Sheryl was a good mortgage processor – good, but not great. Her performance evaluations showed this. She got the job done with minimum errors and in a timely manner. She was good.

In the mortgage banking industry, it is not uncommon for the end of the month to become hectic, especially when the market is good. November can prove to be particularly difficult. With Thanksgiving near and Sheryl’s company closing both Thursday and Friday it was a four day weekend. Unfortunately the following Monday was only the 29th of the month and there was a lot to do by the end of the month. Most of the staff arrived by 8:30 AM and were ready for a long day. After all, the majority were not new to the industry.

About 2:30 PM the office manager, Patty went to the Vice President, Elliott, and said, “What should we do about Sheryl?” He looked perplexed and said, “It’s not her birthday, or company anniversary.” Patty then explained that Sheryl’s daughter was in her elementary school play that night. Elliott immediately said, “Let’s find a solution.” In a matter of minutes, they went out to the bull pen thanked everyone for their hard work and dedication. He then made the announcement, “We are in the midst of greatness. Among us today is a Stage Mother. Sheryl’s daughter Danielle is in her school play tonight and Mom needs to get home early so she can get ready and be front row in the audience.”

How to Motivate Employees

Sheryl looked up and said, “I have discussed this with Danielle and she knows I have a lot of work to do today and will likely not be there tonight. It is not a big deal she has been in school plays in the past and this is not a big deal.” Everyone looked at Sheryl and said to go home, that Elliott never gives anyone time off at the end of the month. She smiled and said she was staying.

After a very long day, Sheryl and Elliott were the last to leave and walked out together that evening at 10:45 PM. On the way home Elliott stopped by a 24 hour pharmacy and bought a thank you card. He went home and wrote out the card, then mailed it early the next morning on his way into the office.

As tough as Elliott is on employees at the end of the month, he’s a little pussycat at the beginning of the month and knows how to motivate employees. Wednesday, the workload was much lighter and that morning Elliott went to Sheryl and told her to take off about 1:00 PM for the rest of the day.

When Sheryl got home that afternoon Danielle was already home from school and came down the hall running hollering “Mommy, Mommy, I got a card from your boss!” Sheryl sat down and read the card that was sent to a nine year old little girl. The card read:

Dear Danielle,

Thanks for sharing your Mommy with us. We know how much she loves you and wanted to be with you Monday night at your school play. We love your Mommy very much and we love you too.

Elliott and the staff at…

Elliott sent this card to a sweet nine year old little girl. Not because he was trying to motivate his employee, but because it was the right thing to do. Over the next few months, Sheryl’s quality of work improved dramatically. Her error rate dropped by almost 5%. Her first time approvals increased by nearly 15%. Was this because she was better trained? No. But she realized she meant something to the entire team and was motivated to perform well. The added motivation was nothing more than a byproduct of a great leader recognizing the important things in an employee’s life.

The old adage still holds true – people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Do you know the first names of each of your team member’s spouse, partner, or significant other? How about their children’s names? What about their pet’s name’s? These are the things that are critical to the success of any team regardless of the level or industry.

This is a classic example of intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivators are those motivators that hit the heart, mind, and soul. They tend to be remembered for a long time. Extrinsic motivators work – but they are also transitory and easily forgotten. The most common extrinsic motivator is money, and as Zig Ziglar says, “Money may not be the most important thing in the world, but it ranks up there close to oxygen.” When an employee is not making enough money to meet their basic survival needs, then money is the only motivator. As long as they are meeting their basic survival needs, then money is not the most important motivator.

Think about this concept and, if you have an employee working significant overtime, think about sending a note home to his/her spouse. At least the spouse will know they were really working.

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