How do CEOs diagnose team motivations?

“What kind of push back do you get from your clients?” That was the question an audience member asked me.

I was excited to participate in “Startup Grind Cincinnati” last week. Mike Bott, Principal at Blue Chip Venture Company, interviewed me as part of a fireside chat with some of Cincinnati’s great startup talent. It was a lot of fun. But, this question from an audience member has lingered with me since then.

Usually I am not at a loss of words. So, the question above made me stop and think for a moment.

What was my response? My first answer was an issue regarding time. Many Founding CEOs often tell me they don’t have time to work on the “leadership development stuff” that is usually important to enhancing their performance as a CEO. So, they “push back” on my suggestions that help them grow as a leader.

“I can’t,” was my second response. Founding CEOs say they “can’t” do something because they either don’t know how or they don’t want to put in the effort. “This is who I am and my team will have to deal with it,” is the attitude of some.

The audience member at “Startup Grind Cincinnati” asked me a followup question. “What do you do when a client doesn’t want to put in the effort to grow as a leader?” My response? “I don’t coach them,” I said.

Scanning the audience I saw a few shocked faces. But, it’s true. I can’t coach someone who doesn’t have the motivation to be coached.

Why is this relevant for Founding CEOs? Because, the same inquiry into motivations holds true for your team members. When you are diagnosing the performance of a team member, there are usually two lines of initial questioning that are helpful. Inexperienced CEOs may simply conclude that it is a skill or ability issue. And, that may be so. It’s certainly a legitimate line of inquiry.

  • Is the poor performance the result of inadequate training?
  • Is the poor performance because of a lack of resources to do the job?
  • Did the skills needed in the role outgrow the current skills and abilities of the team member?
  • Did the team member have the necessary skills when you hired him or her?

However, it may also be a motivation issue, as is sometimes the case with the Founding CEOs that are sent me way. As a CEO, you may forget that members of your leadership team also have a set of motivators that propel or repel them from growing and enhancing their performance.

Questions You Can Use

So, as a Founding CEO, how do you begin to diagnose individual leadership team member performance issues related to motivation? Here are some questions you might explore:

  1. Does the lack of motivation result from poorly communicated expectations?
  2. Are the incentives aligned with the team member’s interests?
  3. Are the incentives being equally distributed?
  4. Are the incentives linked to performance measures?
  5. Does the team member have the autonomy they need?
  6. Does the team member agree with the mission, vision, and value of the company?
  7. Is the team member in a role that matches their interests?
  8. Is the environment and culture aligned with this team member’s needs, hopes, and desires?
  9. Did the role change and the team member’s motivations to be in that role no longer fit?
  10. Have you cultivated a culture of trust?
  11. Do you expect others to have the same motivations as you? (Hmmm)

I could go on. But, I think you get the point.

Motivations propel our behaviors, as a Founding CEO and as a member of a leadership team. As a CEO, it’s important to have clarity on your own motivators so you can be clear headed about assessing and diagnosing the motivations of your team members. The performance of your company depends on it.

What questions do you ask to help diagnose the performance of your team members?

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