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February 2010

THINKING ABOUT POLITICS AND MOTIVATION

If ever there was a time when politics needed motivation, then it is now! Politicians themselves need motivation, given the amount of abuse heaped on them. People need to be motivated by politicians if we are going to have a healthy democracy. And finally, we want policies that motivate us too.

 

Motivation is a little understood art judging by performance, but what about science? We at Motivational Maps have recently had the opportunity to work with a fair number of elected politicians across the political spectrum, certainly all major political parties, at Council and Ward level, and including some pretty senior Mayors and leaders. What have we found?

 

First, in four training sessions in the Midlands and the North I delivered leadership and motivational training to a total of 53 elected representatives. Each one of them completed a ‘motivational map’, which gave two sorts of information: firstly, as a percentage score, how motivated were local politicians? Second, what were their top three motivators in their role?

 

The aggregated results of all 53 councillors makes fascinating reading. First, 53 councillors are on average 70% motivated, which is a refreshingly high score. Ideally we want people to be at 80% or more – the so-called ‘zone’ of high energy – but 70% as an average suggests they are currently firing up on all cylinders! Is this the election effect? What will their motivational score be once the election is done – and they achieve the result they want, or alternatively, they fail? Slumps in energy may have disastrous effects on their wards.

 

More important in the science of motivation, however, than how motivated they are, is what motivates them. The rank order of all nine motivators from top to bottom for these councillors are: Searcher (1), Spirit (2), Creator (3), Director (4), Expert (5), Star (6), Defender (7), Builder (8), and Friend (9). This of course is just the jargon: what does it mean?

 

Councillors in this sample are motivated primarily by the (1) need to make a difference; (2) the need for autonomy; and (3) the need to innovate or change. Following those three imperatives, they want – power and control (4), expertise and mastery (5), recognition and social esteem (6); and flagging up the rear end, they need security (7), money (8), and belonging (9). The implications of all this for their functioning as councillors is quite profound.

 

The first observation is that the top three motivators are what we call Growth or Self motivators – they represent the top of the Maslow Hierarchy – people in search of self-actualisation. That sound good? Yes, but – this is an ideal ‘consultancy’ profile; in the world of business where we use this tool, we find that the combination of Searcher-Spirit-Creator is a classic ‘consultant’ profile. By their very nature, then, these are not team players, may prove difficult and awkward to manage, and may not be so good at skills where other motivators prevail.  For example, the Director motivator is fourth – this is the motivation to take control of people and resources.

 

Further, these motivators are ‘fast’ – people with them tend to make snap and intuitive judgements. Interestingly, Expert as a motivator – the desire for mastery and understanding of a topic is exactly fifth, or half way, in the list. To be motivated by expertise, by definition, means one goes slower – acquiring true expertise is always a slow process. So, making snap decisions can be useful, can be effective, but invariably needs to be balanced by other ‘voices’ who consider more of the facts.

 

Another small point is what Hertzberg called ‘hygiene factors’ – in this case, the lowest motivator is ‘Friend’ – the need for belonging, friendship, involvement. My point here is simply this: politicians spend a lot of time going on about forming communities and how important they are, but we can bang on all we want about that as a topic, but if at a deep level one is not oneself really motivated by such a concept, then – in our experience – the skill and knowledge set fails because the motivation is not really there. At the end of the day we promote something without much energy; for energy with a direction is exactly what motivation is.

 

Perhaps gratifyingly, and bearing in mind all motivators are equal, so no motivator should be despised because it happens not to be ours, Builder – the motivator for money – is second lowest. Given the expenses scandal, it is a relief to find that 53 councillors have decided to run for public office not for the money involved, but for the difference they can make – the Searcher! Now, that is good news.


MOTIVATION AND SIR ANDREW AGUECHEEK

It’s a well known fact: Shakespeare writes great plays. Many books have been written explaining why his plays are great, as if an explanation were needed: the truth is people like going to see them, and have done for four hundred years or more. But that does require some explanation, surely?

I don’t dispute all the ingenious reasons given: the brilliant plotting, the imaginative characters, the amazing language, the deep themes, and so on and so forth. Here’s one more contribution to the genre: take one line of Shakespeare and feel the genius!

I especially love the one line of Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night. The context is a riotous drunken party that is interrupted by Malvolio. Maria outlines her plan to ridicule and humiliate Malvolio; Sir Toby Belch, who is having a relationship with her, comments she adores him; and at this point we need to understand that Sir Andrew is a fool, a dupe, a gull – in short, an idiot who is totally manipulated, at great loss to his income, by Sir Toby.

On hearing Sir Toby say that Maria adores him, Sir Andrew is given one line: “I was adored once too.” This is – as the play is a comedy – very funny: we become immediately aware of how preposterous it is that someone as clownish as Sir Andrew could be adored. Simultaneously, we feel a completely different emotion: “I was adored once too” – we feel the yearning to be loved – the need of everyone to have love, and the desperate awareness of how unlikely this is in his case. From a joke to the butt of jokes Sir Andrew – for a small moment – attains a full roundedness of character – and we feel for him, even though we laugh.

What is this, then? It’s Shakespeare’s ability to reach – even in the most unlikely character – into the human heart and reveal it. And what is in that heart – so often, and here in Sir Andrew in particular?

In Bhuddism it sometimes seems that the stuff that is the universe is also the same as the power which drives it. They call it: compassion. Compassion is the energy which drives all the miracles of the universe and life.

We feel compassion for Sir Andrew in that moment. And because that’s an energy, it’s motivating – we want, except we can’t of course as spectators, to help him. But the motivation is good and purifying. This is why Shakespeare’s plays are spectacularly awesome: their effect on us is to increase our compassion for life. They go with the grain of life, the grain of the universe – they help to heal us of our selfishness.

So next time you feel down, motivate yourself by remembering: you were adored once too!

James


THE ROOT OF MOTIVATION AND PERFORMANCE

Every one wants to perform, except those who self-sabotage. They self-sabotage because their conscious minds want to succeed, but another programme deep within does not, and – critically – does not really believe that they can.

 

Why is performance so important? Because we are all being judged by everybody else every minute of the day on how we perform in every area of our life. Worse, we are being judged by ourselves. The truth is: all the rewards in life are correlated to how we perform, certainly in the long run, although the correlation is not as straightforward as many believe or would like.

 

At Motivational Maps we have a simple, three stand model to explain the key elements of performance. They are: first, Direction. In terms of the organisation the posh word for Direction is Strategy; in terms of the individual it is probably career. No matter what else you have going for you, if you are going against the grain of your own being, then you are not likely to succeed.

 

Second is what we call Skill, by which we mean both skills and knowledge, and would accept other phrases like competency. It’s the ability to be able to know and do – this makes us efficacious – and has a direct bearing on our self=esteem. Organisations have TNAs – Training Need Analyses – to uncover what skills and knowledge their staff are going to need to be effective and to compete in the market place. Young people go through a process called ‘education’ in order to establish a knowledge and skills base to set them up for their futures.

 

Finally, the third and least understood component of performance is motivation, the area Motivational Maps specialises in. So let us go back one further step and ask: if motivation is at the root of performance, what is at the root of motivation?

And again, there are three components.

 

Briefly, motivation derives from three core aspects of our internal configuration: our personality, our self-concept, and our expectations. I would like to comment on the last two. For our self-concept boils down, basically, to our beliefs about our self; and our expectations boil down, basically, to our beliefs about future outcomes. Put another way, our motivation is critically linked to our internally focused beliefs, and our externally focused beliefs. In short, our beliefs per se play a staggering role in our motivations or lack thereof.

 

Thus it is that if we want to improve our performance in any area we need to consider what we believe about self and about the external environment in which we operate. It is no accident that the word ‘confidence’ comes from the Latin root, con-meaning with and fidence-meaning faith, so ‘with faith’, or ‘with belief’ underpins all motivation, all performance, and so all achievement.

 

The question, then, we have is: how as coaches, mentors, consultants, leaders, managers and so on, can we effectively change our beliefs, internally and externally, to create optimum performance?

 

The irony cannot be lost: to achieve the results we want in the real world, we have to enter the nebulous realm of un-being – belief!

James