TED Talk – “Dan Pink: The puzzle of motivation”

internal motivation is more important than external motivators for leaders

Why You Lead Determines How Well You Lead is an excellent article on the Harvard Business Review website.

In a study, over 10,000 Army officers were tracked from their entrance into West Point until well into their careers. The findings were surprising. Read the following paragraph from the article:

 “As one might predict, we found that those with internal, intrinsic motives performed better than those with external, instrumental rationales for their service — a common finding in studies of motivation. We were surprised to find, however, that those with both internal and external rationales proved to be worse investments as leaders than those with fewer, but predominantly internal, motivations. Adding external motives didn’t make leaders perform better — additional motivations reduced the selection to top leadership by more than 20%.  Thus, external motivations, even atop strong internal motivations, were leadership poison.” [emphasis added]

“Motivating” leaders with external incentives is actually poison to a person’s development – interesting. Now read this paragraph:

“One of the longstanding dichotomies in the field of leader development is whether to teach leadership as skills that lead to higher performance (a competency-based model that is relatively easy to metric), or to teach leadership as a complex moral relationship between the leader and the led (a values-based model that is challenging to metric).  Our study demonstrates that those who lead primarily from values-based motivations, which are inherently internal, outperform those who lead with additional instrumental outcomes and rewards.” [emphasis added]

The bottom line is the internal “WHY” of leaders, their own internal motivation is what really matters. So, the logical conclusion to me is that the beginning of a leader development process in your organization is learning how to determine the people who have a strong internal motivation to lead and are not motivated by extrinsic rewards. I like the summary statement of the article:

“If you aspire to lead in business or society, first ask yourself, ‘Why do I want to be a leader?’ The answer to that question, as it turns out, will make a significant difference in how well you lead.”

So, what is motivating you to lead? What is your WHY?


conjuring up motivation – doesn’t work

remote_frontGood Monday morning to you on this Christmas week! What a thrill it is to celebrate that wonderful and beautiful mystery of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Sunday afternoon I finished the book Remote, Office Not Required. It’s an excellent book.Towards the end of the book I found the following quotes which go along with what I have observed over the years:

“Trying to conjure motivation by means of rewards or threats is terribly ineffective. In fact, it’s downright counterproductive.

Rather, the only reliable way to muster motivation is by encouraging people to work on the stuff they like and care about, with people they like and care about. There are no shortcuts. . .

So instead of trying to treat motivation as something that can be artificially ginned up with just the right tricks, treat it as a barometer of the quality of work and the work environment. If a worker’s motivation is slumping, it’s probably because the work is weakly defined or appears pointless, . . . ” [emphasis added]

So, the question is – are you [we] trying to “motivate” people through gimmicks or tricks or are we working to give them meaningful work? The key is to look at the work through their eyes – not yours.

Have a blessed day!

praise or criticism – which is more effective?

pink flower - Lauren JUL 2013Good Monday morning to you! It was a spectacular day here in NE Indiana yesterday!! I hope you have a great week ahead. I am excited as I get to travel to Nacogdoches, TX this Friday and spend some time with the leadership of Fredonia Hill Baptist Church.

In a recent LinkedIn article entitled “Praise or Criticism: Which is better?” the author, Charles Duhigg, contends that criticism is a much more powerful motivator that praise. Actually, it is not really criticism that is more powerful, it is the fear of failure or embarrassment that he says is powerful – “And yet, we also know that fear of failure is one of the greatest motivators – and that failure is only real when it is accompanied by consequences like getting dressed down in front of 433,999 of your peers.

Is that really true? Is criticism really that much more powerful than praise? Actually, it seems the question is, is fear the best motivator? Probably for the short-term – probably not for the long-term and especially not for retention of high quality talent. Who really wants to spend most of their time at work being “motivated” on a regular basis by the fear of criticism and/or failure?

Maybe the real issue lies in another statement he makes,”. . . we love to receive praise, but usually we’re not certain what message, precisely, we should take from it. On the other hand, when someone points out our flaws, we realize immediately that something needs to change.” Note the difference – praise tends to be general and nonspecific while criticism is specific and therefore actionable.

In her book Mindset, Carol Dweck points out how we often tend to praise someone’s attributes instead of their behaviors which can result in unhealthy behaviors later. For example, your daughter comes home from school with an excellent grade on her test. We will often say things like “Great job, you are so smart!“. Sounds nice right? The problem is the child will then be concerned with “being smart” and then often later will actually avoid difficult situations where she could fail and thus prove she’s not smart. However, if you were to say something along the lines of “Well done! You were so diligent in studying and preparing for this test and you didn’t give up even when you first could not understand the concepts!” Now you are reinforcing a behavior – one that focuses on them being diligent and not giving up versus simply being smart. You are reinforcing behaviors that will serve them well in all areas of life.

The same holds true in the workplace. We will say things like “great job on that report!”. Well, what does that really mean to the person hearing that remark? For a short bit, they feel good, but how does it reinforce the behaviors you want in your organization? Maybe you say something more like, “Great job on that report, I especially appreciate your attention to detail and your thorough research as evidenced by the number of references you included. Those things give so much more credibility and reflect our core value of excellence.” Here you are reinforcing a specific set of behaviors that are important to your organization instead of just a vague pat on the back.

We need to be both Affirmed and Challenged. Both are important as we lead others and both are important for us as leaders. Incorrect behaviors need to be challenged and good behaviors need to be reinforced. The key is that the affirmation or challenge be specific so that people know what to do with it.

What do you think? What is more powerful? What is the place of praise and criticism in the workplace?

Blessings on your week!

How Do I Fit Here?

Good Monday morning to you! This weekend a good friend of mine posted on Facebook his opinion that naps ought to be a required part of the first week of daylight savings time. After getting up this morning with my body clock at odds with my alarm clock I think he may be on to something.

How important is it for you to know how you fit within your organization? Does it help you to have clarity regarding how your role The Four Obsessionsadvances the mission of your organization? Does it help you to know just how it is that you add value to your organization?

For most of us, it does matter. We don’t want to just be a cog in a large machine. Most of us want to do things that matter and we want to know just how it is that we advance the mission of our organization. And so do the people we lead.

Creating clarity is a key role of a leader. A particularly important area where we need to create clarity is just how the people we lead contribute to the overall mission of our organizations. They need to know that what they do is valuable and they need to know how and why it is valuable. You need to be able to “connect the dots” for them from what they do to the overall mission. This is a hugely important aspect of a leader’s role that is often overlooked. Sometimes we even forget just how important the people are to the mission of the organization. (NOTE: Check out Patrick Lencioni’s book The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive for a good read on creating organizational clarity.)

So take time today and think about the people you have the privilege of leading and how vital they are to your organization (yes – even the ones that irritate you!) and then take the time to begin telling them just how they fit and how important they are to the organization.

Hope you have a great week and maybe you will have the opportunity to catch a couple of naps!

Praise is Powerful

One of my challenges is I tend to want to receive praise more than I give praise.  It seems that I am a tad self-centered! Which is not very smart as praise is powerful in encouraging people.

People need to hear when they are doing well.  They need to hear it from you – their leader.  So here are a few thoughts about how to praise and encourage your people:

– Do it personally, not by email.

– Do it now!  Make it as instant as possible.

– Be specific.  Tell them how what they did encourages you,

– Write a personal note to them – the key is write it, don’t type or email. (don’t worry if they can’t read your writing, the fact that you wrote it speaks volumes!)

– Publicly recognize their achievements.

– Have team meetings to celebrate successes.

The key is, personally recognize and praise the achievements of your people.  It is so easy and so powerful in encouraging people.  Don’t let self-centeredness or preoccupation get in the way of encouraging your people.  They need it – you need it.

Remember, Leaders are dealers in Hope!

Five Ways to Show Appreciation to Your Staff

Motivation is a topic about which much has been written.  Personally, I am one of those that believe that it is more effective to make sure you hire motivated people and then allow them to do their jobs than it is to try to motivate people who don’t care or no longer trust the organization.  One way we as leaders can help our people is to make sure that we are not de-motivating them! Often, we are the biggest problem with morale in the workplace.

One of the best ways to prevent people from becoming de-motivated is to make sure that you are expressing genuine appreciation for their work and for who they are as a person. While we all like to be appreciated by our co-laborers, it is the appreciation from our supervisors that means the most. We want to know that what we are dong matters.

In their book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, Paul White and Gary Chapman discuss five “languages” where you can communicate your appreciation for people. But of course you first must know your people!  Check out this earlier post on this aspect of leadership.  Once you know your people, you will know how best to show your appreciation.  The five languages White & Chapman discuss are:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Acts of Service
  4. Tangible Gifts
  5. Physical Touch

They go in depth on how to best apply these as well as dealing with the sensitive subject of appropriate touch in the workplace.  Go to their MBA (Managing by Appreciation) site and take the MBA assessment.  The book is excellent and well worth adding to your library!

Let you someone know how much you appreciate them today!

The Problem Isn’t Motivation, It’s Follow-Through

Good Friday morning to you. It has been an intense but fruitful week for us at here Life Action, but the result was me not being able to write much this week. We are launching the OneCry Initiative next month which is a nationwide effort and we had leaders in from across the country working out key strategic issues before the launch.

Just read an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review blog about how motivation Peter Bregmanis often not the problem with leaders who want to work on their growth, it is actually follow-through. The challenge is when we think it is motivation and we keep trying to convince ourselves in our minds to do something when we really need to stop the conversation in our head and just do something.

So make a specific decision and carry it through and when your mind starts to argue with you about it – ignore it. Getting back in shape is usually a big issue this time of year as many of us ate a tad too much over the last six weeks. In Peter Bregman’s article he makes the following suggestion of how to deal with this type situation using working out as an example:

1. Create an environment that supports your goal(s) – do things like have your workout clothes out and sitting next to your bed ready for you when you wake up.

2. Accountability – have an accoutability partner. This has worked wonderfully for my wife. She has another woman with whom she works out and they hold each other accountable as well as encourage one another.

3. Decide when and where you are going to work out and put it in your calendar.

4. Commit to a simple and very concrete plan that is simple to quantify.

5. Realize that the follow-through challenge will only last a few minutes – as soon as you have your workout clothes on and are headed to the gym, you will be fine. I have experienced this personally. The hard part is rolling out of bed, but once I do & have on my gym clothes I have no problem and am actually looking forward to the workout.

6. Discipline will carry you through at first, but then momentum will take over – especially as you start seeing progress towards meeting your goal.

These seem to be some good points that you could apply to many areas of your life. So, quit worrying about motivating yourself and begin taking specific steps in following through with what needs to be done to accomplish your goals.

Have a great weekend!

Do You “Push” or “Pull” Your Staff?

From Leading From The Heart by Dave Kraft:

“Experience has led me to believe that the success of any organization, church, or group is having high morale because people are motivated and glad to be working there. One of the skill sets that every leader needs to develop is motivating people to perform at their highest level of competency.”

According this post by Dave Kraft, there are two basic ways to motivate your people – you either “push” them or you “pull” them. One is much more effective than the other, but for some reason, many of us default to the least effective method.

Which method do you use?  Do you have examples of each and their impact on a staff?

Have a great weekend!