I’ve been to Motivation 101 class and studied the hierarchy and hygiene factor theories of Maslow and Herzburg. If you know what I’m talking about, you’ve been to the classes, too. If not, don’t worry about it, because in this forum we’re going back to the basics of motivation.
In its simplest form, the study of motivation is all about why people do the things they do. And in this instance, we’re talking about work. So the question becomes, why do people work?
If your first thought was, “For money,” then congratulations
– you’re being realistic. I know I work for money. How about you?
Now, I’ll bet you’ve heard certain “experts” say, “Money doesn’t motivate people.” Do you ever wonder, “What planet are they from?” Most of us in this world have discovered that if you want any semblance of the good life, you better get some of the green stuff!
Certainly money is a motivator for a great many people. But, is money the only thing that motivates people to work?
To answer that question, let me tell you about an exercise I do in many of my presentations.
First, I ask participants to use their imaginations and answer some questions based upon a specific set of circumstances I’ll describe. I then show them a $100 bill, place it on the floor, and walk about 10 feet away. Next, I ask if there’s anyone who will accept the task of walking from me to the $100 bill and picking it up. If they can and will do that, it’s theirs. Nearly every hand (almost always all
hands) will shoot up in the air.
You see, there’s some need or want
that the $100 will satisfy (at least in part) for the participants, and they believe
they can and will take the path
that I’ve set up to achieve the $100 goal.
They are motivated.
But then I tell them I’m changing the circumstances. I point out that the $100 bill is still there. But now, between the money and me, there is a 100-foot chasm, straight down. Very firmly attached to each edge of the chasm is a long two-by-four, narrow edge up. Their task: Walk over the chasm along the narrow edge of the board and pick up the $100. If they complete the task, the money is theirs. Rarely will a hand go up. Suddenly, they aren’t motivated (or more accurately, they’re motivated to avoid the task).
is still there and so is the goal.
However, now they don’t believe
they can or will take the new path
that I set up to achieve it. If I increase the goal to $1,000, $10,000, or even more, a few hands will go up. But the vast majority of people will not accept this task for any amount of money. Their motivation is overcome by the risks.
Finally, I tell them that there’s a child they’re responsible for who’s hanging by the fingertips to the far edge of the chasm. Will they now go across the two-by-four in order to rescue the child? Again, nearly every hand will be raised. Even though there’s no money involved, there are new needs/wants
that come into play, and they will take the path
in order to achieve a different goal
that they believe is the right thing to do.
Do people apply this thought process (consciously or not) to working-world tasks? The answer is obvious: Of course they do! For some, it’s as basic as, “Do I believe it’s worth getting out of bed to go to work this morning?”
The point is this: There are many factors, in addition to the almighty dollar, that influence people and their motivation. And each person decides, based upon individual beliefs, how he or she will be motivated! People do things for their own reasons, not yours.
Perhaps you’ve been told that, as a leader, a big part of your job is to motivate people. If that’s the case, you’ve been given an impossible task because YOU can’t motivate people – they have to motivate themselves!
Each person chooses the factors (needs/wants
that he or she believes
are important. And each individual must decide if they believe they CAN DO and WILL DO the path
that connects them to the goal.
But this doesn’t mean that as a leader you have no role in the process of motivation. You do! As a leader you can:
- Help people understand how their needs/wants and goals connect with the needs/wants and goals of your organization.
- Facilitate the belief that they CAN and WILL take the path that is set up to accomplish their goals.
In fact, leaders have a big role in setting up the path
and guiding people along it by helping them gain the knowledge, understanding, and skills to negotiate it successfully.
So get practical. Help people motivate themselves by showing them the connections between what to do, why to do it (their reasons and
your reasons), and how to get there. If you don’t know what your people’s needs/wants
are or what they believe
in, find out. Doing so will help you reap the rewards of a team that has a CAN DO spirit and WILL DO what needs to be done to accomplish desired goals.