It seems incompetent leadership is worrying employees. Right Management surveyed employees to find out what they want to avoid in their next job. Apparently 51% want to avoid incompetent bosses. The results aren’t surprising given the typical management trajectory in this post-Great Recession era.

By typical I’m referring to the hyper focus on tangible management actions to increase revenue, remove expenses from the system, or streamline operations to increase efficiencies. There’s nothing wrong with these vital business mechanics. What is wrong is the disproportionate management focus on tangibles over intangibles like leading and motivating people.

The truth is we need more managers with greater skill in inspiring, motivating employees over business mechanics like budgeting, measurement, planning, forecasting, and so on. Incompetent leaders are those who do not know how to motivate employees to achieve business goals.

In this era of transitions and complexity, managers must understand how to situationally motivate employees for performance and success. Managers need options to unleash employee motivation. These three are worthy considerations.

Run experiments

The business mechanics needed to support growth can be inspirations themselves. Run experiments to improve business with employees front and center. Unleash their talents by tapping into their strengths, their insight into what’s working and not working. Let them benefit from your experiments. Let them identify and run experiments.

Abandon consent

Today’s complex business environment challenges traditional hierarchy. Hierarchy creaks and groans under today’s business pressures. To relieve some of the pressure, managers must untangle themselves from the center of all decisions. Employees must have freedom from consent to act, experiment to make good things happen.

Stabilize trust

To let experiments run and for consent to lose its stronghold on progress, trust must be stabilized in organizations and within teams. For motivation to be unleashed, managers must work to repair trust fractured by the hyper focus on tangibles. Employees are not replaceable cogs. This is an era where such a view will continue to reveal painful realities that managers must reconcile if they want to thrive in their work. If they and the business want to remain competitive.

Without doubt motivation is complex. Companies have designed elaborate management systems to help ease the complexity. Such systems are key. However, they will never reach their effectiveness as long as managers depend on them to spark action and motivate. Incompetent leaders will avoid doing the hard work of learning what motivates each person on her team and then leading accordingly.

In the end it takes human interaction coupled with management systems to unleash employee motivation. This is no new insight. Yet it continues to elude managers, It weakens their competence. It’s time for more managers to step up and do something to reduce the 51% concern. It’s within our control.

Graphic by  Zeptonn