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Columnist: H. James Harrington

Photo: Scott Paton, publisher


Inspiring Motivation

Too often we sell ourselves short with worn-out excuses for mediocrity.




Anyone who believes that the competitive spirit in America is dead," notes Ann Landers in one of her columns, "has never been in a supermarket when a cashier opens another checkout line." Yes, people are competitive by nature, but too often we put away that competitive spirit when we enter our organi-zation's front door. We become part of the pack. We're afraid to stand out as individuals. We don't want to be enthusiastic about our job because other employees will think that we're strange. But enthusiasm makes the ordinary person extraordinary. As individuals, we all have the same needs that must be fulfilled if we're going to excel at our jobs. These include:

Economic security . We must feel that we're getting a fair day's pay for a fair day's work--no more and no less.

Personal esteem . We all want to be viewed as value-added elements to the organization. None of us wants to be average. Fifty percent of the people doing your kind of work are below average. What makes your output better than theirs? Maybe you need to take it upon yourself to improve.

Personal worth. We need to feel that we're contributing to a worthwhile goal. Ask yourself if you know what the goals of your organization are. If you don't know, ask your manager to explain them to you. If you're a manager, be sure that your employees know and understand how they support the organization's goals.

Personal contribution . We want to be listened to and have our ideas heard. With a fair hearing, we can accept the fact that our suggestions might not be implemented.

Personal recognition . We all need feedback to show that good work is appreciated, that what we're doing is worthwhile. Too often the only feedback that managers give their employees is negative. If they do something wrong, we let them know, but when they do something right, we forget to say thanks. Managers need to communicate as much or more about the good work their employees do as about the bad.

Emotional security . We all need to be able to trust the managers we work for and feel that they'll be honest with us. Employees are adults and want to be treated as such. Keep them informed about the highs and lows of the business. Never pass on criticisms of one of your employees unless you've already told him or her first.


Only when these six basic needs are satisfied will an individual have a chance at excelling at an assigned task.

Today's employees don't expect the world to be fair because it isn't. Those who dwell on life's unfairness use it as an excuse for their lack of drive and success. No matter where you are in the world, there will always be people above you who aren't, in your eyes, as deserving as you and people at your level or below who don't, in your eyes, do their fair share.

Most of us believe we have more than our fair share of problems. In truth, many people have overcome more obstacles than we'll ever face and have become more successful than we'll ever be. They use obstacles to build stamina, and they possess a drive to succeed, a will and a personality that are unstoppable.

On the other hand, many individuals seem to carry relatively light burdens but still fail miserably.

No, the world isn't fair, but modern employees accept and understand this, making the best use of their talents and opportunities to forge a positive attitude, personal dedication and commitment to success.

In today's environment, growth is going to be very limited. Managers and employees must look for other ways to stimulate job satisfaction and recognition. Employees are observant about what's going on around them and how they can contribute to the organization's success. Employees who don't find their jobs interesting are employees who have closed their minds to the possibilities for change and improvement. Employees and managers with this tendency make excuses. Some of the more frequent ones are: "We tried that before," "Let's hold it at bay," "Let's give it more thought," "Management would never go for it" and "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."

It's time we opened our minds and stopped relying on the same old lame excuses. Every time you utter or hear one, it's time to challenge what's going on. Stop putting up roadblocks and detour signs to change and start knocking them down. Ask how you can make it work now if it didn't work before. Ask if it isn't time you tried something new. Embrace the positive and cut the legs out from under the negative. You might not always win, but you'll never win if you never try.

About the author
H. James Harrington is CEO of the Harrington Institute Inc. and chairman of the board of Harrington Group. He has more than 55 years of experience as a quality professional and is the author of 26 books. Visit his Web site at www.harrington-institute.com.