Motivation – get your people moving

Motivation – get your people moving

We’ve all heard about McGregor’s X and Y managers, Maslow’s pyramid, and Herzberg’s hygiene factors (and if you haven’t, you can read all about them here, here and here). Not to say their day is done and over with. After all, trusting people, addressing basic needs before higher ones, and knowing that your people will take some things for granted (such as salary) are still reasonably fundamental truths. All three of those models are excellent foundations for an understanding of what gets people motivated at work.

But what’s new? Or, at the very least, what’s happened since the 1960s?

Dan Pink’s Drive

In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Dan Pink places the emphasis on the relationship between people and their boss. Seems reasonable. It also seems a little like McGregor in that it suggests that ‘command & control’ management is out of date and better results can be achieved with the carrot and not the stick. He also believes that the ‘if-then’ transactional approach to management (i.e. ‘if you do that, then I’ll give you this’) is limited in its effectiveness; it’s a fine approach for simple and/or technical tasks, but for more creative working Pink’s 21st century spin describes motivation in terms of a neat 3-strand model; namely:

Autonomy – Find ways to give staff control over their own schedule, and confine ‘management’ to monitoring whether work is getting done, allowing more freedom over how it is done.

Mastery – Create opportunities for people to improve their skills and collaborate with them in monitoring and measuring their progress.

Purpose – Ensure people know that their role matters – don’t just tell them what to do, tell them how it links back to a wider purpose.

In other words, create more autonomy, give people an opportunity to hone their skills, provide a clear direction, and watch the results improve.

Self-Determination Theory (SDT)

Resulting from modern research (well, it was established in the 1980s but studies have continued into the 21st century), SDT focuses on the motivators that come from within a person. Interestingly, this model actually contradicts the old favourite, Maslow’s pyramid. Maslow posited that lower level needs (e.g. food and shelter) must be satisfied before a person might be motivated by the opportunity to meet higher level needs (e.g. fulfilling their potential). SDT indicated just three core psychological needs for the modern manager or leader to bear in mind:

Autonomy – People have a need to feel in control, to have some choices over what they do and how they do it. So, broaden people’s options and appeal to their own values and drivers rather than the basic, ‘do X in exchange for Y’ or even ‘do X or else’ approaches.

Relatedness – A sense of connection is a deep-rooted need, to care about and be cared for by others. In the workplace, this leads to creating a sense of community/team spirit and of working towards some meaningful goal or larger purpose.

Competence – Nobody enjoys feeling unskilled or at a loss in their job. Not only is there a basic desire for competence but people want that competence to grow over time. In other words, create and support opportunities for learning and personal growth.

Again, not necessarily a paradigm shift but along with Pink’s drivers (these two perspectives on motivation are quite compatible) SDT can offer a more modern viewpoint on motivating your team.

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