“Call it what you will, incentives are the only way to make people work harder.” – Nikita Khrushchev

Somebody at USA Today is reading ETR. Or so it seems.

Recently, there was a story, on the front cover (surprisingly), on motivation. “There’s no proof,” the headline announced, “hot coals or speeches motivate the troops.”

Welcome to the real world.

Businesses are spending billions of dollars every year trying to inspire employees to work harder, smarter, and with more care. The primary expense is for motivational books, t-shirts, seminars, audiotapes, and events (like hot-coal walking) that give employees (and employers) a temporary rush of excitement and hope but do nothing substantial in the long run.

Well, let me qualify that. Motivational programs and products do not work for bad and mediocre employees — the ones who need motivating. They do work for the superstars. Driven, success-oriented employees consume these products like candy and use them to fuel their energetic and ceaseless efforts to move their work and themselves forward.

But as far as the laggards and snails are concerned, all these well-intentioned programs do nothing but waste money and time. If you really want a motivated staff, follow ETR’s Magical Motivational Model:

  1. Invest in your top performers. Spend time, money, and educational resources to locate, hire, train and supply superstar employees. Don’t leave this to chance.
  2. Don’t manage people. Manage objectives. If you want better productivity and a more motivated work force, don’t spend any time worrying about how your employees feel. Focus your time and energy on the tasks ahead of you and make sure your employees are doing the same.
  3. Trim the branches. Fire your weakest employees and replace them with great ones. This should be a never-ending process.

In every group, people arrange themselves according to personal comfort levels. The achievers move immediately to the front of the line, the mediocre people find the middle, and the snails find the tail.

The way to get your group to perform at a higher level is to regularly replace your weakest links with new, stronger ones. The perfect situation would be to regularly lose your worst employee and replace him with a genuine superstar.

Jack Welch, guru CEO of General Electric, agrees with me. He puts it this way: “A company that bets its future on its people must remove that lower 10% and keep removing it every year.”

You can’t be sure to do that all the time, but if you make it part of your program, you will have a business that gets better by degrees, week after week and month after month. That can add up fast.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]

Mark Morgan Ford

Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Wealth Builders Club. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.