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Downers, De-motivators and Bad Energy

Here are a few things leaders do, sometimes inadvertently, to create an environment that produces lower levels of performance.

This week my husband Steve and I took a spinning class at our gym.  We enjoy attending these high energy, calorie-burning indoor bicycle classes as much for the mental boost as for the physical benefit.  The music is loud, the class participants are positive, and the instructors are typically energetic and encouraging.  It's just good energy all around. 

During this week's class we had a new instructor.  He began the class by telling us what a terrible week it had been for him.  He listed off all of the problems he was having in his life.  He gave us direction with little enthusiasm.  He didn't play the usual fun, modern, beat-pounding music. Not once did he say, "Come on!  You can do it!" At the end of class I was exhausted and felt a little ripped off.  I had come to work hard and this guy brought me down.

The experience reminded me that leaders use the same behaviors to create an environment that is either motivating or de-motivating at work.  As leaders we have an opportunity to create an environment where employees want to work hard--to give their all.  Some leaders do just the opposite.  Here are a few things leaders do, sometimes inadvertently, to create an environment that produces lower levels of performance:

  • Focus on the problem rather than the opportunities.  Great leaders stay positive--always.  When obstacles present themselves, they are tackled head on with enthusiasm.   Focusing on problems and things that are wrong is a downer.
  • Give little feedback and encouragement. Motivating leaders acknowledge the work of others. We all need to know that someone is noticing our hard work. We all need a little pat on the back when we've reached a milestone.  When we don't get the feedback we crave, we wonder why we worked so hard.
  • Lose touch with the environment.  Effective leaders are keenly aware of the environment in which they do their work.  The physical environment must support employees so they feel that they can do their best.  The emotional environment must be one in which everyone feels valued.
  • Become monotonous.  Motivating leaders change things up often.  Doing the same thing day after day, meeting after meeting, sales call after sales call gets boring. Great leaders add competition, fun, and renewed energy.  

Luckily, Steve was able to drag me to a second spinning class this week. Our instructor, Austin, was awesome!  He explained the benefits of the hard work we'd be doing (fat burning, cardio-vascular endurance, etc.), he encouraged us to push ourselves just a little more, and he played awesome music!  Austin told jokes, encouraged us to compete with an imaginary Lance Armstrong up the hills, and he helped us track our heart rates so that we could measure our progress.  It was the best workout I've had in a long time (and I'm a little sore this morning!)  Austin understands the concepts of motivation.  He understands that he can't really motivate meComputer Technology Articles, but he can create an environment that is positive and encouraging.  I bet Austin would be a great manager.

What kind of an environment are you creating?

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Marnie E. Green is Principal Consultant of the Chandler, AZ-based Management Education Group, Inc. Green is a speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations develop confident leaders. Contact Green at phone: 480-705-9394 email: web site:


We offer this article on a nonexclusive basis. You may reprint or repost this material as long as Marnie Green's name and contact information are included.

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