Jon Sutton

Executive Director, Empowering Students

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How do I get employees to do their job? How do I motivate them?

I run a non-profit. We are all students and we all lead busy lives. It was formed about seven months ago with the goal of connecting students to charities over the internet.

I am having a hard time of late making sure that people are doing their jobs and keeping them on top of it. Some weeks are great and everything gets done. Other weeks, it seems like we are stuck in neutral. I don't know if I'm not doing a good job motivating or my mind works too fast -- things take time and I need to let natural processes work themselves out. I can't expect someone to work faster than is humanly possible. If they are working with someone, they can only work as fast as that person responds to their emails.

Given this, though, I still feel like I can do more. Our organization is growing by leaps and bounds and I don't want to have the growth stop. I feel like we are at an integral cross roads in our history and now is the time where our organization will prosper or fail -- and I'm banking on prospering.

Any tools, tips, tricks?

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    Mar 21 2012: Hi Jon, A few things you could do. Firstly deepen your awareness of the difference between leadership and management. Taking account of how much you do of each will help you sustain improvment. Managemant secures accountability and is vital but it is the leadership of your organisation which will transform it's performance over time in the way you clearly want. Essentially ask yourself WHY do you have this company? 1. Write down your VISION and VALUES for your company (if you haven't already)2.Communicate your VISION and VALUES in EVERYTHING you do, EVERYDAY to ensure you stay focused, do the important stuff and build capacity within your team3.Find out what DRIVES your team members (individually and in real terms) then align these with the VISION. This is crucial when people are giving of their time in addition to other jobs...they have got to want to work hard for this. 4. Set targets for your performance and add a level of competition between collegues.Your company sounds so interesting...good luck with your important work.
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      Mar 22 2012: I'm going to bank that one in my brain for later. =)

      Nicely put sir.
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    Mar 21 2012: Make sure your employees and volunteers know exactly what is expected of them. Make sure they have everything necessary to perform their tasks. Make sure you give them regular, candid assessment of their performance. Make sure they understand that you are their facilitator and enabler. Consistently display your honest, candid zeal and devotion to the mission. Tolerate no slackness. Reward all diligence. Be consistent. Be ethical. Be reliable. Be available.
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    Mar 21 2012: Really good comments all around -- thank you.

    Stuart, your insight was particularly helpful. At times, I think I get lost in the big picture -- where I want us to be in a year -- and then we get bogged down and miss where I want us to be in a month. Part of that is my inexperience as a manager and part of it is that I'm still a 19 year old kid running a NFP with close to 15 volunteers including 5 full time staff!

    I'm a bit over my head at times but communities like TED give me the help and advice to keep going. Cheers all. Keep it coming.
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    Mar 21 2012: Incentives like a free "blank" to "place or thing" if we all do "blank" in "blank" amount of time.
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    Mar 21 2012: Hey Jon,

    I would extend the possibility to use a bit of design thinking to figure things out. (wiki it)

    First you probably need to understand the problem. Have you talked to the people involved? What are they feeling? What are they going through? Maybe you can gain some perspective on what's going on with them before you apply an sort of managerial status? Wicked problems require that everyone participates. Once you understand your employees, then you can think about solutions.

    Get them all involved with something for 5-10 minutes that encourages them and brings them together? Open them up a bit and see what they end up saying. It may have nothing to do with your organization. It may be the organization. It's an experiment, and it doesn't have to be elaborate, the simplest of conversations can lead to great insights.

    Hope this helps.