Employee Motivation, Growth and Happiness

I’m a recovering accountant. I understand that talking about things like mindset as a management technique seems unconventional to the unconverted. I’m not a fan of unsubstantiated hocus pocus, I’m far too analytical and sceptical for that. So I only believe in things that I know work. And the reason I bring up mindset is because it affects every management technique. Having the wrong mindset blocks bosses from management success because they see problems in the solutions. And the wrong mindset is also the source of a lot of personal distress. For bosses and employees.

Related Resources:

Managing your mindset is a good manager manager skill. Other important boss skills include:

Mindset Series: Motivating Employees

This article is part three in the series on Mindset: Creating More Positivity to the Workplace. Going back to my story earlier in this series of a child learning to ride a bike. The question to ask yourself is are you the boss shouting “Don’t hit the tree” to your employees? Which then makes your employees become object fixated and hit the only figurative tree in the park.

As bosses we want positive things from our employees like learning, growth, ownership and creativity. But we sabotage ourselves when our mindset creates a negative self fulfilling prophecy. That’s one reason why regular performance feedback doesn’t work. That’s why in Inspiring Performance Communication I show you how to solve problems in a positive framework. You can find out more on this topic at www.managerfoundation.com/inspire

Focusing on Problems Not Solutions

The problem with business is that it’s analytical and risk adverse. This drives a mindset of focussing on problems instead of solutions. This negative mindset results in inaction and slow decay. The negative mindset is de-motivating for your employees. And for you personally when you are thinking about what can go wrong, you are operating in a place of fear. Your fight or flight system is activated. This is causing work stress. To change from a negative, reactive state to a positive, proactive state, you first need to become aware of your mindset.

Risk Avoidance is the Dominant Corporate Culture and the Innovator's Dilemma Abhors Change

Unfortunately our evolutionary tendencies are further reinforced by corporate culture. Company structures, operating procedures, cultures and incentive programs reinforce this risk aversion. The innovator's dilemma means that established companies avoid innovation that risks destroying their businesses.

Innovators Dilemma. Example Kodak Camera Company

The classic example is the Kodak Camera company. They were the camera business and employed over 50 000 people. Then the digital camera came along. Even when it was clear that the digital photography would destroy film photography, Kodak stayed tied to film because of vested interests. This happens everywhere.

Innovators Dilemma. Affecting everyone

This is the reason why record companies were not the ones that invented online music. It’s why bookstores didn’t invent Amazon. In short people become focussed on trying to protect what they have against the new, instead of moving with the times. But it’s not just big, market leading companies; this law of behavior applies equally to people and specifically to you as a boss. Aversion to change means that managers can get stuck like the proverbial frog in the pot. Failing to be a better boss because of fear of failure. Staying in a slowly warming pot and only taking action when you reach crisis point.

This Mindset Destroys Employee Motivation and Reduces Innovation and Creativity

The point of this series is to talk about your mindset and your success. But your mindset has a massive effect on your employees.

Focusing on Negatives Kills the Positives

It’s entirely uninspiring to hang around someone who can only see negatives and potential problems. But doing something new requires taking a risk. Finding a solution means taking a chance on something that won’t work. Being risk averse, focussing on negatives, punishing failure kills the positive behaviours you want as a boss. Your employees don’t take a chance on fixing their own problems because they have been trained to avoid mistakes. Your management behaviours are literally creating fear in your employees where they are scared of doing something wrong. And nothing sucks energy and motivation out of a room like a dose of negativity.

Awareness Will Help:

So what do you do as a boss to manage mindset? Well the answer isn’t to switch from negative to totally positive. Firstly it’s going to seem artificial. And secondly it’s incredibly hard to do because your mindset is part of your automatic behaviours. And lastly it’s a bad idea because ironically being overly positive can also demotivate your employees.

Some of your employees have an aversion to rapid change. And if you’ve ever had a boss that always believes anything can be done in two ticks without any complications you know how frustrating that is. There will be some bosses whose natural behaviour is to be overly positive and some overly negative. Mindset is like a personality trait. Don’t try to change who you are because that’s false. Be more aware of your mindset and how your mindset affects employees and then you’ll be able to affect true change. You’ll be able to do what’s right for each situation.

Be aware that not all your employees are the same. What works for some employees has the opposite effect on others. A special mention of the DISC personality model: the DISC model is a great way to work out what motivates your employees.

You can find out more about DISC at: www.managerfoundation.com/disc

Quicker Solutions Than Awareness

Awareness and empathy are difficult skills to develop. They take time. There is a quicker, easier way to motivate your employees. And it’s based on a simple principal. Instead of being the boss that shout’s “Don’t hit the tree” you can guide your employees through the gaps. Where bosses usually get this wrong is in performance communication, delegation and employee development. Essentially instead of focusing on what you don’t want your employees to do and punishing your employees for the past, you focus on what you do want in the future.

These are each separate topics and so I cover this in those techniques. For now - keep your eyes open for the story about the power of positive feedback which I use as an example to show you how you can fix problems without unpleasant negative feedback.

Elsewhere in this series I will also share some tools that you can use. These tools will help you with better awareness and help you to refocus on solutions instead of problems.


And so to wrap up - There are two sides to personality traits. Being analytical or cautious is good business but the mirror side is being critical and operating in a negative mindset. This destroys, instead of encourages the behaviours you want in your team. Great managers know how their actions affect the motivation of their employees.

P.S In the next section in this series. I’m going to take you down a tour of a deep dark hole I call the Management Death Spiral. Hold onto your hats for the ride.


Do you have any comments, questions or tips about mindset in business? Please share in the comments below.