Jun 11, 2012
I’m not exactly sure why or when it happened, but recently I have become enamored with the concept of motivation. I want to better understand why people do what they do, and what makes them change their behavior? As an always aspiring to improve leader I thirst for knowledge in this subject area, and consistently look to my successes and more appropriately my failures for ways to gain insight on the topic.
If you’re a reader you will find that there are endless textbooks, blogs, white papers, and books coupled with tireless theory on the subject. The experts will argue whether it is psychological, physiological, innate, emotional, behavioral, or some flavor of all of the above. (Sigh – take a deep breath)
In the end it probably is in fact some combination of all of the above; and while the “catch all” answer may provide us some comfort, it is also what makes it so tricky for anyone attempting to motivate another human being. It turns out that the effort to motivate is a combination of variables with each and every subject (person) in which we engage. Meaning that it is the very uniqueness that we all strive for that makes us increasingly difficult to properly motivate.
So for the leader, motivation isn’t as simple as they say. However, it also may not be as difficult as we make it. Perhaps rather than looking at every tip, tool, and trick to motivate, we can make some drastic improvements by just paying attention to what definitely doesn’t work.
Let’s examine 5 leadership pitfalls that can drastically diminish your leadership efforts.
- Irrational/Self-Absorbed: This type of motivation is most common seen by leaders that think their people are motivated by the leaders need to accomplish something. While the “What’s in it for me” philosophy still lives strong, it isn’t motivational to many. Words like me, my, and I tend to create distance between people and the cause. Strong motivators understand this simple yet difficult to exemplify behavior and they know it is imperative to get the most from their people. People simply want to feel a part of whatever they are doing. When they don’t connect to the cause, the motivation and performance will lag behind as well.
- Use of Fear and/or Coercion: Do you think because you’re the boss that people should just be fired up to do whatever you say? Perhaps a little tough love or an occasional job security threat is how you keep people inspired? Think again! People for the most part don’t respond positively to the use of fear and coercion. While this certainly isn’t universally the case, in the enlightened society in which we live today people will take their fear and coercion and utilize it to motivate a change that you may not like. Such as finding a new job (on your dime while your busy thinking you are motivating them).
- Inconsistent: Are you a flavor of the day kind of person? I know that the proliferation of technology and the instantaneous nature of communication has led us to believe that our actions should yield instant results, but for the most part that isn’t true. The other day I read a post that talked about the rule of 3 in business…everything takes 3x as long, cost 3x as much, and is 3x as difficult. If you consider this to be true, then why in the world would motivation of the day work for your team? We’re driving the future for our businesses, not tomorrows soup du jour.
- Unrealistic: I think one of the mistakes we make as people is how we tend to underestimate others intelligence. This can at times be subtle or even subconscious and at other times obtuse and offensive. Nonetheless, people inherently tend to see when a goal is truly attainable. You may offer unbelievably lucrative incentives for someone to reach a goal, but if they don’t see it as achievable your offer is not only demotivating, but perhaps demeaning. People seek realistic goals, with their leaders committed support to attaining them. If they wanted to play some low odds sweepstakes they’d buy a lottery ticket.
- Irrelevant: Above I mention the effect that our uniqueness has on motivation. With each of us being different, we are all motivated at the very least by slightly different things. I constantly discuss the importance of empathy as a key to successful leadership. Here is a perfect case where not understanding your people will lead you down a road to nowhere. You simply cannot motivate people without knowing what matters to them. While it isn’t easy to brand every incentive or motivational strategy for everyone, you must consider what makes each person tick.
Take a minute and think about how you motivate. Do you bring out the best in people, or do you sometimes use tactics that aren’t actually motivating at all? Being able to motivate and inspire is key to achieving just about anything in any facet of life. However, the way we go about it makes all the difference in the world.