Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Master the art of motivation

September 19, 2010

It recently occurred to me that individual worker personalities are about as diverse as automobiles, and that this is especially true when it comes to an employee’s purpose and performance.

If God stamps out people like automakers stamp out cars, it’s easy to perceive their uniqueness. A Ford pickup, a Lexus and a Volkswagen are about as diverse in body style, design and operation as possible.

Taking it a step further, some cars have automatic transmissions; others have standard. Some take a long time to pick up speed while some even have to be pushed to get them rolling.

Does this sound like some of your workers?

As parts begin to wear out, flaws impede efficient operation and malfunctions hinder maneuverability. Fatigued and exhausted, the vehicle limps along, but pride won’t let it quit.

Does that sound like some of your workers?

Of course, trying to fix your VW with Ford parts just won’t work.

The right repair requires the correct match. Recognizing individual differences will allow you to fix the parts of each vehicle correctly.

Likewise, one size does not fit all when it comes to motivational programs.

Clearing the roadblocks
A good starting point in designing a winning motivation program is to remove barriers and obstacles such as:

  • Communication barriers, which can induce misunderstandings. Ambiguous instructions and contradictory goals must be addressed. Managers must clearly define the nature, purpose and reason for the task and provide the tools and resources necessary for completion. Often the command, “Just go clean it” is insufficient. Exactly what does that mean?
  • Lack of commitment, which can convey, “I don’t have time to worry about your problems.” It’s time to fix the potholes — unconcerned or uninvolved supervision; unresolved issues of conflict; inadequate resources; unrealistic time constraints; and inadequate problem-solving procedures. If you know that a strip job will take four hours, don’t schedule it two hours before quitting time. Place yourself in your workers’ shoes.
  • Counterproductive bureaucracy, which at the expense of enforcing rules and policies, can stifle productivity and creativity. Hierarchy and protocol may boost egos, but rarely will they boost productivity. Nip the observance of formality, treating workers impersonally, and instituting rules and policy without sound reason.

Negative management styles
In a people-oriented environment, employees are valued for who they are, not just for what they do.

A people-oriented environment promotes mentoring, learning, launching and growing. It respects the lives and choices of each team member.

The opposite of this is the driven environment, which is characterized by force, intimidation and manipulation.

Fear motivation compels obedience, but seldom builds loyalty. Employees are not simply work-units.

As former Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz once said, “Why is it that people always need love and understanding the most at a time when they probably deserve it the least?”

Engineer winning coaching skills A worker-friendly manager will learn to encourage, coach, inspect and measure progress.

Coaches strive to remove power struggles and ego contests, and get workers to buy into cleaning ownership.

They build pride of workmanship and overall job satisfaction.

As the saying “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care” goes, employees want a non-hostile work environment where they know that management is looking out for their best interests.

A common misconception among many managers is, “If I treat my workers with too much kindness and respect, they will take advantage of me.”

This can be addressed by hands-on involvement. If a deadline is approaching, jump in and roll up your sleeves.

Be seen working throughout the building, bringing supplies, preparing work areas, and showing intense dedication to the cleaning project.

In addition, workers typically perform at the level of what is inspected, not expected, so hold yourself and your team to high standards of excellence.

A quality scorecard will monitor and enforce performance while a productivity rating will encourage efficiency and concentrated effort.

Finally, managers should set the daily pace.

Ever notice how long it can take to prepare a custodial cart with the necessary supplies?

Greet your workers at the beginning of the shift and quickly help them prepare. Set a fast pace and gently shove them on their way.

However, don’t forget to deliver compliments. This can put your employees in a positive frame of mind as they face their day.

Move into the winners’ circle
Building a winning team takes effort — not only that of employees, but your effort as well.

So, how can you do this?

  1. Build perks into your system. According to management experts, motivational programs should include: Potential for promotion, thorough training, job security, recognition, reward programs, benefits, and numerous perks. You may want to purchase Bob Nelson’s 1001 Ways to Reward Employees.
  2. Show your face. Give your employees lots of opportunities to see you frequently throughout the day. Walk around the facility with your head high and a smile on your face. Avoid hiding out in your office doing paperwork for hours at a time. If your employees don''t see you during the day, they can feel ignored or (worse yet) demoralized. It may also prompt them to goof off or lead to careless cleaning.
  3. Keep your cool. If an employee does something that provokes your anger, try this: Instead of blowing up, let that person know you''re disappointed in his or her behavior. Never criticize them as a person; that''s the difference between a good critique and criticism. Most people can learn from a well-thought-out critique, yet all people hate being criticized.
  4. Solve the performance gap. To assess the performance gap, begin with what the worker must know to accomplish the task. Then, evaluate if the worker has mastered all of the required training. Next, evaluate if the worker is performing at the level of accomplishment they were trained for. If a gap still exists, try this management exercise: Write out a list of what you think a worker must do to fulfill his or her responsibility. Have the worker do the same. Compare and discuss the differences. Continue until you have all the issues resolved.

Building a winning team that charges into the winners’ circle requires time and effort.

The mind set of an extrovert, rather than an introvert will propel you ahead.

Gary Clipperton, president of National Pro Clean Corp., is a contractor, author, trainer and 30-year industry veteran. He can be reached through his website at