Friday, December 28, 2012

Tapping the Motivation Reserve


What do you think about when you hear the word “motivation?”

It often brings to mind coaches and athletes, parents and children, maybe even teachers and students. But in all of these scenarios, we assume motivation is something that is coached, shared, or taught. However, in the realm of leadership, motivation is better understood as an internal force that prompts us into action. I call this our motivation reserve.

Think about what prompts you to get up every day and go to work. It could be the money… or maybe the responsibility… something motivates you to get up. I think this same thing can be harnessed within our organizations as a means of getting others to be more active and take more pride in what they do. Our motivation is something that can be tapped and when brought out to its fullest potential, something that will keep individuals or groups active, creative, and having more fun. This is the motivation reserve and we all have it.

An ongoing problem facing leaders is that some people perform better than others. They work harder and are more successful in their roles within the organization. Sometimes we attribute this to their level of motivation. While this may be true to some degree, I believe the problem is deeper and lies in ones level of participation and engagement within the organization. Let’s explore this in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As we advance to our higher-order need of self-actualization, we must first satisfy our lower-order needs such as self-esteem, belongingness, security, and the basic need for survival. This is true in life as well as in organizations. Before our teams can evolve to a point of creativity and problem-solving, they must first be respected, be accepted, and be secure in the organizational environment. Too often we seek to jump straight to problem solving before we spend time developing the team.

When the lower-order needs are ignored in our organizations, motivation can become a problem. As leaders, we must recognize that everyone is motivated differently and that we need to adapt to their needs. We can accomplish this by following some simple techniques that will be useful as we tap into the motivation reserve of those around us.

1.           Study people around you and determine what makes them tick
2.           Be a good listener
3.           Criticize or reprimand constructively and in private
4.           Praise in public
5.           Be considerate
6.           Empower others with responsibility and let them lead
7.           Give credit where credit is due
8.           Avoid domination or forcefulness
9.           Show interest in and appreciation of others
10.        Play up the positive
11.        Be consistent
12.        Do not be afraid to ask for help
13.        Always be open to new ideas
14.        Be careful in what you say and how you say it
15.        Never forget leaders influence the culture of the organization

These simple suggestions are not new and certainly are not all-encompassing. However, they are consistent with Maslow’s Hierarchy as each one is complementary to one of the five needs. Getting others to do what needs to be done to accomplish organizational goals is what leadership is all about. Doing so in a manner that is inclusive and conscientious is critical. As leaders, if we commit ourselves to following these guidelines, we will be able to consistently tap into the motivation reserve others.