The intention of these articles is to provide you with five key aspects of motivation that will help you, and perhaps your team too, understand what motivating people is really all about. Each article will tackle a new aspect in five-part series.
In our last blog, we covered how motivation and staying motivated can improve our quality of life in a number of ways. In this article, we’ll be covering the third aspect of motivation: the way it enhances performance.
When it comes to performance, most managers and business leaders prioritise strategy and skills, neglecting the all-important third crucial ingredient: motivation. You can have direction and strategy, and you can have all the skills and knowledge in the world, but without motivation, it isn’t going to go very far. Think of it this way: in the first article of this series, we compared motivation to fuel. To extend the metaphor, we’re all like cars: engines that require physical fuel to keep us going, but also, as human beings with more complex needs, we also require emotional fuel. With strategy, we know where the car is going. With skills, we have some unique driving techniques that can help us steer through challenging weather conditions, for example. But without fuel, the car is still going to grind to a halt without progress.
Motivation and performance go hand in hand. Performance produces productivity, and productivity, if rightly applied, creates profitability. I believe that we should be in the business of motivation, first and foremost, to motivate people, because, as mentioned in the previous article, it enhances our quality of life: our ability to open and frank conversations, our self-insight into our needs, and our energy levels. However, the fact remains that we live in a world of business, and where profit is king, and it needs to be made clear that motivation is not just an airy fairy conceptual thing that’s “nice” for people: it creates cash.
The way it does this is by enhancing the productivity of every employee. According to the Pareto Principle, our best people will be four times more productive than our average staff, and sixteen times more productive than our worst performing employees! Isn’t that crazy? Some people are doing literally sixteen times the amount of work as others in the same job! However, with Motivational Maps, our solution is not to “fire” the less productive staff and hope we can replace them (or at least, certainly not as a first resort). Rather, it’s to see if we can’t improve their productivity by raising their motivation levels. This way, the improvement is exponential, and mitigates the high costs associated with redundancy, recruitment, and training.
But “profitability” is not something that appeals to the majority of people. Managers expect staff to get “excited” about turning a profit (which most staff will never see any benefit from, I might add), but the fact is, according to Maps, in a sample of over 5000 staff in 10 sectors, only 7.7% had money, or the Builder, as their number one motivator, whereas 40.8% had making a difference, or the Searcher as their number one. So, I would argue that managers and business owners should shift their language to talking about performance. Performance is the meeting point between the employee and employer, and hence why both parties should want it! We may want employees to be productive because we have sales deadlines or targets, but the reality is that it is far healthier for the employee themselves to want to perform to a high level for their own self-esteem. Motivation and self-esteem are both correlated to business performance, which in turn leads to productivity and profits. But motivation lies at the root of all these things, so if we don’t fix motivation, none of the other can follow. We have to address that first. Most businesses find this an alien concept. They try to address the profits first (normally by making redundancies or cost-cutting). But no, we have to tackle motivation first and foremost because it’s the first step in the chain.
How does this process work?
It works because when people are working in an environment, or completing tasks, that align with their motivators, they feel a sense of “rightness” and affinity. Most businesses ask employees to uphold the “principles” of the organisation, but rarely define clearly what those principles are, and worse yet, often are hypocritical and fail to embody them themselves. For example, they tell staff that they want them to be “accountable”, but whenever the organisation’s upper management do something wrong, it seems inevitable those working under them get the flack. Or, they want employees to “be in it for the love not the money” but precede to underpay the employees and overpay the management. This all may seem very obvious, but it is amazing how many organisations fail to uphold their own principles, or even accurately define them.
How does this connect with motivation?
Well, principles are ultimately connected, and stem from, values. And our values are determined by our deeper motivations. For example, if our principle is: “I always help people when I can”, that connects to a value of “looking out for others”, which may boil down to the Searcher (or even the Friend, but we’ll run with Searcher here) motivator: “Making a difference”. The Searcher motivator might express itself in a number of values. For example, I tend to find that people with high Searcher motivators are normally the ones who care about the environment and other major global issues – because that drive to “make a difference” scales. Now, imagine that someone with high Searcher, which we’ve established is all about helping others and making a difference, were working in retail, the fashion industry. Imagine they’re working at one of the businesses that has been exposed for utilising slave labour, and eco-unfriendly materials and production methods, to produce their clothes. Now, this is distressing for anyone with a conscience, don’t get me wrong, but people with other motivators in their top three will more easily be able to rationalise and detach from the situation. For example, they might say: “Well, it’s really bad the organisation is doing this, but I need the money, and at the end of the day, I am not responsible for this process, I just work on the shop floor. When I am able to move job, I will, but for now, I just need a revenue stream, and this doesn’t reflect who I am.” Of course, the thought pattern will likely not be as articulate and clear-cut as that, but you get the idea! However, for the Searcher, this would be much more difficult. Our value systems, and motivators, are buried very deep and in some way are a reflection of who we are (though they can change over time as we grow), so to go against the grain challenges us on a moral and ethical level.
We might find similar comparisons, with, for example, a high Creator motivator working for a bank. Banks are, by definition, not creative (except in that negative sense of creating rip-off products for their clients). They do not – or should not - take avoidable risks, and often have survived hundreds of years by “playing it safe”. For a Creator motivator, this is a living hell. Someone else in this scenario might be able to rationalise: “This is only temporary; I need the money. I’ll just commit to my hobbies outside of work hours.” But for the Creator, this will not work long term, because they are effectively trying to operate in an environment that is attacking their value system on a daily basis: very de-motivating to say the least!
But, when the reverse of all this is true, when we work in environments and with people that do align with our motivators, then we really can and do internalise the organisational value system as our own. For example, a Defender motivator – those who value security – might love working at a bank and take their cautionary approach to heart. Employees will live the values of the organisation if they are aligned. And when they do this, their productivity will soar, because they will be working on the organisation’s projects with the same passion and commitment they might work on their own hobbies.
Now, you may think, is this simply a lucky-dip then? Do we just have to find the right people that match the organisation and get rid of the rest? Well, not exactly. Though an organisation will have an overriding character and value-system, within a job-by-job basis, we can have variation and approaches targeted to the individual. For example, if the bank had a marketing department, and there was a Creator motivator within that, the language utilised around the Creator might be tailored: “You’re the most creative person in the building, we need you to make things interesting!” This might change the Creator’s viewpoint entirely. “Yes, I work for a company that isn’t very creative, but they value me because I bring something different to the team. I’m the wildcard!”
The acclaimed British director Christopher Nolan introduced the wider world to the concept of “inception”, of planting an idea in someone else’s mind. But even without sci-fi wizardry, we can achieve this. By feeding the motivations of others, we make them feel like the organisation is their own, and when people feel that way, they will perform to incredibly high levels. This performance in turn will lead to productivity.
So, the moral of the story is this: focus on performance, and on motivation; focus on putting fuel in the tank of the car. The profits will follow.
Tune in for further entries in this blog series to discover more about motivation!
Want to discover your motivators? You can also discover them yourself, or get close to it, by doing a few simple exercises. I have created a nine-part blog series Unlocking Motivation, to help take you through this process. It’s completely free, and will tell you a hell of a lot about the Maps and what they’re all about. To get started, you can go to part 1 here.
Alternatively, for a deeper dive into the language and metrics of motivation, as well as a Motivational Map code for a pin-point accurate motivational profile, you can buy Mapping Motivation: Unlocking The Key to Employee Energy and Engagement.