When Play Becomes Work
A fascinating article by Shankar Vedantam in the Washington Post (28/7/08) -http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/27/AR2008072701440.html?nav=rss_opinion/columns
- makes the point that rewards and punishments have replaced people’s intrinsic motivations; correspondingly, the effect has been counterproductive: namely, people become less motivated as a result of these rewards and punishments.
The article concludes that people (employers, parents, and just about everybody else) employ rewards and punishments liberally because … "People like it because it is easy, Deci said. It is easy to offer a reward, but it is not easy to help people find their own motivation."
This seems to me a profound observation and one that is at the root of so much management malaise: one size fits all. So we have cultures that major on rewarding by money or by status, or alternatively gain acquiescence through fear of punishment. The basic and possibly unexamined assumption must be that anyone joining such an organisation or culture seeks precisely that carrot or stick option to maintain their motivation. The reality of course – in terms of outcomes – is very different.
The truth is: motivation is like a language – if you go to France
Therefore, the real question is: how do we discover what motivates each individual? One way would be to listen to the flatulent harpings on of managers who’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and will tell you unequivocally: they know their people. Interestingly, over 90% of these same managers fail to actually predict their own top three motivators! Equally, parents claim the same about their kids – we know what motivates our children! But you wouldn’t think so, would you, when you speak to those same employees and kids once they have left the influence zone?
Just as we have a language(s) to measure personality, we need a language and a metric to measure motivation, so that managers and parents need no longer guess. Such a language has been created – Motivational Maps® - and a short, condensed, inexpensive version of it is available as the Personal Motivational Profile: http://www.motivationalmaps.com/personal-motivation-profile.asp
This will tell you or anybody else what your top 3 motivators are (the full Map will list 9 in order of priority, and give a percentage motivational score). But here’s the thing that’s really interesting in the light of Deci’s comments: motivation isn’t easy. For one thing, it changes over time, sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly. This means that unlike personality profiles, which tend to be constant, motivation needs to be monitored.
If before we said it was like a language, now we claim it is like a muscle: you exercise it and it can grow and change. Of course, exercise can be hard work – and we all want to avoid that. It is enough for most of us that we are focused on organisational goals; the idea that we have to discover and speak the appropriate motivational ‘language’ for all our colleagues is too exhausting to contemplate. We pay them enough, don’t we?
However, for those who wish to be really effective, as well as gifted communicators, this is the route to go down – the new route – the route that a new language of motivation opens up.