“Effective immediately, all non-client expenditures must be approved in advance by your business unit leader.”
Several years ago, this new policy along with several other burdensome, micromanagement rules were implemented to save money in a struggling multibillion consulting company. Previously consultants used their own discretion to spend budgets in the best interest of the company and were trusted to employ the funds wisely. This empowerment was a symbol that management had confidence in the consultants and backed their business judgments. Now all expenditures were subject to second guessing and this new policy contributed to a downward spiral of morale.
As business performance continued to decline, layoffs accelerated with little warning causing even the top performers to look over their shoulders. Lastly, leadership was unable to articulate a “go forward” strategy to rally the team leading to even worse business performance.
Micromanagement, unnecessary rules, job insecurity, poor communications and a lack of confidence in management are all classic ways to demotivate employees. In fact, demotivation is a significantly more powerful negative influence on performance than the failure to motivate.
Especially in consulting firms, avoiding demotivating the team is the first task of a successful leader. Most consulting professionals are self-motivated and are regularly working at 120% effort to be highly successful. In a business that has to constantly sell its services, consultants are focused on honing their marketplace edge and sustaining competitive relevancy. Consultants are decidedly motivated to attract their next client and win their next project. Further, there is a natural motivating “high” resulting from selling your services. Making a sale is the “cocaine of consulting” and is a natural emotional reaction which keeps consultants motivated without leadership intervention. Therefore leaders of consultants do not have to do much special to motivate their teams. Rather, they should focus on not de-motivating the organization.