Several years ago, I taught a series of management classes around the country.
I always started the workshops by asking the students, who ranged from new supervisors to high-ranking managers, which topic they most wanted the class to address. Approximately 98 percent of the time and regardless of the region, the first item mentioned was "Motivation."
We'd talk about various theories and approaches but the one I always stressed was simple: Stop demoralizing your employees with poor management.
You can imagine the reaction. Many of the attendees wanted a magic bullet. Praise. Recognition. Special pay incentives. Those were the more positive yearnings. The less positive simply wanted new ways to tell their employees to shape up, suck it in, and get on the ball.
Both broad approaches have their time and place but the fastest results had more to do with omission than commission. Omit the maddening bureaucracy, the caste systems, the constantly shifting priorities, the political games, the inflated praise, the turf-building, the rudeness, and the indifference to employee ideas and concerns. In other words, stop demotivating before you start motivating. Establish a solid foundation so the subsequent appreciation and recognition programs won't sound hollow.
They weren't glitzy then and they aren't glitzy now but such creative omissions have one virtue: