Monday 17th December 19:03

"The Real Secret to Motivation"

Hi everyone, For many years in the last century, psychologists tried to find one theory of motivation that would give business leaders an answer to the question: how do I motivate my people? Abraham Maslow offered us his Hierarchy of Needs. Frederick Herzberg offered us his Theory X and Y. And Elton Mayo offered us his years and years of research at the Hawthorne plant in Chicago just to prove that people were motivated because they were the subject of his research. It was Victor Vroom who tried to find which of these many motivational theories was the most likely to succeed. His conclusion? None of them could be guaranteed to work. It appeared that there is no one theory of motivation that a business leader can apply with absolute certainty of success. Since these mid-20th century studies of motivation, we've learnt a lot more about how to press the right buttons to get what we want from people. And one of the big differences between then and now is that, back in the 1940's and 50's, we believed that we had to give people an externally-based reason for doing something. It might have been giving them more money. Or praise. Or recognition. Or belonging to the right group. Or excellent conditions. Or development opportunities. Or job satisfaction. Today, we know that people don't change their motivation levels because of anything offered by someone else, even with the biggest sell in the world. Today, people buy only when they convince themselves that what they're doing is right for them. Let's say you want one of your team to get some forms sent back to you more quickly than they have been doing. If you talk to that person in an assertive manner and say, "You know what, I need to talk to you. I didn't get those forms on time this week." You know what happens? Defensiveness and fear. Because of your implied criticism that she failed to deliver, she looks for a reason that will stand up "in court". If the organisation has a culture of blame and shame, it's likely that one of her greatest job skills will be knowing how to find an excuse or blame someone else. So she says, "There's no way I could get them to you on time. Our systems were down for 2 whole days. We did pretty well getting them to you when we did." This conversation is now doomed to go nowhere. It may continue with further exchanges of "it's your fault" and "no, it's not, I'm doing my best, it's someone else's fault". And the conversation may conclude with some sort of agreement to try harder in future. But an important internal customer-supplier relationship has been damaged and so has the personal relationship between the two of you. The more you push against people, the more they push back. One person is frightened of the consequences of not having their work done on time and the other person is frightened of being blamed. Whether it is an offensive attack or a defensive reply, it all boils down to the same problem, fear. In any process of getting others to do a job of work, your goal is to get people to agree to something. It may be to get something done that you need done right away or to perform at a higher level of input/output or to change the way they communicate, or to treat the customer differently. In every case, it's an agreement. And the best agreements aren't based on incentives that may only have a short lifespan such as money or a persuasive argument or flattery. The best agreements are those that the person doing the job commits to because something inside them clicks for whatever reason and they just know they're going to enjoy doing that job. There is only one way you can get them to that point and that's by asking questions that honour their thoughts and feelings. Questions like, "is this something you can do for me?" and "I really want your team to do this job - can you fit me in?" and "what do you need from me to help you get this job done on time?" and "how do you feel about what we're suggesting?". And when you shape that agreement to take on board your needs and theirs, they reach a point where something stirs powerfully in them that says, "Yes, I want to do this", and they know they can do it. Then you won't be able to stop them entering into the agreement, willingly, whole-heartedly, and enthusiastically. And that's the real secret to motivation. Eric (c) ManageTrainLearn 2012