I took a call earlier from someone seeking some guidance on managing and motivating an employee, who we'll call D for the purposes of this blog.
You could feel the frustration as he spoke of initiatives he'd tried and approaches that had failed to generate any response, including the offer of a bonus. "I don't get it- we always do it this way and it's just not worked with her."
He added, "She spends a lot of time researching things and doesn't seem to do much with the information. She's always asking for something more challenging." He went on to say he hadn't had time to focus on D, and give her the time he'd have liked to as he was mired in trying to resolve a point a client of his had raised. He said he felt isolated and lost, struggling to see a way to solve the client's issue, and D's lack of direction wasn't helping.
I sympathised and suggested considering what D's real motivators are, what makes her energised and gets her excited. After a long pause, he replied "Problem solving."
As a result, he is bringing D in on his awkward project, with the idea that fresh eyes and her skills and love for finding solutions will help him stop feeling so alone with the problem, help him spend more time with her, and help their relationship shift into a place where he understands her drivers better.
It's important to challenge the boundaries of 'what's gone before' sometimes. When the accepted way of doing something isn't working, often it takes initiative to recognise that you've got an individual on your hands who isn't like the others. It takes a brave heart to go beyond what is known and try something new and untested.
Be brave, be focused and be ready to surprise yourself.