Tag Archives: skills

Motivation from the Inside Out: Tap Into People’s Inner Drive

In the last post, I talked about the nature of extrinsic rewards—motivating people from the outside in. While some extrinsic rewards are necessary (fair salary and benefits), managers should be wary of using carrots and sticks to move their employees to action. If you want truly motivated people, you’ll need to go deeper. You’ll need to consider intrinsic factors, the things that motivate people from the inside out. But since motivation is an internal thing, as manager, you can’t really motivate your employees. What you can do, though, is create the kind of environment where people want to motivate themselves. And that is no small task.

Motivation? Think emotion

It is impossible to discuss motivation without talking about emotion. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Emotions have no place at work. Well, neuroscience begs to differ with you. Our feelings affect every aspect of our lives, work included. We can’t help it—our brains were made that way. Consider how this amazing organ has been built over time. The brain developed from the base up. The first to develop was the primitive, reptilian brain. Next to develop was the limbic region, the emotional area of the brain. Newest on the scene is the neo-cortex, the executive (rational decision-making) part of the brain. The older emotional brain landscape is more deep-seated, which helps to explain why, even though we try to be rational, we often act based on emotion.

Paul Herr, in his book, Primal Management, say that business people are somewhat justified in their views on emotions, because we tend to think in extremes. Let’s face it. We’ve all seen someone “lose it” and it’s no fun to watch (or to experience). We’re not talking about the extreme, though. We’re talking instead of the “subtle background feelings that ensure our survival by getting us out of bed in the morning and by imperceptibly influencing every decision and every move we make during the course of our workday.”

So, we are emotional creatures. We are also hungry.

Herr says that, just as humans have biologic appetites (nutrition, energy conservation, protection of the body, breathing, reproduction), we also have social appetites. We are hard-wired to work as part of a tribe, to master skills, to achieve what we set out to do, to create and innovate, and to feel safe and secure. When these appetites are not satisfied, employees will naturally disengage.

So, as manager, how can you satisfy these appetites? How can you create the right atmosphere in which people are driven to do their best work?

Motivational Drivers

I’ve identified nine drivers, which I believe are key factors in helping people feel more motivated at work. If you’ve got an employee who is not motivated, ask yourself these questions and be brutally honest in your answers. You may be able to pinpoint which drivers are missing.

Fit: Is this person in the right role according to his or her strengths and the specifications of the job? If not, how can I help the person find a better fit?

Expectations: Does this employee know what is expected of him or her? If not, how can I clarify those expectations?

Requirements: Does this employee have what’s needed to work productively (training, equipment, appropriate work space)? If not, how can I provide it?

Work Style: How does this person work (outgoing vs. reserved; task-oriented vs. people-oriented)? How can I respond to these behaviors?

Strengths: What strengths does this employee have? How can I continually build on these strengths?

Competency: Is this employee getting better at what he or she does? If not, what can I do to develop this person more fully?

Feedback: Do I routinely give effective feedback (positive and constructive) on performance? If not, how can I improve in this area?

Connection: Does this person feel connected to me and my team? If not, how can I help him or her feel more closely linked?

Contribution: Does this employee know how he or she contributes to the success of the organization? If not, how can I let this person know?

It’s unrealistic to expect you to put all nine drivers in place for everyone, but you’d be surprised, I think, to see what happens when one or two are put into motion. At the very least, I urge you to consider these motivational strategies:

  • Don’t bog people down with unnecessary policies and procedures.
  • Quit micromanaging.
  • Connect people to one another.
  • Communicate!

Here’s the link to Paul Herr’s book.

Until next time . . .

Becoming a Casting Agent: Matching the Person With the Job

Have you ever watched a movie in which the lead actor was miscast? It can be a squirmy experience, as painful to view at as it must have been for the actor to film.

People can be miscast in their jobs as well. Very early in my career I was woefully mismatched, and it was a miserable experience, all three years of it. (Okay, so I was a little slow on the uptake.) No amount of praise, no perks, no salary increases—nothing was going to make me like that job. I was a square peg trying to work a round hole.

To be sure, I used my brain well enough and I got the job done but only by sheer force of will. The work took a toll on me; I was tired and cranky every single day, and I was not pleasant to be around. No matter how hard I tried, I would never be great at that job. Why? Because no part of that work called for my particular talents.

The concept of talent is explored in one of my favorite business books of all time, First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. They define talent as “recurring patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior that can be applied productively.”

When you are talented at something (and we all are), you can perform the task over and over again without fatigue. You tend to lose yourself in the work. Time scoots by and you hardly notice. When you’re working at something that doesn’t call for your particular talents, however, you labor over the effort. You procrastinate. You clock-watch. You might complete the task, but in the end you’re exhausted.

You can teach skills and impart knowledge, but  you can’t teach talent. Talent is something you are naturally wired to do. Knowledge and experience get you only so far; talent is what makes you excel. You can memorize the steps in the procedure, you can take a training class, and you can practice, but you will never be a standout unless that task allows you to use your strengths. Let’s face it. No matter how hard you try, you are not going to excel as a numbers-cruncher when your talent lies in creating new things.

Now, think about your staff. How well are people matched in their roles? How much and how often do they get to use their strengths? The answer lies at the heart of motivation and at the fulfillment of task objectives.

Here’s a bulleted list to help you think about how to cast people in the right roles. (Read more about  this in First, Break All the Rules.)

  • In addition to job benchmarking (skills, attributes, competencies), add talent to the mix. Know what specific talents are required for each aspect of the work. Customer service? Consider empathy. Engineering? Consider inquisitiveness. Sales? Consider sociability.
  • Interview for talent. Design a separate set of interview questions that allow the candidate to reveal his or her particular strengths. Is the candidate a good match for the job?
  • Ask your employees about their strengths and weaknesses and about their personal and professional goals. Their answers will provide clues about their talents.
  • Observe what your employees do during the day. Notice what kind of work they are drawn to. Watch how they interact with others and with whom.
  • When slotting people in various jobs, think beyond skills, knowledge, and experience. Try to position each person so that are doing more of what they were born to do. And then watch them flourish.

The more you can cast people in the right roles, the greater chance you will have of getting the very best out of them. Granted, it’s not realistic to cast everyone perfectly. It is likely that your employees still will  have to perform tasks that just don’t light their fire. My guess is that they’ll be more willing to do that though, when they know that other work, more suited to their nature, awaits them.

See what you can do as a casting agent. You may be surprised by the results.

The next post will deal with delegation. In the meantime, jump into the new year with both feet and make it one amazing year.

Oh, and check out the book . . .