Films, and islands, and drones! Oh my! Leading amid chaos

Over the last week protests and riots have erupted in a swath across the globe from Tunisia to China. The two flash points have been the display of an Arabic version of a trailer for the movie Innocence of Muslims and the sale of the disputed Senkaku islands in the East China Sea.

Senkaku Islands

The Innocence of Muslims is an overdubbed, poorly crafted film which sadly portrays the prophet Muhammad as a fool, a fake, and a womanizer. While individuals in the western world may find the film repugnant, they also understand the value of freedom of expression. Those of us raised in a culture where freedom of expression is appreciated can easily shrug off such poor attempts at inciting strong religious emotions.

However, in cultures where the Muslim faith is regarded more seriously—and freedom of expression is not necessarily so highly valued, at least on religious topics—it may be felt that protests are in order. Unfortunately, for individuals waiting for an excuse to protest and riot, faster than a speeding drone, they’ll be on the bandwagon.

The Senkaku islands (Diaoyudao in Chinese) have been in dispute between China and Japan ever since oil was discovered in 1968 under their surrounding seas. The government of Japan recently purchased the islands from a private Japanese family and this action has inflamed both the Chinese government and citizens. Two factors are likely in play, the desire for the oil resources and a continued resentment against the Japanese for the atrocities committed in China between 1931 and 1945.

So let’s bring this back into the world of leadership we live in every day. I find an analog for these global events to be situations where the entire team or organization is working from a morale deficit. These may be situations where massive layoffs or a traumatic incident has taken place. In such cases there are three things you can do—allow a period of grief and bring closure to the past, motivate the team toward the common goal, and keep the focus moving forward.

As humans we find it comforting to acknowledge our grief and to apply ritual to bring closure to unfortunate events. All cultures I know of, including primitive cultures, perform a ritual for the loss of a tribe or family member. And so it should be for your situation. Acknowledge the loss, discuss it and decide what you need to do to put it to rest. Then move on.

Focusing on a common goal can work to motivate the team as well as bring the focus away from internal pain. The parallel to this is the way savvy and despotic leaders of countries have used the ploy of attacking an outside enemy in order to deflect the spotlight. Working toward the common goal is a motivational tool all leaders should utilize.

Lastly, the universe is a forward-moving energy which never slows or ceases. Feel that energy and use your creativity to make it palpable to all team members. Work to get them on the bus and for the bus to move relentlessly forward.

There is no time to wallow in the past. Moments may arise where we as leaders must encourage a team member or two to make a decision—remain stuck in the past or move forward with the team. In my view it’s an easy decision. Let’s hop on the bus and get moving!


  • Acknowledge the loss or trauma and bring it to closure
  • Focus on the common goal
  • Keep the energy and focus on moving forward

Keywords: leadership, trauma, grief, protests, riots, Innocence of Muslims, Senkaku islands, Diaoyudao islands, ritual, energy

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Are You Raising Pay to Retain Workers?

Today’s Blondie cartoon shows an example where the tyrannical boss, Mr. Dithers, tacks up a motivational poster and wonders if it will improve the performance of his workers. This cartoon, coupled with the anecdotal reports of companies raising pay to retain high performing workers, brings me to write this post explaining the relationship of three very important variables all leaders should understand.

Looking at our first variable, most leaders want team members who consistently perform at a high level, that is, having high job performance.

This begs the question of the second variable—how to motivate workers to perform at that level. Roughly three decades of research from the 1960s to ‘80s have settled in on the concept of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. It was found that a segment of workers is motivated intrinsically, that is by challenges, promotions, and creating compelling products. Think Steve Jobs and his concept of putting a “dent in the universe.” Individuals, such as engineers and programmers are generally intrinsically motivated. They desire to create the next breakthrough product or service. As for extrinsic motivation, we frequently hear of sales people being extrinsically motivated by commissions, bonuses, and year-end trips and parties.

An important element in your success as a leader is to understand how your particular team members are motivated—extrinsically or intrinsically. Some of the research has shown that extrinsic rewards can destroy intrinsic motivation. If you’d like to read more about that, check out my previous post on motivation here.

The third variable is job satisfaction. Factors such as pay, work environment, organizational policies, and relationship with superiors make up this variable. In general, low job satisfaction drives turnover and absenteeism. Strangely enough, high job satisfaction won’t necessary motivate workers to perform better.

Having laid this foundation, let’s turn to the concept of raising pay to retain workers. Will it work? Possibly.

If a worker is extrinsically motivated, the additional money will likely have an effect on his or her performance and willingness to stay on with your organization.

However, if the worker is intrinsically motivated it will depend on the level of pay commensurate with the pay at other organizations. If you are paying less than other organizations and the worker is being motivated by challenging work, promotions, or some other intrinsic rewards, then the increased pay will likely help.

If your level of pay is on par with other organizations and you have challenging work assignments for your intrinsically motivated individuals, then you probably don’t have to worry.

People and Job Dynamics

I frequently use the accompanying chart with organizations to explain the relationship of these three important variables. Looking at the bottom row, low job performance, we can see that low performing workers will either be dismissed or quit if their job satisfaction is also low. I’m not sure what it means if a worker has high job satisfaction but low job performance.

For individuals performing at a high level, if they are extrinsically motivated and not satisfied with their job they may stay and feel miserable or leave. Increasing the pay of these individuals may help greatly if that is one of the factors contributing to the low job satisfaction.

If the individuals in question are intrinsically motivated, and are suffering from low job satisfaction, raising their pay is unlikely to have any lasting effect. You need to find how out what motivates them and respond appropriately.

Bottom line: talk to your team members and find out what excites them. If it’s money, fine. Otherwise, determine where their passion lies and find creative ways to plug into that energy. That’s leadership.


  • Three variables are important when considering how to retain and motivate team members: motivation type, job satisfaction, and job performance
  • Additional pay is likely to retain extrinsically motivated individuals if they are otherwise reasonably satisfied with their job
  • Additional pay for intrinsically motivated individuals is likely to help only if they believe that they are currently underpaid and are otherwise highly motivated by challenging assignments, promotions, and other intrinsic rewards
  • Additional pay is not likely to help retain workers if factors other than pay are contributing to low job satisfaction

Keywords: leadership, motivation, job performance, job satisfaction


  • Amabile, T. M. (1997). Motivating creativity in organizations: On doing what you love and loving what you do. California Management Review, 40(1), 39-58.
  • Herzberg, F. (1968). One more time: How do you motivate employees? Harvard Business Review, 46(1), 53-62.
  • Judge, T. A., Thoresen, C. J., Bono, J. E., & Patton, G. K. (2001). The job satisfaction-job performance relationship: A qualitative and quantitative review. Psychological Bulletin, 127(3), 376–407.
  • Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78.
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Be Careful What You Give-You Cannot Take it Back

Last Thursday was “comp day” at one of the premier investment banking firms, Goldman Sachs. This is the day when employees are handed their bonus for their previous year’s performance. Unfortunately, some reportedly received nothing. If you’ve never received a bonus for your work, that’s not a big deal. If you have, it is a big deal. Let’s find out why.

Imagine you’re babysitting a friend’s child, Jimmy, for the day and he’s been happily playing in your yard. The day is growing long and you decide to reward Jimmy’s good behavior. “Hey Jimmy,” you shout, “you’ve been such a good boy today how ‘bout I take you down to the store and get you a new ball?”

“Awesome!” Jimmy replies as he runs to hop in the car. “Can we get a kickball?” he asks as he slides onto the car seat.

“Sure thing,” you reply. “You’ve been really good today, Jimmy, and I want to reward you for that.”

“Works for me, Mr. Leider. Thanks!”

Anxious to give his new ball a try, Jimmy slides out of the car and onto the driveway without even closing the car door. Stepping to the edge, he holds the ball in front, one hand on each side and swings his right leg back. Hesitating for a moment, he then swings his leg forward in a graceful, powerful arc, sending the ball to the other side of the yard and squeals, “Yippee! Thanks Mr. L. This is awesome!” “You’re welcome Jimmy. I’m glad you enjoy it.”

Jimmy kicks the ball back and forth in the yard, enjoying each kick just as much as the one before. But as he tires, Jimmy has some difficulty keeping the ball in the yard. You watch as he winds up for another powerful stroke. The second his leg connects with the ball you see a car speeding down the street, oblivious to the ball hurled into its path. In an instant the ball is under the car, and then POW! Without hesitating, the car speeds on past, either unaware of the damage inflicted or unwilling to face a dejected child deprived of his precious toy.

“Mr. Leider, Mr. Leider!” Jimmy calls. “Awwww.” Tears begin to stream down his face and you rush to console him.
While it is certainly expected that Jimmy would be sad that his ball has been crushed, let’s step back for a moment to analyze this logically. In the first part of this story Jimmy is quite content playing in the yard without a ball. He has a certain reference point in terms of toys to play with and games he is able to play. You introduce a new toy and new modes of play follow. You have changed the reference point, raising the bar, so to speak.

As a leader, every time that you give your team members something you are changing the reference point. If you don’t give as much as before or take something away you generate unhappiness. While this may not be logical, it is a fact of human behavior.

So be careful what you give. While you can take it back—it won’t be pretty.

• Every time you give team members something you generate a new reference point
• As humans, once we have an enjoyable experience we desire to keep it or repeat it

Keywords: leadership, rewards, happiness, endowment effect, loss aversion, reference point

Kahneman, D., Knetsch, J. L., & Thaler, R. H. (1990). Experimental tests of the endowment effect and the Coase theorem. Journal of Political Economy, 98(6), 1325-1348.
Kahneman, D., Knetsch, J. L., & Thaler, R. H. (1991). Anomalies: The endowment effect, loss aversion, and status quo bias. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 5(1), 193–206.
Munger, C. (1995, June). The psychology of human misjudgment. Lecture given at the Harvard University.
Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1991). Loss aversion in riskless choice: A reference-dependent model. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 106(4), 1039-1061.
Veenhoven, R. (1991). Is happiness relative? Social Indicators Research, 24(1), 1-34.

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Motivating Your Team: The Types of Human Motivation

As I work with clients to hone their leadership skills the issue of motivation frequently arises. The prevailing view is that you must provide an incentive for your team members to work hard to meet their goals. However, such a view is fraught with peril.

Research on motivation has shown us that individuals are generally motivated in one of two ways:
• Intrinsically, with the satisfaction of having done a good job or completing a challenging assignment
• Extrinsically, with external rewards such as a bonus, prize, or contest

In general, intrinsically motivated individuals are those you should be looking for. They will be motivated by challenging assignments and the satisfaction of having done a good job. The extrinsically motivated people will require constant care and feeding since they’ll always be looking for the reward, the “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) factor.

The real difficulty lies in rewarding intrinsically motivated individuals with external rewards. A colleague of mine and fellow Kansas State University alumna, Dr. Nancy Johnson, provided me with an excellent example over coffee one day. In one of her classes at the University of Kentucky she encouraged students to participate and appealed to their intrinsic motivation. Those who were generally intrinsically motivated were eager to participate and became more involved in the class. She then offered an extra credit point for class participation—an extrinsic reward. As expected, the extrinsically motivated individuals began to participate. So far so good. But then the intrinsically motivated people significantly reduced their participation because they felt as if they were only participating for points rather than ideas. In other words the extrinsic reward impaired the intrinsic motivation.

So be careful—the same effect can happen to your team. Some of the motivation research has shown a similar phenomena where external rewards destroy intrinsic motivation. Even further, some of the motivation and creativity research has revealed that extrinsic rewards may diminish creativity.

Goals are also powerful motivators. We have seen many studies which show that well-designed goals enhance performance. The existence of goals, depending on how they are treated, may appeal to an individual’s intrinsic or extrinsic motivation.

• Through your one-on-one discussions with team members determine whether they are more intrinsically or extrinsically motivated
• Use appropriate motivation techniques with individuals
• Use a thoughtful and measured approach to setting goals and incentives for team projects

Keywords: leadership, motivation, extrinsic, intrinsic, goals, creativity

Amabile, T. M. (1985). Motivation and creativity: Effect of motivational orientation on creative writers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48(2), 393-399.
Amabile, T. M. (1996). Creativity in context. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Amabile, T. M. (1997). Motivating creativity in organizations: On doing what you love and loving what you do. California Management Review, 40(1), 39-58.
Atkinson, J. W. (1958). Towards experimental analysis of human motivation in terms of motives, expectancies, and incentives. In J. W. Atkinson (Ed.), Motives in fantasy, action, and society (pp. 288–305). Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand.
Cameron, J., & Pierce, W. D. (1996). The debate about rewards and intrinsic motivation: Protests and accusations do not alter the results. Review of Educational Research, 66(1), 39-51.
Deci, E. L. (1971). Effects of externally mediated rewards on intrinsic motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 18(1), 105-115.
Deci, E. L., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R. M. (1999). A meta-analytic review of experiments examining the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 125(6), 627-668.
Deci, E. L., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R. M. (2001). Extrinsic rewards and intrinsic motivation in education: Reconsidered once again. Review of Educational Research, 71(1), 1-27.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum Press.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1991, A motivational approach to self: Integration in personality. Proceedings from Nebraska Symposium on Motivation 1990, Lincoln, NE.
Eisenberger, R., & Cameron, J. (1996). Detrimental effects of reward: Reality or myth? American Psychologist, 51(11), 1153-1166.
Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1976). Motivation through the design of work. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 16, 250-279.
Herzberg, F. (1968). One more time: How do you motivate employees? Harvard Business Review, 46(1), 53-62.
Herzberg, F. (1973). Work and the nature of man. New York: New American Library.
Herzberg, F., Mausner, B., & Snyderman, B. B. (1959). The motivation to work (2nd ed.). New York: Wiley.
McGregor, D. M. (1957). The human side of enterprise. Management Review, 46, 22-28, 88-92.
McGregor, D. M. (1960). The human side of enterprise. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Prendergast, C. (1999). The provision of incentives in firms. Journal of Economic Literature, 37, 7-63.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78.

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Are You Leading Consumers or Creators?

I’ll be the first to admit that today’s topic may be overly simplistic, however, I believe it is worth discussing. Make a list of your team members in one column. To the right of that column make three more columns with the headings Creator, Consumer, and Other.

Creators are individuals on your team who take minimal care and feeding, and they produce a steady stream of innovative results. Give them a direction and they’re off. These individuals are generally bright, disciplined and passionate about their work. On the other hand, Consumers will take a disproportionate share of your time by asking questions, remain unsure how to proceed in most tasks, and continually check in to make sure they are on the right track. They will likely be more concerned about what they are getting out of their employment than what they can produce for your team and the organization. Others may be steady, heads-down workers or deadwood.

Now venture down the list and place a check mark in the Creator or Consumer column for each team member or enter a comment in the Other column. It should now be easier for you to determine your top contributors as well as team members you may want to consider moving out. You may also want to think about your role in each performer’s results. How are you motivating your team members? How are you rewarding your top contributors?

• How many of your team members are needlessly consuming the majority of your time?
• How many of your team members are continually churning out useful, innovative results?

Keywords: leadership, employee selection, creativity, motivation

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The Power of the Big Picture

Yesterday I was reflecting on the loss of a friend whose life was tragically cut short. For me, this contemplation stirred up the duality and power of such an event—and how that power can be utilized in your leadership process.

As we ponder this loss, we can easily get lost in the hollow ring of her soft voice and memory of her sweet smile. But the power in this picture is the role model she played for all whose lives she touched. When we step back and look at the big picture of her life we can see the lessons she taught us—the search for deeper meaning in all events, finding the gifts each person presents to us, and the courage to live a life of giving.

Similarly, when we focus on a single challenging event we can easily become mired in negative energy. If we stop to place the event into the bigger picture it almost always brings reflection and an uplifting sense of purpose. Think Steve Jobs and his idea of putting a “dent in the universe.” In doing so you automatically play to the intrinsic motivation of your team members.

So put the duality to use. Keep a focus on overcoming the individual, challenging event, but also put it into the context of your overall project and how it will move your project forward.

• Use the big picture to play to the intrinsic motivation of your team members
• Maintain a focus for each individual team member their part of the project and how it fits into the big picture

• Have you laid out the big picture, the vision of the project for your team?
• Have you discussed with each team member the importance of their individual contribution?

Keywords: leadership, motivation, vision

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