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THE Leadership Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Tokyo Japan

Apr 20, 2022

The concept of motivating people is a misnomer really.  It is a short form of saying, as the leader, we build the right relationship, the right culture and create the right environment where our people can motivate themselves to be successful.  Yelling at someone to “be motivated, be motivated, be motivated” sounds and is ridiculous.  We know that but do we have a good alternative?  The degree to which we know our people is the key.  Well we think we know them, but often it is only at a very superficial level.  Bosses are busy very people, time is short and there is a lot to do.  Getting to know our people in depth is a big task, one which takes considerable time and requires a sustained effort.  This is why most leaders don’t bother.


When we take over the boss role we probably went around to everyone in the team and interviewed them about what they do, how they do it, how they like it and any issues they have which, we as the new face, may be able to solve for them.  This is probably the only time we interview them.  We catch up at performance review time, going over the Key Performance Indicators, but we don’t really dig into the entrails about how they are going and what they think about the firm.  Then we move on to our next role and we repeat the same process.  The end result is we work with people, but we never really know them to any great or meaningful extent.  It doesn’t have to be like this and we can get to know people in a way which will allow us to appeal to their nobler and highest motivations.


We use a methodology called not the “interview” but the “innerview”.  This is not a single encounter in the first thirty days of taking on the leader role for the team.  It is a piecemeal, gradual accumulation of understanding of our people.  It may be over coffee, a lunch, a casual conversation.  The word casual here is key.  Yes, there is intention.  We want to get to know our people so that we can provide what it is they want from the firm and the work, positioning ourselves as the leader who can deliver those things.  At the same time it cannot be an interrogation. It cannot be manipulative.  This is a fine line however. We need to get to know how they tick, in order to help them, without it becoming a cunning plan to use them for our own glorious, ever upward, brass ring grabbling, dastardly plot to climb to the top of the corporate ladder.


There are levels of depth in getting to know someone.  Factual questions are the simplest.  Where did you grow up, go to school, go to university, what did you study, what sports did you play, what are your hobbies, where have you travelled, who is in your family unit, where do you live, where else have you worked, etc.  Obviously we are not going to ask these like a barrage of rapid fire quiz show questions.  These types of context, background questions will get answered over time, through the natural flow of causal conversation.  We shouldn’t be forcing it, like we are holding a clipboard survey with boxes to be checked, as we unearth each answer.  In these answers there are connectors with our own story.  We may have lived in the same city or studied a similar subject or even have gone to the same university.


Causative questions are the next layer down.  These are the deeper “why” and “what” questions, as we uncover the motivations and aspirations of the individual.  Why do they like this hobby? Why did they choose this city to live in or this university or this field of study or work?  Why did they move from one company to another.  The latter questions we may have asked during the hiring process, but that was a while ago and we may not recall the detail or they may have been somewhat guarded in their answers at that point in joining the firm or maybe they were already in the team and we are the new arrival.


The deepest level of questioning is around the value-based questions. Knowing the values of the person helps us a lot as the leader, because we can see if there is alignment or not with our own values and with the values of the firm.  These are rather sensitive, personal questions, so there has to be a certain level of trust already established through the earlier questions before we can get to this stage.  Busting right in with such a deep values based question might alarm the team member and they may feel some manipulation is going on.


After listening to them tell us about their career so far, we might ask, “looking back on your career so far is there anything you would do differently?”, “Many people have benefitted from mentors in their work, has that been the case for you”, “ What has been something in your work you look back on with great pride”, “ Life doesn't go in a straight line so do you have any advice for people who may be going through a tough patch at the moment”.


This whole process has to have the correct kokorogamae, or true intention, about why we are doing it.  If we are working out how best we can use people, then we will only damage the relationships, because people are not stupid.  If on the other hand, we are seeking to establish common ground, common needs and common values to deepen our understanding and therefore work out how we can help them to move upward in their career path, then we are on the right track.  Time, place and occasion are three considerations for holding these types of conversations.  We shouldn’t feel we are on a schedule and be in a rush to get to know our people better through these innerview questions.  Authentic, casual, non-probing conversation is the key to learning how best to create the ideal work environment which will help our people to succeed.