Tag: Motivation

Employee Engagement needs Emotional Leadership

Posted on 05/24/12 by Aidan

It was just over five years ago I was talking to corporates about employee engagement and ways to engender it. Some interesting strategies on rewards and remuneration were around and some of the incentive or “points” reward systems were in place. In Ireland in particular, high employment meant getting and securing suitable employees was a challenge.  And keeping them was a high priority especially after training costs and the costs of actually employing them were taken into account. In high turnover industries like call centres – staff would move for the slightest increase in salary and often companies would find themselves hiring back employees who had left –one year later at a much higher hourly rate.

Things have changed. Unemployment is high, savings are low, property is where it is and there is an idea out there that people are happy to “have jobs” and can be treated less well.  Not true. I have noticed that key performers for the Sales and IT functions for example, are often hard to locate in Ireland currently. A number of businesses I work with find these positions hard to fill – with the right people.

While there have been a lot of cutbacks the retained staff in organisations have to do more, have a wider brief (requiring more training and key skills) and own more intellectual capital than heretofore. Assuming that those that are currently engaged are performers it is more critical than ever to keep them and their key skills. Not only is retention required but in this “New Economy” they need to be operating at their full potential in a way that is sustainable and positive. They need to be “Engaged”.

Employee engagement means employees  being involved in, and enthusiastic about their work, who consistently act in ways that further their company’s interests without reward or external motivational factors. Engagement is distinctively different from employee satisfaction, motivation and organisational culture and contributes directly to shareholder value (the bottom line folks!)

While Engagement is distinctively different, it is driven by satisfaction, motivation and culture – as well as a sense of belonging and being valued. It is about passion, for your job, your team, your brand and what the company is trying to achieve. And passion is more than a number. Passion is an emotion.

To engage employees and get them passionate one must use passion and communicate passion and act passionately. One must communicate on an emotional level with people – because to get them passionate you must connect emotionally. As a leader it’s a considerable advantage to be emotionally intelligent. To engender world class performance you must work with people on an intellectual level and an emotional level. I also think to be at its best there needs to be an instinctual or gut level connection.

The results of using the three levels and particularly the underdeveloped emotional level are been seen as having huge impact in organisations. Being emotionally Intelligent is not about being emotional, but of being able to understand your own and others emotions and act accordingly. Through understanding how you are, how others are, how empathy works and understanding how to communicate with this understanding.

Your key employees can resonate with positive emotions if you lead them in this way. This resonance passes through the organisation like ripples on a pond engaging other employees and customers too after all – they are never more enamoured with your company than your people are.

It starts with Leadership. They are the core. They can be the stones dropped into the still pond to send out ripples of energy, motivation and positivity impacting all your people and your results. To the spreadsheet lovers out there – that’s “leveraging your Human Capital to deliver bottom line results and shareholder value!”

Aidan Higgins

Empowerment is key

Posted on 10/29/11 by Aidan

I was once on a course at the IMI and my teacher was Prof  Terri Monroe from the University of San Diego. The module was leadership and she took a very intersting couple of days where she was a guide rather than a teacher. This unsettled some who were used to being told what to do next (despite being executive level management) but she was keen to let us evolve the learning and watch the leadership dynamics in the group. So she gave us all the leeway we wanted. I found this new and interesting.

She spoke about her work with the US Navy and how the dymanics of the armed forces had changed considerably from the “Over the Top” mentality of the past to one which recognised that fast decisions and reactions were key to meeting (and hitting) targets. Therefore management was focused on empowerment and leadership on Motivation – from command and control they had moved to enabling decisions to be made where “the rubber meets the road”.

Much is made of empowerment in business where the decisions can be made, where needed, at the coal face  – where your team meet your customers, where the sales are done and revenues generated and where knowledge is gathered about the customer and the environment. In our ever faster moving world the old chain of command idea means bureaucracy, slow response times, and lost opportunities. Empowerment is a critical success factor in the business world.

So I heard a story the other day about my oft quoted All Blacks Rugby team which illustrated it nicely. I often hold that they are the most successful team in the world overall because they all know what they are doing (as opposed to just the coach/captain) and they have an ability to adapt to expose newly discovered weaknesses. In a lot of sports and in some rugby teams there is the autocratic manager with the team plan who is handing out instructions about how the game should be played with all and sundry sticking to this plan until told to change. These changes are sent out via a “waterboy” or “doctors assistant” or shouted from the edge of the pitch or even bored into the players during the half-time break.

The All Blacks have a formidable Manager – Graham Henry –  who from a distance looks like the autocratic type and although he is seperated from his players during the game he does send messengers to and from the pitch. However the story goes that during one of his recent visits with his team to Ireland when the All Blacks won the grand slam (eg very strong and successful team) one of his messengers was corralled during a critical part of the Ireland game and asked what instructions he had sent out. “Oh none mate” came the reply – “I was asked to find out what the players were thinking of doing next“.

Now thats Empowerment.

Aidan Higgins

First Posted August 2009

Mindset Matters

Posted on 10/19/11 by admin

EagleI am constantly amazed by the impact of a mindset. I see it in business. I see it in with my friends. I see it in rugby all the time.  Often success is a result of the view we have formed of ourselves and our norming behaviour ( behaviours that move our outcome up or down towards our expected outcome).

In business it’s seen in the can-do attitude of for example a Saleperson, in Rugby the reaparrance of a bogey team that we lose to again and in some friends their refusal to “go for it” feeling they are not good enough.

This is of course not a new idea. Henry Ford is famous for many things especially his production line processes that brought motoring to the masses in the US. One comment he made is well quoted – “whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t you are right”.

A friend of mine Declan Coyle who gives courses which involve internal change often says to his class “If you think this is Pop Psychology – you will probably prove yourself right!”.

I came across a very nice story recently told by Tony De Mello:

A man found an eagles egg and put it in the nest of a barnyard hen.
The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them.
All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken.
He scratched the earth for worms and insects.
He clucked and he cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet up in the air.
Years passed and the Eagle grew very old.
One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky.
It glided in graceful Majesty among the powerful wind currents with scarcely a beat of its golden wings.
The old eagle looked up in awe. “Who’s that?” he asked.
“Thats the eagle, the king of the birds,” said his neighbour.
“He belongs in the sky. We belong to the earth – we’re chickens”
So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for thats what he thought he was.

If we think about it we can see that this behaviour is entirely internal and therefore a choice. We may have been listening to those voices who point to our flaws and never our brilliance or who continue to tell us why we can’t do something they never will. These are the people Teddy Roosevelt called those that “dwell in perpetual twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat”.

Because its a mindset matter its internal and therefore under our own control. Positive thinking and a reset of our norm can bring great results. First however we need to wake up to its existence and to observe it in action. Once again awareness is critical. Its easier of course for those of us with confidence but its just a longer journey for those who don’t.

My mother always told me I could do anything. I believe her!

Aidan Higgins

First Published Feb 2008

Want to feel better?

Posted on 05/19/11 by Aidan


People are suffering all over this country at the moment.  I heard a story the other day which really hit me hard. That of a teenage girl who was skipping school on Thursday and Friday because she was being bullied. The timing element was due to their being no electricity at home due to her family being unable to pay off their Electricity bill.  I hear similar stories of folks being cut off, on arrears and losing jobs – all over. Times are tough there is no doubt.  And people are suffering. Some suffering however is brought about by ones attitude. I have been speaking to lots of people and I find its surprising how useful a simple change of perspective can be for many of the people I talk to.

I can recommend three simple exercises to make yourself feel better.

The first is to let go of attachments. According to some traditions attachments are the major source of unhappiness. Attachments to the “things” in your life that are not strictly necessary – that flash car, that social scene you used to have, that high powered role you played, that group relationship you had. If you really look you will realise that you don’t NEED a lot of the things you worry about. It helps to make a list of the attachments you have and list those you could not survive without. I have met a number of people on my travels (and I’ve been there) who had to give up the flash car and the golf club membership and beat themselves up daily because of what’s gone. Rather than focus on what they do have – like health and family.

The second is to engender Gratitude. I went through some hard times in the early Noughties and was feeling miserable as a result. That was until I saw friends of mine going through suffering which involved their family which put my problems in such perspective as to almost make them disappear. I suddenly became grateful for what I had rather than mourn for what I had lost. Just that simple change in your perspective can alter your whole outlook. You should always spend a little time each day focusing on what you are grateful for. Even a minute, two or three times per day, will do it.

The third exercise is to look at the choices you have and the choices you make each day. I find that much bad feeling is around helplessness. It helps to understand that you are not without options and resources. When problems arise you look at them and analyze them and then you need to make a choice – what to do. We always have options open to us the trick is to find them. Sometimes we are overwhelmed by the weight of what’s in front of us. The problem can usually be broken into small bits. The problem can usually be resolved over time with small steps. Small goals. When you break it into small steps then the key is NOW. What can you do NOW?  What can I do right now to start resolving the problem? What choices do I have?

The good news on these three exercises is that they cost you nothing,  they are within your power and I have seen them work on others and also used them myself. If you are feeling low, helpless and stuck, try them to shake yourself loose, get the energy back in your life and get moving in the right direction.

Aidan Higgins

Re-engineering the Downturn

Posted on 02/09/11 by Aidan

Back in the early nineties I was working with Business Process Re-engineering which is still current today if as part of other systems. It laymans terms it was a way of looking at a process within a company – for example how an invoice is processed – and simplifying it so that it takes less time, includes technology where possible and removes steps from the chain. It leads to efficiencies and better value for money.

Difficulties in implementation include the difficulties in crossing departmental barriers, getting people on board and retraining.  However in competitive adaptable organisations with the will to do so it can be achieved with spectacular results from lower costs, improved adaptability, faster time to market and quicker response to customer demands.

Looking at the Public Sector organisations we have in this country – I wonder has it ever been done. The strong us and them culture that exists, the “change nothin” policy, the slow adaptation of technology, the resistance to all things new (without compensation!) and the lack of will (from the top down) to change the status quo.

With the Political Turmoil at the moment there are a lot of ideas and promises flying around. However loads of glib solutions abound. There are cultural problems as well as organisational problems to be addressed. Cutting jobs is not the whole answer although cutting some is part of the solution. Stretching front-line staff to breaking point by refusing to replace those who leave or are on maternity leave is an idiotic solution.

Culture is first and foremost. You have to win hearts and minds. I wrote before about the Monkeys in a Cage

Researchers started with 4 chimpanzees in a cage (all having a great time I presume screeching, scratching etc) which are left to their own devices to form a group. A bunch of Bananas is then put on the roof of the cage and the chimps, naturally, climb up the cage to get the bananas. After a while the researchers started to hose the cage (and Chimps hate being wet) with water everytime they went for the Bananas. Of course it did not take long for our hairy cousins to figure out that going for the Bananas was a no-no. Being researchers, they then introduced another Chimp who when he saw the bananas immendiately went to get them with the resultant hosing of him and his cellmates. So the next time he went for the Bananas his cellmates stopped him. And this became the norm – every time a new Chimp was added and he went for the bananas the others stopped him. After a while the researchers stopped the hosing and eventually they had a group of Chimps who had never been hosed. And yet still they refused to go for the bananas and stopped any new member going for them either.

Sean Lemass warned after he set up the semi-states that they needed to be monitored closesly lest they become more focused on the interests of their employees than those of the country. Some of our best people are swamped by the culture that pervades parts of our Public Sector. Trying new things and trying to improve the system is frowned upon. Vested interests and power centres block change and will continue to do so while there is so little else there to reward people. Cutting jobs is part of the solution but only part. Cutting inefficiencies is the trick. Leave the systems as the are and cutting a job only leaves another poor soul with twice as much paper in his or her in-tray.  And a bigger bottleneck in the system.

To do this needs a change in culture. A better reward system and a happier more motivated more flexible group of people. Lots of international organisations have achieved this – why not here in Ireland in our Semi-States and public sectors?  Because of the us and them mentality, because top management are often appointed for their political affiliation rather than their abilities, because nobody in power wants to change.  We need more like Willie Walsh at the top. We need to treat our people better, to train them better and to be able to remove them from their jobs (managers especially) if they cannot do their jobs –  nowadays we promote the problem! Legislation exists nowadays to protect people and to keep it fair. So job cutters, budget squeezers everywhere – aim for smarter work, better efficiencies and try to have a bit of imagination! Less of the broad stroke quick fix solutions! And the “us and them crew” try and think of the interests of the country eh?

I once got into an amicable conversation with a man over a pint and we were getting along well and he told me he was the union rep for his sector.  Immediately interested I asked him something like “what are the main problems you see with the restrictions forced on you by the systems and bureaucracy you are forced to operate with”… for which I got a suspicious look followed by “jeasuss – you sound like you one of dem fookin management”.

And so it goes on…

Aidan Higgins

Recession Rubbernecking

Posted on 10/22/10 by Aidan

When I worked in London and drove around that horrid M25 Ring Motorway with about 100 Million other cars there used to be a term you would hear on the radio – “Rubbernecking”.

An accident on the motorway in say the clockwise direction would cause those going anti-clockwise to slow down to see what was going on on the other side. This would cause a ripple effect back through the traffic and cause it to slow and stop leading to incredible delays for up to 50 miles.

A friend of mine – a very intelligent fella called Alan Brown in Brown and Root Vickers, an Engineering Consultant, used to explain it in terms of flow mechanics and to be honest I never quite understood him fully. It was something to do with too much water (traffic) in too small a space and the ripple effect backwards.

I decided to invent the term the other day – “Recession Rubbernecking” – here we are with the help of some of the media rubbernecking at Anglo-Irish Bank, at Nama, at Bond Rates and such and so forth. There are people sitting around turf fires in villages in Ireland happily prepared to discuss Bond Interest Rates and Developer “Hair Cuts” and such. We are all staring at the accident – looking for Carnage.

Well don’t !

The Accident is fascinating. But looking at it and dwelling on it is causing a backlog, a compression which is slowing everyone down and stopping the momentum needed for recovery. Businesses are not selling, banks are not lending, jobs are slow to come back. Because we all have our eye off the road in front of us.  “Lets see how the Anglo numbers affect us first”, now “lets wait for the budget”, now “lets wait to see how the interest rates…..” meanwhile six months have gone by and we are holding our breath and standing still. We need movement folks. We need energy, industry and to get where we need to go.

Turn off the radio, switch the news channel, turn over to the life and sports sections. Look past the headlines. If you do look at one of these articles – do get the facts and draw your own conclusions. Don’t look at the emotive headlines and get caught up.  Then focus on the things you CAN do to make a difference to the things that are important to you, write them down and do them.  Life is about the six inches in front of your face. Getting through this is about being here and now. In the moment if you will.  Right here Right now you have the power to affect the things you can.

Aidan Higgins

Improve your Emotional Intelligence

Posted on 02/21/10 by Aidan

I am meeting a lot of people who feel helpless to do anything in this economic onslaught.  As I say to them – “there is always something you can do” – even small things that get you rolling again.

The benefits of high Emotional Intelligence have been well catalogued. Emotional Intelligence accounts for more than 85% of exceptional achievement. While technical skills can be necessary for productivity, these are insufficient to explain the differences between high and mediocre achievers. High performers show emotional intelligence as task complexity increases.

The best leaders have found effective ways to handle their own and others emotions. Understanding the powerful role emotions play in the workplace sets great leaders apart from the rest. Also leaders emotional resonance sets the tone in the group effecting the outlook of all those around him. Having and developing high emotional Intelligence is therefore also key in the area of leadership.

What about our current economic climate? We are seeing the need more and more for Transformational (charismatic, personable, lead from the front)  rather than Transactional (work for reward only) Leadership skills. As always occurs  when things are volatile. And guess what – our friend Emotional Intelligence is even more important and more impactful on Transformational Leadership because its personality led with people skills to the fore.

So what can you do about this? Well you can improve your EQ (Emotional Quotient) through training. You can improve your Organisations EQ through training also – improving their ability to achieve what they need to achieve.

Now thats something you can do.
Talk to these guys www.adeo.ie

Aidan Higgins

Motivate Yourself First

Posted on 10/31/09 by admin


I recently gave a talk before Cavan County Enterprise Boards recent Awards Dinner on the topic of Motivation, with reference to the current economic climate. The reaction to the talk was extremely positive and also the feedback was particularly interesting.

I told the group that there are times I think when we forget the basics and lose ourselves in worry about things we don’t really need. This leads to suffering on a personal level that is not necessary and totally within our own control. Cutbacks and reductions can have an overly negative effect on us if we do not see that often these are necessary to moving forward. Often we attach meaning to things that causes us grief and worry. The way to address this is to sit down and think about what is really necessary at the end of the day and what of those things we worry about  are supports to our Ego rather than to our well-being and happiness.

Entrepeneurs and Small business owners in particular need to remain motivated and optimistic despite the current travails and to influence and motivate those around them as well. Someone once said “Sincerity is the secret – if you can fake that you can achieve anything!”. Well it can’t be faked, the people around you have a good idea whats going on really. So the feeling of motivation has to be real and come from within. Taking action every morning to bring a positive outlook into play by focusing on the positive things in our life can set the mood for the whole day. And bringing it to work influences those around us particularly small business owners.

The folks from Cavan had an interesting perspective. They reckoned the Celtic tiger hadn’t done much for them and so they didn’t miss it. “We never had too much around here anyway” they said and so we don’t miss it either. And this from as chirpy and cheery bunch of people as I’ve met. You know when you see what some have lost in terms of happiness and clarity in their lives its great to see that some have held on to what matters.

Aidan Higgins

Attitude is a Decision

Posted on 04/30/09 by Aidan

Light through the trees

I was driving through the pouring rain the other day and I was listening to the latest ESRI figures describing the contracting Irish economy and the increasing number of unemployed. As I arrived on this dark dank day at my destination –  a conference –  I walked into the room and the speaker was talking gloomily about Swine Flu and the imminent danger it represented. I was greeted by one of the conference organisers – “You the motivation speaker?” …”Yes” I replied and wondered to myself if I wasn’t up against it on this one….

But no – I thought again about what I was to talk about and I brightened considerably. For I went on to talk about attitude.

And attitude is everything. Some will look out on a rainy day and think “oh what a horrible day” – well no – its not horrible its just wet. We tend to add the adjectives that make stories which drag us into a state of mind that can be hard to get out of. We need to remember that things are as they are. Our reaction to the situation can be either empowering or destructive – but we get to choose which.

Viktor Frankl – a Psychiatrist who was interned in various concentration camps during the second world war wrote that choice was the last of the human freedoms – he tells us that “Even under the most terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress, we, who lived in concentration camps, can remember men who walked through the huts to comfort others and give away their last piece of bread …They may have been few in numbers, but they offered sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a person but one thing, the last and the greatest of human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way of life!” Frankl founded a school of Psychiatry to rival Freud and made an impact all over the world with the theories he engendered from his observations.

Given this truth can we not choose our attitude? I believe so.

Its well known that one can alter state by conscious choice. There are methods which do this such as visualising happy events, or positive outcomes or repeating a mantra which evokes powerful and positive feelings. Once you achieve the new state of mind your (always) subjective perspective can alter too allowing you the freedom and energy to get into positive action.

And we need plenty of positive action right now.

Aidan Higgins

Rediscovering Life

Posted on 01/16/09 by Aidan

If you are looking for “something else” while you ponder the impact of the global downturn on you and others around you and you are perhaps reaching for another set of values – you might do well to get a cup of coffee or two and watch this series of lectures. Here is the first of a series of videos on Youtube of Anthony De Mello which he gave in front of an audience and which was simultaeously broadcast in interactive format all over North America.

De Mellos teachings (from 1989) provide a foundation for, or use the same foundation as, a number of modern teachings on self development as he pulls from a number of the same original texts.  A thoroughly engaging character, Anthony he was a good friend to Dr Dick McHugh who I have mentioned before in terms of the work he does in NLP all over the world.

Any student of self awareness or personal mastery will get a lot from these, however any person with a sense of wonder in this area will also get much from this. From the engaging anecdotes to the wonderful ideas to the warmth of his personality it is a joy. It may even be life changing. As he says himself “I discovered something  a few years ago that changed my life, turned it upside down…let me tell you about it”

No less than the secret of happiness? – Has he got it?
Stick with it through the intro and give him some time then you can decide for yourself.

Happy New Year
Aidan Higgins