Of course I don’t think motivation doesn’t work. It does work.
Motivation doesn’t work, however, when close-minded, insincere leadership is present. It just doesn’t.
People can only be motivated to perform better, think differently, do x rather than y when they feel their leaders (or their peers) care about them. Having said this, here’s an equation I’m throwing out there:
An open mind + good leadership = motivation
Consider something I read recently:
“Motivation only works when we consider letting go of leadership practices that undermine people’s psychological needs and adopt best practices that encourage them.” – Susan Fowler, author of Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does.
Ah – encourage.
That’s a word I want to see more of in common leadership vernacular.
People respond when they feel they are being considered. Listened to. Encouraged to try something different.
This, my friends, is motivation at its finest.
What doesn’t work is:
- Being told “you shouldn’t feel/act/think that way”
- Being judged or made to feel as though constant approval is needed to do anything
- Having to tolerate sabotaging actions or unacceptable forms of leadership (i.e. inconsistent coaching, weak feedback)
- Insincere awards, appraisals or gifts ($50 added to a paycheque, another coffee mug, logo engraved highlighter or post-it pad)
Rather, motivating employees, colleagues, people in general, is best achieved when:
- People’s feelings and emotions are acknowledged and validated
- Descriptive and consistent feedback is provided
- Proof that a leader is willing to help
- When options are presented and open-minded questions are asked in order to promote mindfulness
The idea behind successful motivation is that people need to feel like they own transformational change.
Do I think motivation is a one-way street that can only be achieved by leaders? Of course not.
My math equation listed above included “an open mind.” What I was referring to was the person in question who stands to be inspired to do something better.
Motivation is a two-way street. People need to be primed, however.
And it is the sole responsibility of a good leader to make time for thought provoking communication.
You see? It is simple.
Motivating employees, colleagues, people, is just about connecting. Make it powerful.