Sunday, March 30, 2014

Better Motivation Factor

95% of all managers get it wrong.

Recently, I was teaching a Six Sigma class. I was showing them different sessions from a video series I've used with teams so that they can understand the statistical techniques more thoroughly. It's a great series. The older version from 1989 starts out with a session describing how competition can hinder creativity. In a great sense, you might say that competition hinders performance. The host of that original series, Teresa Amabile, studies creativity. She's been studying it for decades.

In one of the newer sessions I showed the class, Teresa Amabile returns as a guest. She has updated new aspects of how we might improve creativity in our organizations, i.e. how we might increase performance. As shown in a recent book, she shows that performance increases when employees feel motivated. Okay, that's obvious, but then she explores what makes employees motivated. She (and her co-author) got volunteers in creative departments answer a survey about their day each day for years. As described in the video series, they had thousands of entries to analyze. They also had thousands of comments about memorable moments during those days. What seemed to separate the good, highly motivated days from bad days was the factor that motivated days had some bit of progress being made. There were also factors related to choice, content and collaboration, such as Alfie Kohn suggests, but to a lesser degree. The authors call this the progress principle: motivation increases when progress is made. Yet when the authors queried managers, they found that 95% managers paid no attention to the number one factor for motivation--ensuring that their staffs are making progress, even incremental.

I've promoted servant leadership where managers are there to make sure their employees succeed, so that the organization succeeds. Also, I've changed performance appraisal systems where part of the process is a review of the manager's 'assistance' with a question that solicits how the manager can help the employee, or get out of the way (i.e. hinder them less). I also believe that most employees want to go home at the end of the day knowing they've made a contribution to their own and the organization's success. Managers are key to helping them.

What are you doing today to make others make progress on their work?

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