How do you motivate a tree to move? Purge them....

This is and has been a challenge for most managers when they deal with people who are either dead in their head or just motionless in terms of exuberating any form of potential energy within them.

In the nonprofit world, it is a wonder why people would join an organisation after making their intention so clear at the interview that they are very passionate about the cause and want to make a difference only to discover they have have a dearth of drive and are expecting more from the organisation than the reverse.

These people's motivation is driven by a certain form of expectation that sets them to think that only and until they receive, or hear or benefit from something or someone, then they will move. They are like a tree, motionless and expecting the wind, an animal or a human being to exert pressure on them before their leaves or fruit will fall.

So the question is how do we ever motivate such people to believe in the cause and to work for the organisation. The answer lies in understanding them. The moment we as managers realise we have such a person with a certain personality that is dead, we have to institute a system of purging. People who are not driven to change for the better should not be in your organisation. 

The process of purging such people needs to be done very carefully and within the framework and legal requirements of your organisation and law of the land. Purging will help set a few steps ahead with the option that if these people come to realise they have to buck up then they can remove themselves from the gutter but it all depends on them.

Here are some simple steps to help people realise what purging could do to them:

Step 1: Let them know that being pro-active and setting their own direction and demonstrating they can achieve their goals by themselves matters in what counts - they should be given 1 month to buck up.

Step 2: If they fail to meet Step 1 - they have opted for the Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) or a clear cut non-satisfactory performance exit (all within the laws, regulations and best practises of the country).

If they pass Step 1: They should then be subjected to a team work display. They must show they are a team player but demonstrating commitment to the deliverables. The output from the team and the evaluation from the team of their performance will prove to be a decider for their future with the organisation. If they do well, they can move to Step 3., otherwise they move to Step 2 and will find their way to being purged from the organisation. This process can normally take 2 months.

Step 3: They need to demonstrate they are consistent and not faltering in their drive. As a bonus they will be sent for a training session to work on their own areas of development. These areas could consider things like, building self-confidence, time-management, learning a new skill etc.

This step will take 3 months to monitor. The way of monitoring their own development will be done by the supervisor themselves - who will watch them and observe if there is any shift or change in a positive manner in how the person has improved themselves.

Note: The Supervisor must take the mentality of being positive and not being hopeless of the exercise and to not look at this effort as a waste of time. It will show and it can in many ways cause the staff not to perform as there is no form of encouragement or support notice form their direct report.

If there is no improvement from the staff - the process leads us back to Step 2 and will have to find themselves back on PIP scheme.

Step 4: Sustaining the drive is critical and it is important to see the person maintain the drive such it becomes the person's own characteristic and some of the ways of working become a habit more than an ad-hoc system driven by force.

Thus, a review of all steps 1-3 will happen again after 3 months.

Total time for these four steps will take on average 6-9 months to complete depending on how fast and expedient the person is.

In the end if the person realises he or she is not cut out to take on these challenges, they will find the door out themselves.



Dr. Sudeep Mohandas is the Managing Director of I First International (IFI).
At IFI our mission is ensure the nonprofits, foundations, and social enterprise sector is able to enjoy and afford the benefits of top quality professional consultative services, thereby being able to scale up their impact on the ground. We focus our expertise on the Management and the Board. We help organisations be impactful, sustainable and resilient.