“How can I motivate technicians?”

This is something I’m often asked by  HVACR service company owners, or service managers. Of course, what I’ve quoted above is only the root of the question, with things like, “…..to show more interest in their job….” or something else along that line as the completing element to the query. And, whatever  the term or thought they refer to when asking this question, it’s universally understood that what they want to know is what specific steps they can take, or what they can say, that will result in a higher level of performance from the technicians they employ or supervise; as though there is some specific formula or exact verbiage that exists relative to ‘motiviating’ people.

My initial response to their question begins with making what I believe is a valid point about the subject, which is that no one can actually motivate anybody else. The only thing one can do is effectively guide other people to motivate themselves. And the next point I make is that technicians are people too, which means that there are no special methods of  helping others motivate themselves that apply only to technicians. With that said, I’d like to discuss a concept that I believe can be a part of a person’s development, and thereby affecting their level of professional performance….especially in this day and age of instant media communication and information….that of comparing oneself to others.

It’s my opinion that while it’s unfortunate, it’s true that a person’s self-opinion about how much they are accomplishing in their life and contributing to society (that’s the goal that’s innate for all of us, after all) can be influenced by their exposure to information about others. The best way I can explain this situation is by employing baseball as an analogy.

The vast majority of people (the number that seems popular these days is 99%) are born standing at bat at home plate, and as their life moves on through adulthood, the pitches begin, and, sometimes a swing of the bat results in a strike, and sometimes it’s a hit. And, there are times when it’s necessary to make a judgment not to swing at all at a pitch that’s outside the strike zone (or perhaps make the often unconventional decision to reach for one outside of the strike zone because your instinct tells you it’s the right thing to do). The bottom line is that the objective is to get on base and make your way to home plate, which means that in addition to your own efforts, you also depend on others to help you succeed and reach your objective. Or perhaps you’ll  be able to hit one out of the park and make it home very quickly with dramatic success.

Like I said, that’s the way it is for most people. And, then, there are some people that never have to face a pitch or make a judgment that gets them on first base, or allows them to hit a double, a triple, or a home run. Some people may, by the factor of their birth, be born on first base, which, if they accept their fortune in a positive way, will help them along through their baseball game of life without a lot of unnecessary difficulty.

Or they might even be born on second or third base, which means they still have to depend on others, and then also make some kind of effort to get home to success. (Of course, there are very rare exceptions to this rule. Take Donald Trump for example….in my opinion, he was born a short baby step from home plate with the umpire holding up one hand to stop any play while motioning with the other for him to move his foot just a little bit, but his situation is so rare, common sense dictates that we don’t even consider him in this discussion.) The point is that as a service manager or company owner who is trying to understand what motivates technicians to do the best job they can do, it’s possible that they’re making an unnecessary and destructive comparison, and it affects the way they make sense of things overall, not just their career.

This begs the question, “So, should I sit a technician down and explain the whole baseball scenario, and tell them that it’s destructive to compare themselves to others”? No, I don’t think that’s necessary. I think all we need to do is understand that the concept of comparing is something that could be happening for someone we’re trying to guide along their way to success, and then employ our supervisory skills accordingly to do the best we can for them.

Until next week.

Learn from yesterday….live for today….look forward to tomorrow.

Jim

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