Incorrect starting point

Almost everywhere you turn there seems to be another rewards based incentive program to motivate people. This approach can work short term only for people who don’t like their work. But with the time these people will only demand larger rewards to gain the same satisfaction. And for people who actually enjoy their work, their performance and motivation will most likely decrease short and long term since they are the ones who don’t require external factors to do what they enjoy. I have found that the best way to ensure people are at their best is to align their abilities (what they are able to do if motivated) and their interests. The intersection is where people will thrive.

The problems with motivational programs

Each person is unique and has different needs. Most motivational programs assume that all people are motivated by the same factors. This is simply not true. Why in many motivational programs there are different winners and losers? Whether it is the sales trip to Hawaii, the employee of the month parking spot, or the employee of the week free lunch, these programs only offer the opportunity for the unhappy workers. These programs are in use because they are easy to implement, measure, and produce. They don’t take deep thought or long directions to understand. Do this and you will be rewarded or do this and you will be punished. People are much more complex than that.

How not to motivate people

In order to learn more about motivation, first learn how NOT to motivate people. Here are a few ideas. Give people work not worth doing or which does not add value. Micromanage people by giving them less opportunity for autonomy and decision making freedom. Make people compete against others or standards. Use this as the sole guide for rewards and punishments. Showcase the winners and losers to everyone else. This will for sure help to lower morale and motivation. Focus on productivity and efficiency and not on personal development. Ignore peoples’ abilities and interests and instead like cattle herd them ONLY to work which needs to be done in specific ways.

A better approach

It starts with the hiring process. Hire people who want to do the work you have available. Make people development a higher priority than profit. That’s right, you read this correctly. When people feel like their live mean something to those they work for, productivity will soar to all time highs and of course will be followed by profit. Give people full autonomy in their work. Let people make all decisions, work in ways which best suit them, and encourage collaboration but not competition at work.

Enabling vs. motivating

Enabling motivation means teaching. Managers teach people how to motivate themselves and in turn people find ways for self-reward, praise, and internal motivation. Stop the silly Friday dress down days, employee of the month awards, and special parties for high performance. This rarely works for children so why assume this approach to motivate work for adults. Treat people at work as owners and as a result people will act and make decisions like owners.

New results for the Best Manager

It takes hard work for a person to be the BEST Manager especially when it comes to helping others to be motivated. The step is to realize the difference between motivating and enabling motivation. As a result people and organizations will thrive and work better together which can only help the bottom line.

Craig Nathanson

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