Incompetence is a strong word, and one I like to separate into its two components: skill and will, which can each be addressed separately. For gaps in skill you need to understand and agree where the gap is, then fix it through training, coaching, or, if irreparable, through moving to another area. I’ve rarely found that lack of skill is a lasting issue, but lack of motivation can be trickier to solve.
Ultimately we derive a lot of our happiness from meaningful work, so where motivation is a gap, first look to understand the work itself. If it is low level or pointless work, then the mystery of motivation is easy to identify.
Look beyond work as well, and ask about the rest of the individual’s life. It’s hard to focus about work when major life events
are occurring. Once you have, with the unmotivated person, identified the root cause of the issue, it’s easy to solve.
Now is the time to exert power as a manager, to give the person more meaningful work, or perhaps to give them time off to focus on more important external matters.
If the work your team or company is doing is clearly pointless, then your job is to fight upwards and outwards in order to make that change. If it’s meaningful work, then your job is to help everyone in the team understand why it is important and how it will contribute to laudable goals.
Ultimately motivation is a function of the mission, vision and values of a company, and it’s only at that level where dramatic changes in company motivation can occur.
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