well, I had met these objectives. And to give you more context, this was a time in my life when, you know, I was, it was really a unique crossroads, because I’d gotten into the job just to coach and do the things you know, that I typically love to do. But as I had grown and evolved, people were like, hey, we want you to be involved in this. We weren’t just more opportunities came, but I was told no, all the time. I was told no, because if you did it, everybody else is gonna do it.

So I remember I was like, What do I have to do to make these things happen to get a little bit of freedom and autonomy here? So here I was, I now have these objectives but obliterated them but now I was being told that these things couldn’t happen, because it would somehow mean other staff members. And you guys know in every job, there are certain staff members who just skate by because they’re like, drunk on comfort. They wouldn’t have the same opportunities. And for me, at least this one size fits all sort of like bromide just gives the illusion of problem solving to those that speak that like that’s like saying, fairness every I mean fairness to everybody’s fairness to nobody.

If I sit here and I make core if I say hey, Ali or any other staff member, if you do X, Y and Z, we’ll give you a bonus of blank. Or if we do this, we’ll do that. Like not everybody in my organization is going to be incentivized the same way. And that shouldn’t be a problem. They all have different rules, my director of business development, may have, my sir has a different commission agreements than other people in my company that has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that that’s the nature of Israel. His compensation package is also different than some other people so like, the bottom line is the basics are the same.

Everybody gets a salary, everybody’s getting a 401K. Everybody’s getting, you know, their two weeks vacation, but there’s going to be individualization and incentives. And that should have to do with the role. So like, you have to look at that you have to think about what drives people and if I haven’t, if you haven’t heard me talk about this enough, go to,  It’s just a simpler way to look at some archetypical snapshots. That gives you an idea of what really drives, I mean, guys, I would have been happy. If an organization I worked with, it didn’t even need to be in financial if they just wouldn’t let me work one more day from home.

There were certain days where I, you know, I had all my stuff done. It was like a recovery day for athletes. I’m like, hey, can I work this day from home because I was just kind of there. To be there? Or could I get one more like three more days vacation a year? Could I get stock options? What is it could I just find something?


Brett Bartholomew  32:49

And when the answer was basically no, no, no, no for me that those comments were the beginning of the end. Those were the beginning of the end. Because I don’t want to feel like I’m sitting there working my butt off. And no matter what you’re not going to give me any kind of social reward. You know, financial reward temporary like temporal reward, which is like time off, more flexible working. I mean, there’s so many ways you can look at these things that you can incentivize your staff. So if you want me to list them off this, okay, so you can say, Hey, Brett, we don’t have the money right now. Okay.

Well, social rewards are huge piece, recognition from colleagues and peers. We have something in our company Slack channel, where it’s just like team wins, we have a chance to celebrate people that have done something well in our organization or you can send them just a small plaque or an appreciation gift. One of our members, you know, she had been here a year we send them like a premade meal, filet mignon, garlic mashed potatoes, just food right and that was cool because they don’t value money beyond a point. Now who doesn’t like food? Financial you guys know examples of financial awards, so I won’t go there. We can have a whole podcast if you want.

If you guys find value in it in different ways to structure financial agreements, and how to incentivize people their temporal rewards could just be time off vacations, how many days per week they work. There was an example where a staff member of hours worked, you know a full week and then was presenting and had to take a red eye back well I’m gonna give them like Monday off if they want that. You know, we can we can flex environmental rewards, we have a remote staff they can work wherever they want. Not everybody’s gonna have a remote staff.

But you know, you can find ways like do they always have to be I mean, I have friends that still work in pro sport, that even though their job is done at three o’clock, they have to keep their butt in the chair, in the chair till 8pm Or later just to make it look like they’re working because if the team starts losing, people essentially just look around and see who’s still around, who’s not, who can they place the blame on like, that is the most toxic form of impression management, there is. Just this first in last out mentality just to be there just to save your job. And if you’re at a job like that, because I know some of you are and I was in one of those for a while too, you need to ask yourself if that’s sustainable.

For me, it was not, for me the idea of having to leave my house at 4:30 in the morning, and get back to like 8:00 at night was not how I wanted to live my life every day when I have a toddler. I mean, I don’t think that I get to see him or her grow up in their formative years. And I can sit there all I want and be like, well it’s this stat it’s like nah, man. And some of you listening can call me soft all you want but I did that. That is not what I wanted to do as a family member. You know, now, there’s periods of your life fine.

If you’re single, you don’t have family. I mean, eat that up. I didn’t care during that phase in my life, but you got to think long term and then I think that the most valuable type of reward you can give people incentive wise is experiential. Guys, like create programs and initiatives like we’re paying for some of our colleagues. Everybody gets a 2 to $3,000 Con-Ed budget if they want to go to conferences, if they want to go to this and it’s not like my wife and I are swimming in money where we can just dole that out, but we have to invest in our people, we have to.

Some of the members of our organization haven’t been outside of the country, like in Europe and whenever when we’re going to do more workshops there, We’re going to Australia in February and I’m looking forward to taking one of my colleagues there and we might come New Zealand, if you’re listening to this and you’re from New Zealand reach out to us, because if we’re going to do it, it’s going to be there on the front end or back end of Australia. But there’s so many different things that you can do that incentivize people and when you look back at these things, guys,  you know, I know big surprise, right? All of these are pretty basic things. All of these are pretty straightforward. None of them are overly complex. None of them are, but that’s that’s most things in life. 


Brett Bartholomew  36:53

It’s like saying hey, the most of the problems that we face are simple problems that we’ve just overlooked. Or we haven’t started maybe thought again about. You have to think again. You have to constantly, constantly evaluate. Am I doing, because I’m telling you if you’re like, nope Brett I’ve done that. I’ve considered their history. I’ve reevaluated my initiatives. I’ve tried changing their position. I’ve tried, you know, leading them in different contexts. I’ve tried doing, like, alright, I’ll take your word for it. And you’ve tried all these things great now and then you put them on a performance improvement program.

All right now maybe it’s time for you to look to solution. Maybe you need to let them go. But make sure that you didn’t just check the box with these things. Make sure that the incentives are really incentives, make sure that if you took them out and change the context and really tried to get to know them, it wasn’t performative and you weren’t closed off. Make sure that you actually have asked them like that question I told you about that gentleman, that person that had gone through a divorce and custody, like make sure that you actually know what’s going on in their life and the bigger picture before you make these assumptions.

Because it’s not as easy as saying it’s an ambition problem, It’s a skills problem, It’s this problem. You know what it is guys? It’s a context and creativity problem. It’s a patience and pragmatism problem. Those are the things that you need to evaluate. I really appreciate you guys listening in. If this stuff has moved you at all.

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