You’re Doing It Wrong: Motivation

I just watched an incredibly interested TED talk about the science of motivation.  It takes about 18 minutes, and it could dramatically impact your business.

Over 50 years of data tells us that most of what we do to motivate people in the work force is actually hurting our businesses.  We all know about the carrot and the stick.  But very few of us seem to know that unless the task is extremely simplistic, we are hurting our productivity, morale and innovation.  Most of the simple jobs are now automated or outsourced.  That means that it is highly likely that you are hurting your bottom line with many people in your organization.

So what does Dan Pink say the real answer is?  Internal motivation.  He was kind enough to not really tell us how to get it.  Luckily, that is what I do every day for organizations big and small.  I work with them to educate and train their people on how to get people to motivate themselves.  And I am happy to share some ideas with you right now.

First off, the bad news.  You cannot motivate people.  If the above video proves anything, it proves that.  What you can do is create an environment where people can motivate themselves.  Much like the example of 20% time, giving people the chance to take time to work on whatever they want is a great step.  Because if I am working on something that I want to work on, I am motivated to do it.  Motivation is desire.

Now you say, but Ryan, I don’t have the ability to instill 20% time in my company.  Or if I do it could take a LONG time to become a reality.  What can I do right now?  Have more conversations with your people.  I did not write “talk” with your people, because the less you talk in these conversations the better.  Go in with the desire to learn about each individual.  This gives you two very important things: knowledge and a stronger relationship.

You get the knowledge of what this person thinks about what they do.  You get the knowledge of why they do what they do.  And guess what?  If you can give that person the chance to see more of that why (they want to feel like they are contributing to something greater than themselves, they want to feel important, they want to be seen as the best, they want to be able to go home sooner and spend more time with their family, etc.), you are giving him or her the chance to motivate him or herself.

Second you are developing a stronger relationship with your employees.  Think about it this way.  If your good friend asked you to give up your Saturday in order to come over and help them move, you are motivated to help your friend.  If a random stranger asked you to get back in your car and move it over to another space so that they could move their couch more easily, you aren’t very motivated to help.  We help people we like.  Even if we don’t want to do the thing that is asked.  We are much more likely to do it for someone we have a true connection with.

So even if that conversation has absolutely nothing to do with work, you are helping your work environment because you now have a better understanding of those you work with.  If I work for you and feel like you understand and care about me, it is much simpler for me to get motivated to help you.

This is something that Dale Carnegie has helped many organizations with.  If you would like help doing this with your employees or yourself, call me at 515.724.3163 or email me at Ryan dot Lynch at Dale Carnegie dot com.  I want to help.

~Ryan Lynch

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