Motivating Your Team

By Bill Kennedy - “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” In how many MBA classes, inspirational business speeches and management books has this speech by American President, John F. Kennedy been touted as the perfect motivational mission? (Example 1, example 2, example 3).

The latest to cross my desk is an article by Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden called “Motivation through
Mission
”. Their key concept is, “People don’t perform in an inspired manner without a big time commitment to a compelling cause.”

It’s hard to argue with that, but consider this example. Let’s say you’re the head of an accounting team and looking ahead to 2009. You have the monthly grind of accounting statements and management reporting ahead of you. In addition, there are the budgeting and audit cycles. You are midway through a computer implementation that has been delayed due to problems converting the history, and you have to change the whole General Ledger to the new International Financial Reporting Standards. What is the compelling cause you need to get your people to perform in an inspired manner?

Catlette and Hadden’s response is, “Whether your team competes on the global stage or a three-unit cube farm, they will move faster, get more done, have more fun, and make more money if all hands on deck share a common sense of purpose and direction. Make it your business to see that they get it . . . really get it.”

Forgive my cynicism, but I have seen this all before. I had a client in the insurance industry where all of the rooms had large motivational posters, but the staff plodded through their jobs like zombies. There was no shortage of messaging proclaiming the common purpose. The issue was that there was no buy in from the employees below manager level.

How do you get buy in? How do you motivate someone? The first thing you have to do is pay attention to the emotional conversation in the room. To borrow from Stephen Covey, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Start by abandoning the idea of motivating a whole team and focus on the individuals. Simply put, if you really care about each one of them, they will really care about you. If you pay attention to their agenda, they will pay attention to yours. If you are honest with them, they will eventually be honest with you. I say eventually because it may take them a while to trust you.

This conversation does not have to get too “touchy feely”. It can be limited to the job. You don’t have to take on someone’s personal problems, but you need to address their professional ones. The only way to find out what’s on their mind is to observe them and ask open ended questions. Notice when they come through for you and each other. Encourage them. Ask them what roadblocks they face.

Actually, just the feeling that someone notices and appreciates what you do can be enormously motivational. I was involved in a computer conversion where the old system was a card based “automatic” bookkeeping machine which belonged in the Smithsonian. We couldn’t convert the data. It had to be re-entered. The two women in the data entry department gamely took on this huge task and managed to convert a month’s worth of data every week until it was done. It being an Olympic year, I got some ribbon and those large chocolate coins in foil to make two gold medals, which we presented to them at a staff meeting. Afterwards, I worried that the whole thing had been a little hokey, but my boss said, “Look what they did with the ribbons.” Sure enough, both of them had pinned the medals up prominently in their workstations.

I have written before about being on a little team with big ambitions, and I have to agree with Catlette and Hadden that putting everything you’ve got behind an ambitious project (or a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal as another consultant calls it) energizes a team. Just make sure they feel like a team first.

This blog

by Bill Kennedy, CA.IT, PMP - With over 25 years of accounting experience, Bill has a varied background in accounting management and accounting systems implementation, with a focus on the charitable sector. He is also an experienced volunteer board member and fundraiser.

More from this blog

Bloggers crew

Steve Knowles has spent 25 years in business and practice in the UK, but he also worked in the states and the years haven't dulled his way of seeing an alternative view to everyone else, and every day is a new adventure.

42149

Joel M. Ungar, CPA is a lifelong resident of the Detroit area and a graduate of The University of Michigan. He is a principal with Silberstein Ungar, PLLC, a Top 15 auditor of SEC public reporting companies.

74278

Allan Boress, CPA, with over 25 years as a practitioner and consultant to the accounting profession. Mr. Boress is the author of 12 published books in 6 different languages, including a best-seller, The "I-Hate-Selling" Book.

47122

Larry Perry, CPA, CPA Firm Support Services, LLC, is the author of accounting and auditing manuals, author and presenter of live staff training seminars, and author of webcast and self-study CPE programs. He blogs about small audits, reviews, and compilations.

86531
Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.
19725

Maria Calabrese, CIR, Human Resources manager for Fazio, Mannuzza, Roche, Tankel, LaPilusa, LLC in Cranford, New Jersey, Maria's topics revolve around the world of: Mentoring, Performance management, and The "Y Generation," a.k.a. "The whY generation".

54204

William Brighenti is a CPA, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and Certified [Business] Valuation Analyst, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Hartford, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford.

78792

Ken Garen, CPA, is the co-founder and President of Universal Business Computing Company (www.ubcc.com), a software development firm of high-volume, high-productivity accounting and payroll technology.

24401

Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of TaxMama.com, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.

62559

Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP is the CPA Programs Leader for Intacct Corporation responsible for leading the CPA/BPO Partners nationally.

33764
Brian Strahle is the owner of LEVERAGE SALT, LLC where he provides state and local tax technical services to accounting firms, law firms and tax research organizations across the United States. He also writes a weekly column in Tax Analysts State tax Notes entitled, "The SALT Effect." For more info, visit his website: www.leveragestateandlocaltax.com
100415
Scott H. Cytron, ABC, is president of Cytron and Company, known for helping companies and organizations improve their bottom line through a hybrid of strategic public relations, communications, marketing programs and top-notch client service. An accredited consultant, Scott works with companies, organizations and individuals in professional services (accounting, finance, medical, legal, engineering), high-tech and B2B/B2C product/service sales.
24963

Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations.

51043
Stacy Kildal is the mom of two fantastic kids, an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Certified Enterprise Solutions ProAdvisor, Sleeter Group Certified Consultant, a nationally recognized member of the Intuit Trainer and Writer Network, and co-host of RadioFree QuickBooks.
26769
Michael Alter's blog specializes in providing practical advice to those who seek greater profitability and practice management tactics that enhance deeper client relationships.
31076

Sally Glick, CMO, Principal, Marketer of the Year in 2003 and AAM Hall of Famer in 2007, leads a lively discussion of the constantly expanding roles of marketing and the professional marketers that drive this initiative in accounting firms of all sizes.

97685

The IMA Young Professionals Blog features the insights of IMA’s Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.

32262

FEI Financial Reporting Blog provides highlights from SEC, PCAOB, FASB, IASB, and other regulatory news, including reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley Sect 404. It is written by Edith Orenstein, Director of Technical Policy Analysis at FEI.

108551

Sue Anderson has 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently she is the program director for online CPE provider CPE Link.

59205

Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.

38399
Caleb Newquist is the Editor-in-Chief of Sift Media US, overseeing content for both AccountingWEB and Going Concern.
65235

Leita Hart-Fanta, CPA, CGFM, and CGAP is the author of "The Yellow Book Interpreted" and owner of Yellowbook-CPE.com a website devoted to training for governmental auditors.

90934

AccountingWEB is more than just a U.S. team of journalists and financial and technology experts - we have an international side, too! Members of our British team who publish AccountingWEB.co.uk share their ideas, insights, and perspectives from across the pond.

52065