Thursday, November 12, 2009

Motivate Employees With a Dash to the Performance Finish Line

Several years ago I wrote an article entitled, Winning at Work: How to Instill Enthusiasm and Commitment in Employees. In that article I used a sports analogy to identify nine elements from the sports world that can inspire employees to achieve the same remarkable levels of performance that athletes exhibit when they “work.”

One of those essential motivational elements is that in the sports world at some point the game comes to an end.

The fact that one game ends and another begins has significant impact on the way people perform. The National Football League did a study on scoring in the NFL and discovered that more points are scored in the last two minutes of each half than in any other twenty-minute period.

When players know the game (or the half) is about to end, they perform much harder. As time runs down the players realize they need to put forth the extra effort to protect their lead, to get back into the game, or to win. Having paced themselves for this very moment, athletes produce an enormous amount of energy to score another touchdown in the final seconds of play.

Professional fund-raisers know 80% of the money raised will be gathered in the last few hours of the event. Items at the end of an auction are sold at higher prices. The fervor of excitement rises as people become motivated to solicit more, give more, or get more as the end of the event approaches.

Sadly, in the workplace employees often perform repetitive, ceaseless activities with no hope of reprieve or an end to the process. Workers leave the office or factory floor without having experienced the excitement that comes from knowing they’ve edged out the competition or achieved a new “world record” in productivity. Employees need to experience the emotion of making a game-winning score in the final seconds of play. They need to feel the exhilaration and personal satisfaction that comes from breaking the tape at the finish line.

Managers need to find ways to stop the production game clock and assess the score. The most motivational work environment is one where employees can tell every day whether or not they are winning. The best performance feedback mechanisms allow employees to measure their progress, celebrate their success, and recharge for the next production push.

Managers can motivate their employee to perform at higher levels by breaking up the work into performance periods with a beginning and an end. They need to set performance goals at the beginning of the period and measure their achievement of those goals at the end of the period. They also need to celebrate the victories when the team wins or refocus the team after performance failures.


If you would like help developing an effective performance management system for your company, or would like a copy of the "Winning at Work" article, please call us at 702-258-8334 or e-mail

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