Motivation, Power and Self Interest

Leeds Photo by Barnaby Alldrick

Leeds Photo by Barnaby Alldrick

Carmine Coyote has written a provocative post which explores the fundamental dishonesty of motivation.

But I think Carmine has given motivation a bum rap!

What has been called ‘motivation’ is really ‘manipulation’.  Manipulation to get people to do something that the manager wants them to do.

Now I don’t think any manager can ‘motivate’ anyone beyond the short term fix of the pep talk.  (I think that we should set trading standards onto speakers who claim to be ‘motivational’.  The good ones might educate about motivation – but in my experience the motivational, as opposed to the educational, impact of their presentations tails off within a few hours of their closing remarks.)

What managers can do is to help each employee to get really clear on their (the employees) self interest and how working towards organisational objectives serves it.  Once this is done motivation will follow as sure as night follows day.  Or the employee will leave to find a place where they can pursue their self interest more effectively.  And this really forces employers to look at the value proposition that offer to their employees.  Why should good, compassionate, competent people choose to spend their working hours with us?  If it is just for the money then “Houston, we have  problem!”

Self interest, rightly understood, properly negotiated with others and then pursued with vigour and power leads to remarkable results and one of its many by-products is ‘motivation’.  Others are inspiration, creativity, innovation, passion, energy, vigour, strength.  But the proper negotiation with others is critical.  Blending self interests, weaving them together,  ensuring that they reinforce rather than undermine each other, lies at the root of all high performing teams.  And this is the real craft of the progressive manager.

The trouble is most of us feel uncomfortable about pursuing self interest.  We are uncomfortable talking about it.  We don’t even like to give ourselves the time to think about it.  We have been socialised to suppress our self interest and look for opportunities to serve others.  And VERY few managers build the kind of relationships where self interest (of all parties) can be clarified and negotiated fully to the benefit of all.

Carmine’s point about the fundamental dishonesty of motivation, that it is about getting people to ‘do more work for less reward’ is, I believe, a misrepresentation.  Employees who create value deserve a proportionate share of that value and this depends on the proper negotiation of self interest.  If the negotiation is not proper, but unfair, then self interest is not fully served and as a result motivation erodes.

Increasingly the nature of the reward is more than simply financial.  Employees are looking for a diverse and intensely personal cocktail of rewards with ingredients that include fulfilment, challenge, flexibility, creativity and personal and professional development.  These are essential components of self interest for most of us and help to keep people motivated at least as much as money, which is just a hygiene factor.

Appreciation also needs to be part of the mix.  It absolutely is part of the package of ‘rewards’ that most of us look for at work.  And it is a part of the job that many managers struggle with as they tend to leave things alone until they go wrong.

And perhaps we (professional management educators) need to do more with managers on ‘motivation’ as an emergent property – the preconditions for which require a full and proper negotiation of self interest(s) and the development of the employees power to pursue it with vigour.

And while I don’t think that people are any different in the third sector, I do think that the cocktail of self interest often needs to be much more carefully balanced.  And many third sector managers forget this at their peril.  Few of us join social enterprises to be overt vehicles for the delivery of government policy.  We join social enterprises to promote social justice.  And the ‘self interests’ of politicians and the promotion of social justice are rarely properly negotiated.

Your thoughts….

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Its All About the Relationships, Stupid!

One of the basic assumptions behind my work in the Progressive Managers’ Network is that excellent performance depends on excellent relationships.  Relationships that are characterised by:

  • engagement
  • honesty
  • 2-way communication
  • creativity and innovation from everyone
  • development and progress

And still the most common objection that I face in my training?  “Mike I haven’t got time to spend building relationships.  I just need to get them to do as I ask.”  The longer term pursuit of excellence is consistently hi-jacked for the short term acceptance of mediocrity.

Great post here from Carmine Coyote which provides some clues about why getting relationships right really matters.

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Holding Difficult Conversations at Work

Much of my work is about providing managers with safe and effective ways to have conversations that they would instinctively prefer to avoid.  Conversations about behaviours and approaches that don’t contribute towards excellent performance.

If they do choose to address the issue most managers have to force themselves to say things, to use words and phrases that are not (yet), a part of their everyday management vocabulary.

There is a great post here by Steve Roesler that offers some useful and practical insights into getting these difficult conversations right.

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Aziz Ansari

Some gentle jolts around diversity, stereotypes, celebrity, Kanye West and social marketing/Web 2.0.

And a lot of laughs!

Another video – and you will need sound for this one.

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Are You a Jackass or a Progressive?

There is a widespread belief that the best way to manage a donkey is through a combination of stick and carrot.

As long as the right ‘extrinsic motivation’ is applied at the right time, at the right end, there is a chance that the donkey will do what we want it to.

  • Unless of course the donkey has had enough carrots for one day
  • Or becomes so accustomed to the stick that it is no longer effective
  • Or the donkey sees it self interest lying elsewhere – enough carrots for one day – I am heading off for the nettles….

Then the donkey is very likely to go into stubborn mode.

We might try bigger sticks and juicier carrots, but the donkey is not for turning.  ‘Jackass Management’ no longer works.

Even when it is working as well as it can, the best we get from ‘Jackass Management’ is a situation where the donkey does the bare minimum neccesary to pursue the carrot and avoid the stick.

Yet ‘Jackass Management’ is still incredibly prevalent.  Sub-conscious perhaps – but prevalent.  Our own self image as ‘an enlightened and person centred manager’ may prevent us from seeing our own jackass tactics.  But we cannot escape the mediocrity that our ‘Jackass’ Management creates.

The alternative is a management that is based on a genuine relationship in which both parties self interests are clearly negotiated and mutually pursued. Management in which both parties strive to give us much as they can – because they believe that is in their own self interest – rather than doing as little as they can to get the carrot and avoid the stick.

I call this Progressive Management.

Making the shift from ‘Jackass Management’ to Progressive Management is not difficult.  It does take some time, a little technique and a lot of courage.  It leads to:

  • significant productivity improvements
  • increased well being
  • reduced workplace stress
  • more creativity and innovation
  • better employee engagement
  • lower costs and
  • happier customers.

It requires us to see our job as helping other people to do great work rather than as donkeys to be manipulated to our will.

So why don’t more people make the transition from ‘Jackass’ to ‘Progressive’?  Because they are too busy wielding sticks and carrots to take the time.

If you would like to learn how to be a Progressive Manager then please visit www.progressivemanagersnetwork.co.uk

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Change is Good

I have just come across a really good online video, thanks to Phil Gerbyshack, called Change is Good.  It seems to sum up so many of the principles that I try to teach people how to practice in my PMN workshops.  (There are still someplaces left on Giving and Getting Great Feedback on 20th May in Leeds).

The film is only a couple of minutes long but contains so many great hints, tips, reminders and pointers to profound truths that should have immense implications for personal and organisational change.

Why not show it at your next team meeting and see what reactions, suggestions and feedback it elicits.

The video has a soundtrack – but still works if you are not sound enabled!

Change Is Good – The Movie

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What if Work Was Social Again?

http://vimeo.com/3504198