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Why Liberalism is De-motivating

June 1, 2002

In my management consulting business, I work with senior managers in companies throughout the country. I am often asked, "How can we motivate today's employees?"

First, let clear up some common misconceptions. Motivation is an individual internal ember. It is not something someone can give to someone else. Leaders' actions can, however, create either motivating or de-motivating environments.

There are four controllable elements business leaders/management can use to provide a motivating environment:
1. Regularly explain to employees the "big picture" of where the company is going and how it plans to get there. This is the ol' "vision thing".
2. Regularly explain to each employee how he or she (and his or her performance) is important in that picture.
3. Regularly look for and ask employees for barriers that are holding them back from doing well. And once identified, remove the barriers!
4. Regularly hold employees accountable for the results. If the 1st three elements are followed, this one element will work wonders. I have seen previously bored, going-through-the-motions employees become focused, excited, and creative problem solvers when given true (not token) accountability for the results.

The lack of any of these will clearly create a de-motivating environment.

If you examine the above elements you will see in them political philosophy.

1. Most long-term successful politicians - liberal or conservative - explain a "big picture": what they want the country/state/county/city to look/act like in the future. Ex. Admit it, even Bill Clinton had a "big picture": "No big deal" to everything!
2. Here is where conservatism and liberalism diverge: Liberals will explain each person's importance in the "big picture" by what they can expect to be given to them or by what they deserve. Conservatives will explain each person's importance in the "big picture" by how to get results from their own actions. Ex. Liberals: You deserve to be taken care of in retirement. Regardless of how you live your life. Conservatives: You deserve the right to prepare for retirement in the best way you can and wish to.
3. Liberals see barriers such as the coldness of capitalism, and the uncaring ness of fellow citizens. Their only way to tear down those "barriers" is to have a government solution and force everyone to use it. Ex. If you are over 65 try to pay for your own medical care sometime. You have just asked the doctor to commit a felony! Conservatives see barriers in the restrictive ness of government/bureaucratic one-size-its-all solutions and other regulations. Ex. The law says parents are not smart enough to choose what school to send their children to or to decide what to do with their social security contributions.
4. Of course, liberals see holding people accountable for their actions and the results they create as mean spirited and unfair. So no one should be held accountable. I believe conservatives wobble on this point because they do not wish to appear "mean-spirited", but they should not. It is the key element that will produce responsible, active, and caring citizens. President Bush's interest in giving us control of our social security contributions is an example of holding us accountable for our own retirement. If passed, it will produce an unimaginable amount of creative tools people of all economic and educational levels can use to build their own nest eggs successfully.

Successful businesses learn how to create motivating environments. That in turn produces creative grass roots/front line problem solving and actions, reduced expenses, and better results. That is what most successful leaders call progress. That is what most conservatives want the government to do.

As we have described above, liberals focus on de-motivating environments. De-motivating environments are not creative, fun, nor forward looking. I believe this helps explain why the Democratic Party has become repetitive in ideas and morose in their warnings or in other words, boring with the "same ol' same ol'". Bureaucratic solutions are never motivating or creative.


Sam T. Harper graduated cum laude from Vanderbilt University.  Following a tour in the US Navy and a stint as Operations Manager at Roadway Express, he earned his MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business.  He was a contributor to “In Search of Excellence,” the best selling business book of all time.  Sam was also Manager, Economic Planning & Analysis at Sohio Petroleum, Partner and Chief Financial Officer at investment-banking firm Bridgemere Capital, and Chief Operating Officer of the Institute for Contemporary Studies, a San Francisco Bay Area-based think tank and international publishing firm that specializes in self-governing and entrepreneurial public policy.  Sam was a chairman of the San Francisco Republican party and the GOP co-host of California Political Review on KALW-FM in San Francisco.  Sam is currently the co-owner of the Tennessee based Institute for Local Effectiveness Training, LLC – a management consulting, training, and coaching firm.