Many Paths Lead to Motivated Workforce Try These Six on for Size

“I just can’t get these people to work as hard as I do.”

CEOs frequently share that lament with Vistage speaker Mike Murray , who has been researching the matter of motivation to see how he can help eliminate this problem.

Murray has unearthed a common misconception about motivation. People often believe a sort of Golden Rule applies: “Motivate others much the way you would want be motivated.”

“We don’t want to be treated as some category,” says Murray. “You want to be treated as the unique individual that you are, much the same way others want to be treated as the unique individuals they are.”

In fact, there are multiple “models of motivation” that apply, and it can be insulting — and de-motivating — to have an inappropriate approach used. For example, to an individual who is not motivated by money, promises of enriching a paycheck are not especially meaningful.

With many motivational models to choose from, Murray focuses on the following six:

  1. Mission — “Why do we do what we do?”
    Be sure everyone understands the purpose of your organization, and their role in it. Everyone should be able to answer the following questions:
  2. Why does this organization exist?
  3. Why does my department exist?
  4. Why does my job exist?“People are sometimes motivated by what makes sense, and if this organization doesn’t make sense, if this department doesn’t make sense, then who cares? One who is motivated sees the higher purpose of his or her job,” explains Murray.
  5. Making a Match — “Is my job a ‘fit’ for me?”Many people are looking for a perfect fit between their skills and interests and the organization’s mission, according to the research of David Berlo, a University of Michigan professor. Questions they seriously ponder:
  6. Does who I am and what I know fit into this organization?
  7. Do I feel like I’ve found a perfect job fit?For people who hold this value highly, the closer the fit, the more they are willing to work for the sheer joy of it. They expect to be compensated for having to do the parts of their jobs that aren’t that much fun, but they don’t expect compensation for the parts that they consider play or fun.”Employees feel primarily one of these three ways when they report for work: that they are going to play, going to work, or going to hell. If it’s that last one, it means they feel a separation of ‘who I am’ from ‘what I do,’ and they may be motivated to make others’ life hell as well,” Murray says.

Loyalty and Commitment to a Trusted Leader — “What makes this leader worth following?”

Some employees are highly motivated by working for a leader they believe in, and wanting to help him or her succeed, Murray says. It behooves leaders, then to ask the following questions:

  • What makes me feel that someone is trustworthy?
  • How do I decide to mistrust someone? Am I acting in any untrustworthy ways?
  • What will I do today that could help people trust me more at the end of the day than they did this morning?
  • Psychic Pay — “How does work make me feel?””Every day, people want to drive home from work feeling significant, competent and worthwhile,” says Murray. This exploration of motivation is based on Will Schutz’s theory that people have three basic needs when they show up for work. They need to feel:
  • Significant (welcome, noticed, included, psychologically safe, informed)
  • Competent (able, capable)
  • Worthwhile (valued, appreciated)

To judge your progress in these areas, how would your employees respond to these questions:

  • Am I “in the know” about what’s happening at the company?
  • Am I treated as fully capable when handling my work?
  • Does my contribution make a difference?

“When you look at the reverse of these feelings, you see the motivational issue. Would you want employees to be driving home feeling insignificant, incompetent and worthless?” asks Murray.

Definition of Winning for Your Company — “How do we keep score?”

Jack Stack, the former CEO of Springfield Remanufacturing, came up with “The Great Game of Business” approach to help his employees learn how Springfield kept score. “If people in your company don’t know how you keep score, don’t know what the current score is and don’t know how their behavior affects the score, how can they play the game?” asks Murray.

  • Does everyone in your company know how you measure success/keep score?
  • Does every department have some definition of success that is relatively short-term?
  • Does everyone know who the enemy is? (That is, an external enemy — a competitor.)
  • “If everyone doesn’t have clarity that the enemy is external, then an internal enemy can surface — and you don’t want that,” observes Murray. “It’s always been clear at Coca-Cola that the enemy is Pepsi.”

Dignity in Delegation — “Do you really need my help?”

“Delegation is more than just assigning work to someone else,” says Murray. “The person to whom you delegate mustknow that you need their help, as opposed to you’re just trying to shed busy-ness.”

Being on the receiving end of dignified delegation leaves an employee feeling:

  • Responsible
  • Strong
  • Needed
  • Worthwhile

“If you are just shifting workload, it’s de-motivating.”

Murray has explored additional motivational models, but he says these six are a good start for anyone who wants to perform a “motivational check-up.”

“Remember, the real Golden Rule of Motivation should read something like this: ‘Motivate others the way they want to be motivated,’ and you won’t have such a struggle keeping momentum going,” he says.

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