Hey guys.

I've applied to be one of three managers of a department and while there's obviously no guarantee of an interview I'd like to run something by everyone because I'm sure someone will have come across this.

The department is fairly small but since it is a QC department the work there is very critical. Ninety percent of the staff are members of a union and their wages are negotiated by the union annually with no performance measure taken into account for this. They also work shifts and as such earn substantially more than their managers.

Talking to my current boss, who used to be in the position, the recurring problem is how to motivate these members of staff to do more to develop themselves. We have some mandatory training courses every year (around compliance and health and safety) and nothing much else is taken up beyond that. Sure, as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water and all that but am I being naive in thinking they should want to develop.

This is one of many problems that I think the department has but in my opinion the lack of motivation to develop at all is the root cause behind most of it. I may obviously be way off base here.

Hope I've not rambled too much, it's almost past my bedtime.



tvalleav10's picture


It seems to me that this situation could benefit greatly from one-on-ones. You need to build a relationship with your folks before you can expect them to follow you.

In your one-on-ones, make sure to give lots of feedback, encouragement and coaching. Let them know that you are very interested in THEIR success and ongoing development.

Your culture won't turn around in a day, a week or a month. But consistently working these tools will eventually get your organization moving in the right direction.

Good luck!


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge


I understand the situation... what's the question?


sklosky's picture


There was a cast on developing a sense of urgency. If I'm reading your post correctly, this cast may answer some of your questions.


eckybloke's picture

Hi Mark et al,

I suppose the question is, how would you go about motivating a team like this?

I've spent time thinking how O3s would work in this situation. However I can imagine exactly how 90% of the team members regard their development/career be doing the same thing in 5 years that they're doing today. Most of the department have been there for at least 8 years and beyond, doing the bare minimum of "development" each year and are happy to carry on doing their jobs to an adequate standard.

Hypothetically speaking, were I to get the job, I would want to go into the department and "freshen" things up. I've always believed that with variety being the spice of life, subtle changes in roles and responsibilities can lead to a more productive environment. Yet when horizontal opportunities arise, no-one seems to be interested in these development opportunities.

However, this department cannot be incentivised by performance bonuses and good wage rises are a given each year so that particular carrot and stick seems to be unavailable.

I've possibly been quite focussed on looking at O3s as a tool to help but Steve's reminder about the Sense of Urgency podcast may indeed help.

So many little time!

jhack's picture

Motivate them to do what, exactly? Think instead about behavior.

You describe their performance as “adequate,” implying that this QC group has metrics (if they don’t, they should!) With metrics, you can start to ask for more, better, faster. slosky’s advice to listen to the “Creating a Sense of Urgency” podcast is spot on.

Many technical folks don’t aspire to management or leadership. They like what they’re doing. Nothing wrong with that. If their performance is good, lucky you! In any case, you have the manager tools you need to help them improve, from adequate to good to great…

Figure out what you want the group to achieve. Identify the role each person can play. Then manage the group towards the goal.

One on One’s are powerful. Coaching can fill in performance gaps. It’s likely that previous managers relied on the standard carrots (pay and promotion) that don’t seem to be working. Communication with your directs, careful observation of them, insights from DiSC, being specfic with deadlines, delegating appropriately, etc, can all contribute to your getting the most from these folks.

thaGUma's picture

Motivate a QC group? 100% has got to be the target. Not only end product but all the procedures. If there is ever a section that has to aspire to 100% to be effective it's QC.

UK advert "it does exactly what it says on the tin".

QC is the section requiring highest accountability in my book, first and last line . They determine how it should be done and check it has been done. If they mess up then for every head that rolls in the production line, a head should go in the QC department. The Romans coined decimation.


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

This may come as a surprise, but we don't put much stock in motivating people.

The fact is, you CANNOT motivate others. Motivation is intrinsic. You can only create the right set of incentives and disincentives (culture being one).

It is my experience that the best folks (and that's where smart managers focus) don't need motivation. Or, put differently, I've NEVER been in a situation where I said, "they are not motivated, so I will 'motivate' them." Rather, it's a function of a lack of incentives (opportunities to improve, low morale, etc.) and lack of disincentives: somebody needs to tell them professionally, which means nicely, that failure to do the reasonable work you've asked them to do will have consequences.

The fear of losing people because of new, higher standards is never a rationale for not asking for more.


LouFlorence's picture
Training Badge


I work in an environment where many of the employees are unionized as well. I see no reason why the management trinity (one-on-ones, coaching and feedback) would not work for you in this situation.

What goals does this group have to meet? Are they being measured and tracked? Are they getting feedback on how well they are doing? Can you improve your relationships with the individuals in the group? Is there more that each member of the group can learn to be better at what they do?

My experience is that focusing on these areas will move you towards producing the results you want. I am confident that you would also see morale and motivation pick up. Why? Because you are paying attention, positive attention to the members of the group.

Best of luck if you get the job.