3 steps to keeping doers motivated when not enough can be done


Sylvia started a bit hesitantly –people usually don’t ask for details on the data clean up she’s doing for a large financial firm – but seeing my genuine interest she’s warmed to her topic and is eagerly telling me the horror stories of woefully incomplete data entry, systems overwriting each other, countless hours of manual clean up and the Herculean copy-and-paste efforts needed to pull a quarterly report together.  I’m fascinated in that „how can this be possible?“ way. 

Sylvia’s project has been going on for several years already and she’s only at the tip of the iceberg.  The money and resources are lacking for large, incisive change.  Yet the work is valuable and needs to be done.  How to keep someone like Sylvia, a classical doer, from feeling frustrated and disengaging?

Keep in mind that doers want to get things done and to have a tangible purpose:

  1. Task the doer with finding a way to make at least a dent in the situation and get excited with them when they succeed


  2. Ensure the doer makes personal connections with the people who benefit from their ongoing effort, knowing actual names and faces helps bolsters their sense of purpose


  3. Allow them to act, even if a project or some piece of work is in a holding pattern, have them do some research, interviews or planning so that they can produce tangible and (hopefully) useful output

Sylvia’s case is the perfect example.   If there’s no money for system changes, she will change the people: she is on the road for weeks at a time, travelling the cheapest way possible to educate and train the data entry staff.  When a client wants to see an account overview she pores over lists and reconciles information for days on end rather than say it cannot be provided. Yes, she’s frustrated about the lack of management support for the clean up, but she is happy to be making a dent.  She names the colleagues and clients she’s helped with her reports and describes how rewarding it was to train the data entry staff was: they were interested and engaged and the data entry quality has since improved. She acts like the data clean up is her personal mission. 

Doers can be motivated even when circumstances limit how much can be done.  But what about thinkers?  How do you motivate them when it is time for action, not thinking?  Please let me know…

Katherine TersagoComment