Carmine Coyote has written a provocative post which explores the fundamental dishonesty of motivation.
But I think Carmine has given motivation a bum rap!
What has been called ‘motivation’ is really ‘manipulation’. Manipulation to get people to do something that the manager wants them to do.
Now I don’t think any manager can ‘motivate’ anyone beyond the short term fix of the pep talk. (I think that we should set trading standards onto speakers who claim to be ‘motivational’. The good ones might educate about motivation – but in my experience the motivational, as opposed to the educational, impact of their presentations tails off within a few hours of their closing remarks.)
What managers can do is to help each employee to get really clear on their (the employees) self interest and how working towards organisational objectives serves it. Once this is done motivation will follow as sure as night follows day. Or the employee will leave to find a place where they can pursue their self interest more effectively. And this really forces employers to look at the value proposition that offer to their employees. Why should good, compassionate, competent people choose to spend their working hours with us? If it is just for the money then “Houston, we have problem!”
Self interest, rightly understood, properly negotiated with others and then pursued with vigour and power leads to remarkable results and one of its many by-products is ‘motivation’. Others are inspiration, creativity, innovation, passion, energy, vigour, strength. But the proper negotiation with others is critical. Blending self interests, weaving them together, ensuring that they reinforce rather than undermine each other, lies at the root of all high performing teams. And this is the real craft of the progressive manager.
The trouble is most of us feel uncomfortable about pursuing self interest. We are uncomfortable talking about it. We don’t even like to give ourselves the time to think about it. We have been socialised to suppress our self interest and look for opportunities to serve others. And VERY few managers build the kind of relationships where self interest (of all parties) can be clarified and negotiated fully to the benefit of all.
Carmine’s point about the fundamental dishonesty of motivation, that it is about getting people to ‘do more work for less reward’ is, I believe, a misrepresentation. Employees who create value deserve a proportionate share of that value and this depends on the proper negotiation of self interest. If the negotiation is not proper, but unfair, then self interest is not fully served and as a result motivation erodes.
Increasingly the nature of the reward is more than simply financial. Employees are looking for a diverse and intensely personal cocktail of rewards with ingredients that include fulfilment, challenge, flexibility, creativity and personal and professional development. These are essential components of self interest for most of us and help to keep people motivated at least as much as money, which is just a hygiene factor.
Appreciation also needs to be part of the mix. It absolutely is part of the package of ‘rewards’ that most of us look for at work. And it is a part of the job that many managers struggle with as they tend to leave things alone until they go wrong.
And perhaps we (professional management educators) need to do more with managers on ‘motivation’ as an emergent property – the preconditions for which require a full and proper negotiation of self interest(s) and the development of the employees power to pursue it with vigour.
And while I don’t think that people are any different in the third sector, I do think that the cocktail of self interest often needs to be much more carefully balanced. And many third sector managers forget this at their peril. Few of us join social enterprises to be overt vehicles for the delivery of government policy. We join social enterprises to promote social justice. And the ‘self interests’ of politicians and the promotion of social justice are rarely properly negotiated.
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