Monday, August 15, 2011

You can’t motivate people, but you can help them.

Just as you can't motivate a seed to grow (you can only provide an appropriate environment that will allow it to grow), you can't motivate people. They motivate themselves. They have it in their blood, or they don’t. Some people will kick it up a notch to earn a promotion, or a reward, or for recognition. But ultimately, it’s up them.

In my experience there are three things you need to learn about motivation:
  1. First, you can’t motivate anybody to do anything they don’t want to do. Motivation is an internal thing, not an external thing.
  2. The second thing is that all people are motivated. The person that stays in bed in the morning rather than getting up and going to work is more motivated to stay in bed than to work. They might be negatively motivated, but they are nonetheless motivated.
  3. The third thing is that people do things for their reasons and not for yours. The trick is to find out what their reasons are.
We need to find out what’s on the person’s mind and that starts with asking great questions. They need to be open-ended questions that demand an open-ended response. “Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How” questions are absolutely critical to the success.

Avoid “Did, Would, Could, Should, Can, Do and May” questions because they will elicit a yes/no response. You want them to expound on what’s bugging them. If you lead with “Did, Would, Could, Should, Can, Do and May” then be prepared to have a follow-up question to draw them out. This allows them to vent their concerns about a situation. It’s a lot like paddling a canoe upstream. If you don’t keep paddling, you’ll go backward. You have to work through these situations.

Motivated, committed, engaged employees care about what they do and why they do it. They get up and come to work every day because they care about it. It’s not a short-term energy surge; it’s a way of life.

External factors can help create an environment where self-motivation can occur, however. The surest way to improve performance is to create a secure, calm environment where your employees know they are important members of your team.

As a business you can help them by creating the best conditions under which people get motivated: 

Sense of Purpose:
What is it about your job that gets you out of bed in the morning? What contribution to the betterment of anything are you, personally, making every day? Most people want there to be some meaning in the work they do, something more than hours of labor that result in a paycheck.

Leadership: Competent, trustworthy, genuine, conscientious innovators who are glad to be on the job every day! (Well, okay, most days.) Effective leadership is not a result of the command-and-control approach. Instead, it’s more like navigating than commanding – using the ability to “turn confusion into understanding,” and “see a bigger picture.”

Organizational Character: The integrity and consistency of choices and decisions the organization makes. Organizational Character is not only “how we do things around here” (the culture) but also why we do things this way and what people expect when we do things. It’s an organization’s reputation with the people who work there. It’s the tone and the pace of the organization and it’s how people are treated. It’s a major reason people like, or don’t like, where they work and a key contributor to motivation.

Motivation comes from within. Individuals have the capacity to motivate themselves...or demotivate themselves. Help them see the way by creating and sustaining the kinds of conditions that help them bring their best selves to work every day. Respect, proactive and honest communications, capable and engaged leadership – these are the ingredients that add up to an engaged, energized workplace.

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1 comment:

  1. Tim,

    Very interesting post. There have certainly been occasions where I went into someone's office or a meeting frustrated and discouraged about something only to walk out energized and more motivated. Some would say that good leadership provided the motivation. Your stance is that they helped me get my frame of reference back to where I was motivated to overcome the obstacles. I'll be kicking that either case, your guidance is spot on for providing an environment where people can be motivated.

    Part of motivating leadership is showing confidence that the team will achieve their goals. This will help when there is individual doubt.

    Thanks for sharing,