Friday, April 15, 2011

Lean Quote: Fear as a Motivator

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"Only positive consequences encourage good future performance." — Kenneth Blanchard and Robert Lorber in Putting the One Minute Manager to Work

Managers have long used fear as a basic motivator.  The obvious problem with using fear as a "motivator" is that workers eventually begin to loathe the object of their fear - the manager - and productivity levels begin to deteriorate rather than to increase.  In the long run, workers who are afraid of the negative consequences a manager heaps upon them are likely to hate the supervisor and do little, if anything to follow the supervisor's directions.  Using fear to start people on the road toward better behavior may work initially, but a wise manager will positively reinforce each improvement.

Certainly, fear can't be considered a long-term motivator. That's why a lot of yelling from the boss won't seem to "light a spark under employees" for a very long time. With the slightest opening, the employee will fight, rebel or run away because it's not with the spirit of humans to be dictated. When your primary tool is to elicit fear, you're trying to control and the subjects will ultimately resist. Nobody wants to be controlled—that's a truth in life. Not even a two year-old wants that, and fear is a controlling principle. By putting people in harnesses and standing over them, you'll get what you want immediately—but in the long term, you'll build no capacity in them.

I think the fear of failure can be a good motivator for people to succeed. Perhaps the thought of failing will help you become motivated to succeed. The motivation to succeed is a positive outlook on life that will really help you succeed. The fear of failure is a wonderful way to help people get motivated so they will get the desire to want to succeed.


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