Dear Dave: I left my last job, because the company had a lot of problems. I was fortunate enough to land my current job and I believe it can be a big part of my career.

The problem that I noticed right away is the lack of motivation shown by many of the managers. They barely get their work done and they don’t monitor their employees to see how they are doing and if they need help. Simply, the managers are doing the bare minimum and hardly appear to be leaders to their staff. This is a big problem at the company and it has negatively affected our productivity as well as the spirit and purpose shown by the employees. What can be done about this? — R

Dear R: My first thought is, where is upper management and why aren’t they doing something about this?

Smart managers know their organizations need to be filled with motivated employees and they know that the best, motivated managers will model what it takes to be energized and purpose-driven. And upper (senior) management should know that unmotivated managers will produce unmotivated employees.

I have also experienced disengaged managers at some of the companies I worked for and I wondered how they got their jobs, and especially, why they were able to keep their jobs. I understand that management is a tough job and that it causes stress and burnout. If managers are so unhappy that they make their role seem like sheer drudgery, I advise them to figure out what is going on and determine if they are able to continue in their job.

Employees watch their bosses very closely and are sensitive to the attitudes and behaviors the managers exhibit. If they see lazy managers who make everything seem like a bore and a bother it will not take long for the employees to think that they can get away with doing less than what is expected. This is a sad state of affairs, and it does not take long for this sluggish thinking to become the culture of the company.

The best companies are mission-driven. The management and staff know who they are and what they must do. The managers are also true leaders who are continuously coaching, developing, and motivating their people. The managers have also developed competencies such as building relationships, solving problems, leading change, inspiring and enthusing employees, thinking critically, being responsible and accountable, and clearly communicating the goals the company needs to achieve to produce and prosper. Simply, purposeful, inspired, and skilled managers set the example that employees should follow.

Creating motivated managers

To create a culture of engagement and motivation, you need strong managers who demonstrate they are having an exceptional and rewarding experience at work. To do this, upper management must create challenging, but reachable, assignments for all company managers. Upper management must show that they, themselves, are engaged, constantly motivated, and are developing and using their strengths. They need to coach mid- and lower-level managers and inspire them to produce superior work all day and every day. Excellence should be a mantra and not a once-in-awhile experience.

Managers at all levels need a well-defined and well-articulated mission and purpose that they can rally around. They need to see how their work impacts the ongoing, often changing, corporate strategy. And they need clear accountability, so that they can measure their progress and potential. All of these things help managers understand their roles and help them become more engaged and motivated. The end result is producing stronger and more competent managers who know what they are doing and know how to get things done. They then become strong examples for their employees.

Smart, motivated managers actively involve and challenge their teams to come up with new and better ways to do things. I believe that managers should include employees in problem-solving and decision-making as much as possible. I also think (most) employees want to become part of the solution process and not just experience remedies being thrown at them. Managers motivate their staff when they allow them to think and become actively engaged in solving problems and dealing with difficult situations.

I believe that deep down, employees want their managers to be tough, rugged, and resourceful leaders who do not buckle under crises. They do not want weaklings who can’t face the challenges before them. Employees remember how their managers dealt with emergencies and whether or not they became unglued under stress. Managers can lose the trust and respect of their employees in a hurry if they fall apart under pressure.

Finally, employees want to see their managers being consistent in the way they think, are analytical and inventive in the way they approach tasks and projects, and are fair and open-minded in the way they make decisions. Good managers set the right example when they take the time to ponder possibilities and not just scream “We are all going to die” when facing challenges and demands. And – last, but not least – good managers are approachable and congenial.

If managers can retain a spirit of achievement and doing what it takes to get the job done, they will provide the motivation example that employees need to inspire them and help them become more-engaged workers. Gloom and doom creates more gloom and doom. Inspiration and engagement will create more of the same.

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