Updated: Sep 10, 2020
The role of the individual
There’s an old saying, ‘You can’t get blood from a stone.’ And equally, you can’t get someone’s best unless they want to be their best, to excel. In Part 1 of this article, we’ll focus on the individual’s role.
Hard work and effort are tiring. When our brains and bodies are tired we can’t give our best. Why then do some people excel? Why do they seem to have almost boundless energy, determination and resilience? It’s because they’re highly motivated.
By luck or design, they’ve managed to align their passion with their choice in career and skill-set. In other words, they’ve completed The Performance Triangle. Organisations invest significant time and money in setting the direction for their organisation and their people, through visions, strategies, objectives, targets and job descriptions.
They invest heavily in skills training too, particularly technical and sales skills. And with the UK average employee turnover rate at 15% a year, this delivers a poor ROI for organisations and high frustration for managers.
But how much do organisations invest in motivation? And – is it perhaps the most important factor in terms of performance and employee turnover? Let’s consider this together. Look at this image and take a few moments to feel what these two people are feeling. Then describe how it feels to be motivated.
I’ve run this exercise with hundreds of people and the answers are invariably: energised, excited, enthusiastic, happy, uplifted, open, excited and focused. The link to confidence, high-performance and being open to new ideas and opportunities is clear. As is the link to well-being and positive mental health.
When someone’s feeling like this at work, how much of their best are they able to give? 80%? 100%? Now take another moment to look at this image, and to feel what this person’s feeling. Then describe how it feels to be demotivated.
The regular answers are depressed, low, anxious, overwhelmed, withdrawn, sluggish, nothing matters, cautious, mistrusting, tired, confused and energy-vampire.
When someone’s feeling like this at work, how much of their best are they able to give? 20%? 40%? Put it another way, would you get in an aeroplane that only had 40% of the fuel it needs? Motivation is a form of energy. Possibly the most important form, since it fuels love, creativity and achievement.
‘But what about money as a motivator?’, I hear you say. The research shows that only a small percentage of people are truly motivated by money, i.e. there’s never enough to satisfy them. For the rest of us, money is an enabler to what we really want – security, providing for our loved ones, comfort, status, freedom etc. Once we have enough for this it no longer motivates us to excel. So paying more won’t motivate greater performance. Conversely, if we feel we’re not paid enough for the contribution we make, it will disengage us. That feeling of fairness is a global factor in employee engagement.
So how do we get the best from our teams. Here are three steps focused on the the role of the individual.
1. We need to identify exactly what motivates our team, and how motivated they are. Our ‘tangible benchmark’ if you will. Take a look at the nine motivators* below, and see if you can identify your highest and lowest motivator. Then consider the role they play in your own performance. For example, if you chose Searcher as your highest – what does knowing you’ve made a difference at work mean to you? And how does your lowest motivator influence how you operate at work? Do you avoid certain things?
2. Once you understand these (we’d normally look at the top 3 and the lowest), consider how well these motivators align to each individual’s role and skills. For example, it’s fairly common for Director to be someone’s lowest motivator. Therefore, they don’t want to have power and responsibility over others and, therefore, are unlikely to thrive in a management role. People who are highly motivated are in, what we call, the Optimal Zone. It’s where their hard work and effort are constantly refuelled by their enjoyment of their role. It’s like having a rechargeable battery that’s plugged into the power mains.
3. Thirdly, together with the individual, find ways to increase their motivation which will also benefit your organisation. A win:win, where they’ll contribute more and enjoy it. Another significant point is that skills follow motivation. Consider for yourself how likely you are to excel in a certain skill if you enjoy it. If you do, you’re more likely to be curious about it, and seeks ways to improve and use that skill. So when we identify and, crucially, name someone’s top motivators we help them to increase their skills too. Motivation is well worth considering before authorising that next training course.
In summary, we’ve probably all tried motivating someone who wasn’t interested. It’s exhausting. Try a fresh approach that not only works, it’s empowering, enabling and feels good.
*Motivational Maps® – the leading profiling tool for motivation and translating feelings into data.
Susannah Brade-Waring is Managing Director of Aspirin Business and Motivated Performance, and a Senior Practitioner of Motivational Maps®. Their clients are ambitious and big-hearted and include Waitrose, Merlin Entertainments as well as coaching and training organisations and HR Managers in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Hungary.