Motivation cannot be readily created by a single, isolated act. Motivation can be unlocked, channeled, and maintained, but you cannot create motivation that endures from a pep talk, a monthly award, or a company newsletter.
People are motivated or they are not. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have a motivational act you as a leader can perform that would work like an energy drink? It’s been tried but it takes much more than that to make motivation stick.
Most skilled leaders know that the secret is to capitalize on the motivation that intrinsically exists within their associates and keep the fire burning. It is far, far easier to perpetuate motivation than it is to initiate motivation.
Why? Because motivation is much more personal and individualized and requires far more effort than bromides of enthusiasm can ever hope to unleash or perpetuate.
Motivation is the result of successful encounters with the exigencies of life. Victory begets victory. Failure sets us up for another one. Few people rebound readily and quickly from failure if the preponderance of their experience has been failure. Few people tackle new assignments with vigor if their past ones were not successful. So, you have to grab enthusiasm where and when it exists then do what needs to be done to keep it going.
Here are 5 keys to capitalizing on intrinsic motivation:
- Do what you need to do to comprehend the hopes and fears of your associates. Some are universal, most are personal. Let me say again that motivation is very, very personal. There are general principles to be sure, but each person runs on their own blended fuel.
- Appreciate bread and butter needs. For some, the need for the next paycheck is paramount. For others, their energy comes from more intangible assets like job satisfaction, admiration for their boss, or helping people solve problems.
- Appreciate the need for security in a broad sense, i.e., confidence in the group they work for and with to solve problems. A major retail corporation recently announced a comprehensive modification of the way it does business. It was going to bring the company into the 21st century with a capital investment in technology. The news was met with cynicism (motivation’s negative counterbalance) by the company’s employees because the company had been promising an updated computer system for over five years and failed to produce even a minor advancement. To support their commitment to the future, the company spent multiple millions on I-phones for the sales floor. The problem was the I-phones worked worse than the old wireless phone system. Soon, employees were carrying both I-phones and the new phones. Then, the company installed credit card swipe machines at sales desks throughout the store in major departments. With great fanfare the machines were introduced, but they wouldn’t work. It seems the company could not work out the technological side of connecting the machines to the store’s computer system. They kept revising the date when the machines would become operational until they finally announced that they had no idea when they would get them to work. Every employee saw the non-functional machines setting on the desks every day, reminded that the company had yet again failed to follow through with its big promises. Confidence by the associates in the group’s ability to solve its problems plummeted and remains virtually non-existent.
- Comprehend your associates’ longing for a good future. They have hitched their hopes, ambitions, and dreams to you and your organization and have every right to expect that the future will be better than the present.
- Inspire confidence by being upfront about reality. One manager completely de-motivated his sales staff when he announced that the company was cutting sales commissions and retaining any earned vendor spiffs by saying “This is a positive move going forward.” The associates not only faced a reduced paycheck, but now considered their boss to be out of touch with reality.
When associates lose confidence, it provokes images of defeat and failure, helplessness, and self-contempt. Any and all of those emotions deflate motivation. The result is employees who go through the motions but bring little more to the job than their physical presence.
The direct result is incapacity to summon energy and creativity in the pursuit of purpose. Associates demonstrate an unwillingness to take risks which yields a fatal timidity to act when moments of opportunity break. They will move less meaning you will have to move more.
The most common response when negative attitudes arise is bureaucratic defensiveness with the result that the entire system rigidifies. A stand-off brings the whole movement to a stop. Those who had been committed to their job and their company and more than enthusiastic about making the company a success (because the company’s success translated into personal success) now abandon that notion.
So, the most effective approach is to not go down that road at all. Remember that every person on the face of the earth is wired to WIIFM – What’s In It For Me? It is your job as leader to channel that righteous self-interest in such a way that BOTH their interests and yours are fed.