Living Case in Motivation

Head Coach Sue Guevara


1. Describe the Speaker’s basic assumptions regarding employee motivation. That is, what are the underlying principles which guide how the Speaker treats his/her people (this may include traditional direct report subordinates, clients, customers, student-athletes, etc.), designs situations, structures jobs, communicates, etc. which positively motivate them?

Coach Sue Guevara has 30+ years of experience in motivating student athletes, and emphasizes the importance of communication and positive energy above all else. She spoke at length about the significance of involving players, and providing a sense of involvement to form commitment. Coach Guevara discussed the relationship she strives to have with each player, “I talk to my players about all kinds of things outside of basketball. That little brown ball is a tiny part of what we’re trying to accomplish.” She said the goal wasn’t just winning basketball games, but to make sure each of her players graduates as a capable and determined woman.

In motivating managers, who are the students that gather equipment and do other miscellaneous tasks, Guevara stresses task significance. She makes sure the managers know they are appreciated, and also ensures players know how important the role of these managers is, despite the perceived significance of the job. For the team, she finds that working towards a goal is how they are most motivated, and helps them towards the goal through setting effective goals and providing lots of feedback. Though she noted that people are most motivated when they enjoy the nature of their work, she also stressed the importance of the environment and relationships the employees have with her. In everyday motivation, Guevara brings a positive attitude to work with her. She is a strong believer in the “positive breeds positive” adage. Recognizing the noticeable difference in productivity when a workplace is positive and comfortable versus negative and cold, Guevara believes a simple smile can make a huge difference for a manager.
For issues with negativity from a certain employee or player, Guevara says it’s very important to not let them drag you down. As discussed on page 46 of Behavior in Organizations, interpersonal justice is the perceived fairness of the manner in which they are treated by others. In one instance, she had to “kick someone off the bus”, either literally or metaphorically, because she was being so negative that it was taking all of coach’s energy. “I have a whole team to worry about, I can’t just spend all my time on someone that wants to act that way,” she said. Her assumption was that the team would be better served if she distributed her time and energy more evenly among the players. She treats her players like adults, and makes them responsible for the amount of success they attain. “I can’t coach effort, only they can control how much they try, but as long as my team gives their best, I have no complaints,” said Guevara. She can motivate them through communication, positivity, and goal-setting, among other techniques.
2. Describe the theory or theories of motivation (based upon those frameworks of motivation presented in class) which best describe the Speaker’s motivational assumptions and actions.

During Coach Guevara’s speech, I noticed that several of her approaches to motivation reflected two different motivational theories: Expectancy Theory and Goal-Setting Theory. Starting to involve the class, Guevara asked, “Why did you guys all come to class today?” After considering the reasons everyone came, she concluded, “You don’t come to class because you want to; you come because of what you want to get out of it.” This is a perfect example of expectancy theory, which asserts that motivation is based on people’s beliefs about the probability that effort will lead to performance, multiplied by the probability that performance will lead to a desired outcome, multiplied by the perceived value of the outcome. On the first day of class, you were very clear with us about the best way to succeed in the class—come to class, pay attention, and keep up with the PowerPoint notes and vocabulary. The clear-cut instructions led to expectancy for the students, or made us believe putting forth the effort would pay off. Once we had the first quiz, and realized the questions we would be tested on were as promised, our instrumentality increased because we became familiar with the level of effort necessary to succeed, and were more certain that it would in fact lead to success. Valence, of course, varies by student. Whatever value is placed on the outcome, or grade in the class, is dependent on the person. For Coach Guevara, she said she struggles with motivating her team after they have just experienced a significant loss, “I have to make them want to come back after a loss, to love to be in that gym after they got beat by 40 pts.” She went on to discuss the ways she convinces the team it will be beneficial to get back to the gym. Coach said if she can show the team the potential rewards to getting back to practice, and can prove that the practice would lead to improvement and success, her players are much more motivated.
Coach Guevara also spoke at length about goal-setting, and several ways she uses the theory to shape her motivational techniques. First she related the theory to our class work; in reference to our in-class quizzes, she said, “If you got a 5, 6, or 7, out of 10, you’re going to challenge yourself to do better next time. You have to challenge yourself to make a change.” She suggested we set the goal for ourselves to get a 10, and remain focused on that goal as we work towards it. For the players on her team, she insists they use the tools to set effective goals. Coach tells them to set specific goals to accomplish their “big picture” goal. She discussed the common goal of winning the MAC Championship, and how they hope to every year, usually unsuccessfully. She asks her players what will make them different from Bowling Green, who usually wins. When setting the smaller, specific goals to work towards this goal, she involves the team. One player suggested a certain drill or play to run in practice, and although she made a couple changes to the idea, she was very receptive and encouraging, and the next day in practice, she had this player run the play. The drill was likely accepted by the team because they were involved in the decision to do it. Guevara also said many players strive to make the game-winning shot or free throw, or to boost their personal statistics. She doesn’t discourage them from doing so, but rather channels their goal commitment into setting more effective goals that will help them achieve their goal. She likes to involve each player in setting her personal goals, rather than just telling them what she expects, and stresses giving feedback as a key part of helping them succeed. When a player wants to make the key basket, she puts her in a similar situation to that in practice, when the pressure is on. “You have to envision what you want to want to do in order to execute,” she tells her team. “Even before that play in practice, you should have played out every scenario in your mind of how it’s going to happen,” Guevara continued. In coaching, she uses goal-setting theory all the time. They are always working towards some specific goal, rather than simply working towards immeasurable improvement.
3. Describe how the Speaker uses different motivational approaches for different types of people (i.e., direct report subordinates, clients, customers, student-athletes, etc.) or situations (i.e., day to day operations versus special events such as an athletic competition).

Coach Guevara employs the Job Characteristics Model in several aspects of inspiring motivation from her players. Using certain job dimensions to create critical psychological states is precisely how she succeeds in doing her job. For example, when a new employee joined her staff, she comprised a list of responsibilities for this person, and asked her what she thought. Coach asked if there was anything she didn’t like or want to do, using autonomy to give her some power over the work load. When some of her players started taking advantage of the managers, asking them to fetch runaway balls and such, she had a talk with the team about task significance. She wanted to change the way the team viewed them, and make them realize the degree of impact the managers have on the team.
Coach Guevara’s most used job dimension is feedback. She talked about changing a player’s self efficacy through encouragement and communication. She illustrated this to her players through the use of spotlight wristbands for everyone. The green band indicated clear thinking, aggressive defense, and several other positive characteristics. The red band meant an angry, hot head and poor play, and the yellow band was somewhere between. Guevara discussed using verbal encouragement to help players get from yellow to green. She said whenever she told a player they had to snap the red band, they became even more frustrated and underperformed. This tactic reminded me of a video we watched in class, where two men have far different experiences with feedback. One man’s boss is positive, encouraging, and reassuring. Her feedback led him to succeed and gain confidence. In the other man’s job, his boss is too busy to talk to him, and tells him he doesn’t believe he can handle the task at hand. Consequently, the man becomes frustrated and miserable in the workplace. Guevara found that encouraging everyone to be wearing green wristbands, and helping each of them achieve that, the players were much more successful.
Coach also talked about her use of different types of reinforcement in different situations. When the team was struggling with free throws, she decided to use a drill as reinforcement. For every free throw missed, they would do 5X that many seconds of the drill. When the players only missed 2 free throws, she told them she would make them do the drill if that’s what it would take, but rewarded them with removing that policy, because she never again found it necessary.
In a different situation, the team was acting out against a new weight lifting coach. After weighing her options on how to handle the situation, she decided not to yell at the team. The positive reinforcement she gave was simply verbal, as she complimented their physique. Next she raved about their intensity in practice, and finally explained that they needed to let the new coach see all the great things about them. Both of her reinforcements were effective, yet one was a punishment and reward, and the other encouraging and complimentary. During her speech, Guevara said, “I’m a strong believer is ‘what is rewarded is repeated.’”
4. From your personal perspective describe the most important lesson a new manager could learn from the Speaker regarding how to motivate others to higher levels of performance.

I thought Sue Guevara gave a great speech, despite her claims of nervousness when she began. From the beginning, she was a model manager, even to the class/audience. She had eye contact, smiled, always insisted on knowing the name of the person she was talking to, and repeatedly used their name when responding. These simple behaviors are the base of good management. Any manager would have a lot to learn from Guevara, and her motivational techniques. Above all, she understands that communication is key. While motivational theories play a role in her coaching and managing, she knows you have nothing if not communication. For this reason, she says she always listens to those she is managing. Whether it is the players, managers, other coaches, or any staff, she listens intently to their ideas. Even if she doesn’t use the idea, her show of interest empowers her employees and makes them more comfortable with working together and with her.

Treating everyone equally is an important part of maintaining motivation in employees for Coach Guevara. She knows how important it is that everyone works together and functions as a team, even including those who aren’t on the actual basketball team, such as managers. Additionally, she wants the players to understand their individual role on the team, so they remain motivated even when they realize they are no longer the star player, like many were at their high schools. She believes it is important they know it’s their program and not hers, and involves them in decisions by collecting input, using a job enrichment approach. By doing so, she is able to increase the organizational commitment of each player; she wants them to feel like an integral part of the team, and help them understand how much they need each other. “You can’t make the winning shot without the assist,” said Guevara. Managers should follow in coach’s footsteps by trying to increase the organizational commitment, rather than continuance commitment like many managers do. She spoke about her experience at her last job, “At UofM, my dream job became my nightmare. I was doing things out of fear.” Due to lack of encouragement from her manager, she became miserable in the workplace. Although she was let go from her job, treatment from management like she experienced is often the cause of employee withdrawal and voluntary turnover. Finally, Guevara believes that a shared vision is the only way to attain set goals. If everyone is not on the same page, they don’t feel like they are all part of the same team. Managers should take from Coach Guevara the message that people cannot be motivated in the absence of communication and involvement.

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