social-media-Pictures_thumb.pngIn David Pink’s discussion/presentation titled simply “Drive“, he shares a surprising truth about what motivates us. It is interesting to note that according to at least two scientific studies have validated the adage “money won’t buy happiness.” Pink demonstrates that while financial incentives may, in some cases generate interest or the drive to complete a rudimentary task, for more complex challenges when money is used as the primary motivator the results become increasingly negative.
Why Use Money…If It Doesn’t Work?

Many of us would probably disagree at face value and contend that the best way to motivate an individual is to pay them. Understandably, a reason for working is to provide for oneself and family, and as a result it is important to ensure the level of compensation is balanced to the point where the individual is not in constant fear of pay for performance (quantity) and focus more on pay for perfection (quality).

Money, as a compensation strategy is often used because it’s simple, tangible, and a relatively cheap solution. Those who operate from this mindset are often merely reflecting their own motivations on others, rather than investigating the motivations of others. The simple reality is that although few people will work for free, research has demonstrated that money is a poor long-term motivator for performance.

It’s also used because:

That’s The Way We’ve Always Done It”

Expected Job Performance

In your civilian career, as was in military, you will be expected to motivate others to complete projects, and  fulfill their work obligations, or essentially do the job they were hired for

The difference is that in the military, the lines of authority were clear, rooted in a common goal, supported by established procedure, and enforced through rules and policies. Expected behavior established from boot camp or basic training throughout your entire term of service, in otherwords there were no surprises.

In the civilian sector, this Level of expected job performance is often seen only in organizations that embrace rather than eschew such disciplined responses; healthcare, fire rescue, security, law enforcement, corrections, and similar organizations.

The good news is that even amongst industries not known for strict discipline such as counseling, mental health, volunteer/charities, and to a degree education, the tactics, techniques, processes, or procedures fundamental to success in disciplined sectors work well here as well.

How To Motivate

Among the easiest people to motivate are the young, inexperienced and authentically interested. Because they have a hunger for knowledge coupled with the desire to prove themselves, they are largely open to suggestions, criticisms, corrections or help. Eventually, after “learning the ropes”, they integrate into the general work-force and become motivated professionals.

Conversely, some of the most challenging people to motivate were those who are more skilled in a specific area, highly compensated, or had simply been around longer.  In some cases they’ve adopted the mindset of “good enough” instead of “perfect effort.” The rationale for the lower performance standard runs the gambit of real or perceived personal or professional slights endured, to a stodgy unwillingness to innovate, and all points in between.

The way to motivate a highly skilled individual or well compensated technical expert was to challenge them to develop simpler solutions to complex issues. Rather than calling on their expertise to create complex solutions – challenging them to reduce a solution to the level that an unskilled, non-expert could understand it required them to re-think and re-package what they understood.

Why It Works

Regardless the position, job, or responsibility, everyone wants to be appreciated for the work they do. Some avoid public acknowledgement, while others crave it, but at the heart of it all, no one likes to be taken for granted. Studies have shown that one of the top reasons for job turn over is lack of feedback from bosses and supervisors.

Not all feedback need be negative.

Part of the job of a supervisor is to inspire greatness in others – to that end, one simple way to do so is to ensure good work and authentic work efforts are acknowledge. Similarly poor or substandard work effort must be addressed as well, and should not be ignored or excused.

Whenever appropriate praise and accolades to those responsible should be given publicly, and you as the leader should intentionally take yourself out of the lime-light; here’s why.

Once you’ve established in the minds of your people who you are not trying to undermine their worth, their accomplishments, or their intelligence, then you can challenge them to find more efficient, less expensive, cost-effective and labor-saving measures to advance the mission of the organization.

The small investment you make in giving praise and a little encouragement, will pay significant benefits in terms of motivating others. And perhaps what’s most amazing is that it would not need to cost anything…words of encouragement are a free gift.

Other Free Resources:

Directors’ Briefing (a book in four pages)
How to motivate good performance among government employees
Motivating Employees
Motivating your Employees (a small business guide)