a conversation with Brian Tracy
Your new book, Full Engagement! Inspire, Motivate, and Bring Out the Best in Your People takes on today’s common, and dreaded, management mandate: Do more with less. How can managers routinely pull off this feat?
Brian Tracy: “Welcome to the new world of business. Managers today have to do more with less, and get better results from limited resources, more than ever before. One of the interesting outcomes of these challenging economic times is an increase in the level of per person output. Many companies are maintaining or increasing their levels of productivity and quality with fewer people, but with people who are better selected, better organized, and better managed. Achieving the highest possible return on human capital must be every manager’s goal. A good manager with a clear vision can quickly organize a group of average performers into a peak performance team that is capable of achieving tremendous results for the company. It’s not difficult; you just need to learn how to do it.”
Let’s start with one of the most persistent questions in business: Why are some companies more successful and profitable than others?
Brian Tracy: “The answer is simple: The best companies have the best managers. As a result, the best companies have the best people, and that means people who consistently outthink, outcompete, and outperform their competitors. The true measure of the value of any business leader and manager is performance. As I’ve found through working with all kinds of companies all over the world, there are two simple rules for success as a manager. Rule number one: Your life only gets better when you get better. Rule number two: Your people only get better when you get better. There is no real limit to how much better a person who really commits to getting better can get. Every manager has the potential to become an excellent manager for the rest of his or her career.”
That all sounds wonderful. But it raises another persistent question: How does a manager get the best out of each person who reports to him or her?
Brian Tracy: “Again, the answer is simple: Make them feel happy. From the first step in the hiring process through to the final step in the retirement ceremony, make people feel happy with their work and their coworkers, in their interactions with customers, suppliers, and vendors, and with the way they are managed and rewarded. Throughout the centuries, wise men, researchers, and scientists of all kinds have sought a ‘unified field theory,’ a single umbrella-like principle that explains all other principles. In the area of management and motivation, ‘make them feel happy’ is the unified field theory.”
“Make them feel happy” — that’s not a topic typically included in MBA programs. So, how can managers know what to do?
Brian Tracy: “The challenge has nothing to do with not knowing what to do to make people feel happy at their work. Everyone knows exactly what to do. The problem is that we either forget to do those things that make people happy, neglect to do them because we are distracted by other things, refuse to do them because we don’t understand their importance, or worst of all, do things that actually make people unhappy and then justify our behavior with self-righteous excuses and rationalizations. The starting point is learning why and how people think and act the way they do. From there, a manager will understand how to get his or her people fully engaged in their jobs and how to get the most important results that their business depends on for success in an increasingly competitive marketplace. In Full Engagement!, I give managers a ‘crash course’ in making people feel happy so that they perform at their best.”
Would you share a lesson or two?
Brian Tracy: “The lessons are all simple ideas and easy to do. Managers can immediately apply them to create a peak performance work environment and to ensure that each person makes a maximum contribution to the company. Here’s an example: Ask people questions. Talk to them; ask them questions about how they are feeling today and how everything is going. When you express a genuine interest in other people, it makes them feel valuable, respected, and important. They’ll feel good inside and want to please you by doing a good job. Here’s another: Encourage improvement. Encourage people to come up with ideas to do their jobs better or to improve the company in any way possible. When someone comes up with an idea, no matter what you might think of it initially, encourage the person to try it out on a small scale to see if it works. The more ideas you encourage, the more ideas you are going to get. And when people are encouraged to use their creativity to do their job better, they feel much happier about themselves and the company.”
Do you truly believe that all people are good, hardworking, and eager to do whatever is needed to make a valuable contribution if you just treat them nicely?
Brian Tracy: “No, but neither do I believe that all people are lazy and undependable, and must be supervised constantly. In my estimation, the truth is closer to ‘Theory Z’ — my own contribution to motivational management, based on what I call the expediency factor. That is, people are expedient; they will always take the fastest and easiest way to get the things that they want right now, with little concern for the long-term consequences of their behavior. As a result, all people are basically the same in terms of motivation. Everyone wants to enjoy safety, security, belongingness, and self-esteem. Everyone wants to be successful, happy, and respected in their work. And people will do whatever they feel they need to do to achieve those goals. A manager’s job is to provide the environment where individuals are internally motivated to do the very best job possible, in the very best spirit possible, to make the very best contribution possible.”
How can managers create the ideal environment for motivating the best possible performance within their company?
Brian Tracy: “Be a leader. The leader sets the tone by the way he talks, behaves, responds to others, and treats people every day. People tend to ‘follow the leader’ in that they imitate or mimic the behavior of the leader towards others. When the leader treats other people with courtesy and respect, everyone eventually begins treating coworkers with the same courtesy and respect. As I demonstrate in Full Engagement!, there are specific behaviors that leaders can practice each day, and in each interaction, to make people feel good about themselves. There are also three things that a leader should never do: criticize, complain about, or condemn the personal behavior of another person. When managers deliberately take the time and make the effort to build self-esteem in other people and simultaneously eliminate the fears that hold people back from putting their whole hearts into their work, a peak performance workplace blooms naturally around them, like flowers in the spring.”