I’m a very driven entrepreneur. Always raring to go and full of ideas that have to be actioned. Constantly learning and trying out new things. But even I have days when I just don’t seem to have the energy to get stuff done. I’m sure you’ve also experienced such days. Whether it's a lack of inspiration, a feeling of burnout, or feeling paralyzed when facing too many options, sometimes it's hard to be anywhere near as productive as you normally are.
If this happens to you once in a while, it’s nothing to worry about. Maybe you just need a break or change of scene. But if this inertia goes on for days, weeks, and months at a stretch and business starts dwindling and there is nothing in the pipeline, it can be alarming!
Sometimes a hard knock, like losing a big client or not winning an important deal or a change in the business environment that puts us in a disadvantageous position can really impact our confidence and self-esteem – and we may not even be aware of it. It could linger at the back of our minds and slowly make us disengage from the work that we love doing. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being judged negatively, all these can paralyze us.
Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely journey because we don’t feel comfortable talking about such situations with anyone – whether it’s our team or even our family members. We don’t want to spook our employees and we don’t want our families to worry about us. Somewhere deep down we also feel that if we talk about our inertia and lack of motivation, we will be judged negatively.
Inertia can show up in many ways. Sometimes you want to or must take some action steps, but you don’t take it? Sometimes you want to start a new business vertical or launch a new product, but something pulls you back to the current status quo situation. Sometimes you need to take an important decision, but you don’t decide? Sometimes you make your plan, and never implement it, in reality. Sometimes you need to reach out to an important customer but you keep avoiding it. All these are signs of entrepreneurial inertia.
So, what can you do when you find yourself stuck in entrepreneurial inertia?
Here are 5 simple actions you can take to bounce back from inertia and save your business.
When things are not going as you would want them to go and you find yourself lacking the motivation to forge ahead, the most important thing is to re-focus your attention on your long-term goal. Ask yourself these three questions:
If you take time to reflect on these three questions, it will help you align your thoughts and actions with your goals and get you back on the track of getting things done. Seeing your ambitions in black and white will refocus your mind effectively.
Often, the best way to give yourself a kickstart is to simply take action. It almost doesn't matter what this action is - it could be a piece of administrative work, some light research for a new project or even something completely unrelated to your business.
Once you start moving, your energy will usually begin to flow back and you can switch to something a little more intensive. However, don't begin anything that could turn toward displacement activity - avoid social media at all costs, for example, unless it is a necessary part of your work schedule.
If you're feeling overwhelmed by the size of your to-do list, then it can be helpful to bring it back down to size by scrapping the less important and urgent items. Take a close look at which jobs really need to be done first. This will help give you a little more clarity and generate a burst of motivation.
There are many tools that can help you prioritize and stay focused. Try and keep your list of activities to just 2-3 important activities in a day and make them happen. Once you start seeing that you are able to tackle the 2-3 important tasks for the day, you will feel energized and motivated. You can even reward yourself to keep the motivation going.
When you know you've got things to do but you're not in the right frame of mind, it's easy to become frustrated and angry with yourself. This is unlikely to improve matters. If you’re not the type who can step back and reflect on your own, try talking to a coach or mentor.
A coach will ask you questions that will help you reflect and come up with answers that a really very personal to you. The coach will also help you with planning out your action steps and will help you with holding yourself accountable.
If you speak to a mentor, they may be able to share their own experience of snapping out of inaction and low energy situations. Some of those ideas might resonate with you.
Finally, sometimes it's really better to just step away for a while rather than allow yourself to become frustrated with your lack of motivation and results. Take some time off to recharge. Physical activity can be really rejuvenating – walking, running, playing a sport, etc can help revive your energy levels and make you feel better about yourself. Meditation, digital detox, short staycations, are some other options to explore.
Hope these ideas help you snap out of inertia if you’re experiencing one. While it is not humanly possible to be driven and energetic all the time, but as an entrepreneur, you can't afford to let your low-productivity days come around too often or stay too long . By using one or more of these tips, you can get back in the groove and start pushing your business forward once again.
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How do you manage people who have no interest in learning new skills, or advancing their careers?
When I talk about low ambition, I want to clarify that I am not referring to poor performers. I am referring to people who may be really good at what they do or may be in highly-skilled roles – but they are happy where they are in their careers - they've learned the skills needed to do their jobs well, and they don't wish to add to their responsibilities by climbing further up the corporate ladder. In fact, if you think about the people in your teams, you’ll realize that not everyone is willing to learn new skills even if it will help them advance their careers.
In this video, I share some insights to help you manage and motivate such employees.
You may ask, why should I be bothered if they are happy where they are right now. The challenge with managing people with low ambition is how to keep them motivated so that they continue to deliver high-quality work and not just go through the motions. Since they may not be motivated by learning opportunities, greater responsibility, or challenging projects, so you will want to have a strategy in place to ensure that they stay motivated.
Another challenge with such people is around loyalty and retention. If they have no ambition to build their careers or to progress through the organization, then they're more likely to jump ship if they're not enjoying their work. This can be disruptive for your organization. Employee turnover has related costs.
So, what can you do?
Start by examining your own assumptions about your team members, because your perception about them affects the way that you behave with them. For instance, if you believe that someone is simply coming to work to earn a paycheck, then you may unconsciously adopt an authoritarian management style with them.
To help you get a more realistic understanding of your team member’s motivation drivers, you would want to take interest in them and build a relationship. The more you know about their personal lives and goals, the better you'll be able to structure rewards that keep them motivated.
Understanding where their fundamental needs stem from in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs will allow you to customize your motivational approach for maximum impact.
I also find that McClelland's Motivation Theory works well. According to this theory, people have different dominant motivators. These are:• Needs for achievement• Need for affiliation• Need for power
Once you know which is the dominant motivator for your team members, you can structure their work and rewards effectively.
For someone who has low ambition, you may want to explore what they find meaningful and where they think they will enjoy their work more. For some people, moving up into roles with more responsibility may not be the best way forward. Instead moving laterally into a field that excites them and uses their talents better would be more beneficial.
Having control over what we do is a major source of job satisfaction for most people. Whenever possible, give your employees the opportunity to choose their tasks and projects. The more control they have over their work, the more they'll own, and take responsibility for, their tasks.
Another reason why someone is low on ambition could be that they lack confidence in their own abilities. Doing what you can to boost their confidence can be a great motivator, and can lead to significantly increased productivity. Recognition and appreciation for a job well done can be an incredible motivator.
People with low ambition are often responsible for doing work that everyone else in the organization considers "low status." If this is the case in your team, make sure that they are treated equally, especially when it comes to company perks and recognition programs.
Investing your time and energy in your team can help build their capabilities and also their vision of where they can possibly go. That’s a win-win situation.
Want to discuss a challenge you're facing with your management team? Click on the Request Consultation button above or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ask any CEO or Vice President about his or her management team and you are likely to hear about some managers who can't seem to make decisions soon enough; who can't give constructive feedback; who are reluctant to develop subordinates or to make employee changes when necessary. Basically, managers who aren't really managing or are reluctant in their role as a manager.
Now, the truth is that most employees are promoted into managerial roles for doing a good job in their area of expertise, and not because of their ability to handle people and resources. Although promotions like these are great for the individual because it’s a form of reward for them, having a manager who is reluctant or uncomfortable about being in charge could lead to a lot of problems for his or her team and the organization as well.
Newly promoted managers need to learn how to think, feel and behave as managers, rather than as individual contributors or "doers." They need to stop thinking of the "people" and "business" aspects of their job as two unrelated challenges. Their job is to get the people to work towards delivering business results which requires the ability to assert themselves, show initiative and influence others.
Unfortunately, reluctant managers tend to fall short in these areas. In most cases, the reluctance is not because the manager doesn't know what needs to be done. It’s because they are simply afraid of the responsibility of supervising people or believe that they are not going to be good at it.
Especially, high achievers in technical areas may tend to be competitive and loners and may not have well developed interpersonal skills. Reluctant managers often ignore problems because it's easier to just not deal with unpleasant situations. Subconsciously they hope the problem will simply go away if they ignore it.
Rather than helping people grow professionally by providing them with the training and tools they need to improve, reluctant managers tend to ignore low achievers and may even step in to do the job themselves. When this happens, everyone loses out because it impacts the morale and capabilities of the team and also its performance.
Sometimes the role as boss can be twice as hard for managers who have a strong need to be liked by everyone. Such managers are unable to assert themselves and hence not able to generate results.
So, what can you do as the supervisor or superior of a reluctant manager? How can you help them become empowered leaders? You could sit them down and explain that it is their job to make the team perform and that they need to be able to take hard decisions and influence people. But then, in most cases, they already know what they need to do. The problem tends to be at a deeper level.
As humans, we tend to limit what is possible by what we believe is true. Our perception becomes our reality and we actually look for evidence which supports this view and ignore the rest. It takes as little as one or two unfortunate experiences and a perspective is formed – which we then generalize across all facets of our lives. For example someone who froze on stage as a child might carry the belief that they can never be good at public speaking.
Applying this to the current topic, your reluctant manager may have had some experiences that made him or her believe that they will not be a good leader or that they are not a good leader. So even if you believe that they are capable of leading the team, and they take on the role, somewhere deep down they might be coming up against a wall – basically telling themselves subconsciously that this won’t work, and might even be sabotaging their own performance to conform to their belief that they can’t be a good leader.
Another possibility could be that they believe that good leaders need to behave in a certain manner – for example be loud, pushy, demanding, and extrovert and so on. This could be based on what they have been exposed to while growing up or at work. So, they may then try to fit into that mould and behave like that, even if that is not their natural personality type. This is bound to lead to an internal tussle or incongruence and eventually convince them that they are not good enough to be a leader or that they are better off being an individual contributor.
So, what you need to really do is to understand what is making them reluctant about their managerial role. What’s standing in their way to assert themselves and get work done? What are their beliefs about their own leadership capabilities? Once you understand this about them, you can help them change their perspective by opening their minds to new possibilities and ways of looking at themselves, their role and their impact.
Another way in which you can empower them is by understanding that managers are often reluctant to make a decision for fear of making a mistake. So see how you react when things go wrong. Do you back the manager and tell them to focus on how to resolve the problem or do you spend time analyzing their role in things going wrong? Your trust in them will empower them.
And finally, you can help reluctant managers by developing their capabilities through training and coaching. A good training program can change the way individuals think. A coaching program can help them overcome their internal barriers and develop their thinking capabilities. After exploring all these possibilities, if the manager is still reluctant, accept that they may fit better in another role. It is not worth losing a good employee if you can find a more suitable way to reward a job well done.
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