Motivation and “Drive”

April 8, 2013 — Leave a comment

A little while ago I was reading the excellent book “Drive” by Dan Pink. If you’re a business leader or struggling to understand either yours or your staff’s motivation go out and buy it. Right. Now.

Motivation is something that has always struck me as something that isn’t well understood even about yourself personally, let alone those who you lead – it’s almost a black box and Dan Pink has done the best in bringing the principles behind it into an easily understandable format for all.

I think the most useful thing that I’ve learnt out of the book (and strategies I’ve employed subsequent to reading it) is that salary isn’t a primary motivation for the very vast majority of your staff as long as they feel they are earning enough to:

a) Meet all needs in their life adequately

b) Feel valued sufficiently salary wise in the organisation comparable to their peers

If you don’t take care of Points A and B in your salary packages for staff then realistically anything else you do culture or motivation wise just isn’t going to work.

But the main point of the book is that for most companies their setting of employee remuneration and motivation is fundamentally broken. To use Dan Pink’s 140 character twitter overview of his own book:

“Carrots & Sticks are so last Century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery and purpose.”

I think the really interesting part for me is that drawing on a blog post from a friend and mentor of mine – Mark Ilott – – Most incentive plans using traditional carrot and sticks approach are both easily gamed to an employees advantage and usually end in an individuals goals being not aligned with an organisations goals, a quite silly position to find ourselves in after hundreds of years of paying people for work!

So, what’s the solution?! What keeps staff engaged, employed (with you!), happy and productive? I can only speak for what I’ve read about and what I’ve seen inside of teams I’ve led.

Firstly, you have to pay a market competitive salary that ensures people can take care of their immediate life requirements. If your employees are working two jobs because they can’t make ends meet just working for you then it’s a fair bet that you aren’t getting the best out of your employees when they’re working at your job. The “working poor” is a reasonably new phenomenon, but is particularly prevalent in the USA where staff can actually be working 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet. It’s a very destructive way of living, but is forced upon people for whom a 40 hour job just doesn’t get them by due to a low wage not sufficient for living.

Second, monetary incentives are NOT the be all and end all – 99% of staff would prefer $2000 worth of training than an extra $2000 worth of salary.

BUT you don’t actually need to pay any more to get happy staff, as long as you remember the PAM principles.

Purpose: Your staff need to believe in a vision and buy into it, if you can’t inspire them with a cohesive vision that encompasses not just them, but their customers, community and other stakeholders you’re going to lose out to people that can. I liken it to Army soldiers, in World War 2 the vision was the ‘protection’ of the way of life and men worldwide went, placed themselves in terrible danger and fought for next to no pay, in a country where they knew no one and hundreds of thousands had died before them in the same place – they did that for the vision, they bought into the purpose. Alternatively, you could hire mercenaries who would go there but at what price? And would they stick out the journey? Or would they collect their cash and go? Are they interested in protecting the way of life (or the culture of your company) or simply collecting cash on their way to somewhere else where they’ll be paid more cash?

Mastery: There are very few people who don’t want to be better at what they do every day they do it. Improving yourself is one of the great things you can do for yourself that brings immense joy as you improve at a task (or a sport!). As someone who has never picked up an AFL ball until 4 weeks ago, I threw myself into joining a team to learn how to play and subsequently have spent hours improving my kicking game and practicing in preparation for my first game – it’s a very rewarding process getting better at something and giving your staff the opportunity and investment (both time and money) to do so is immensely valuable to them. Praise effort – not talent.

Autonomy: People want and need to choose their own destiny and to be supported in that process. Generally you’ll find that the people that are given the freedom to excel will do so, those that are constrained will never find their full potential. This is the crux of the 20% time that Google has – give people the ability to have some self determination and great things happen.

For myself personally, I’m very intrinsically motivated out of the box, whether I’m working for a lot of money, or none at all, I want to excel and believe I can make a difference, I also need to have the ability to self determine and I think most of the leaders I know feel the same way – it’s generally why you’re a leader in the first place – so why wouldn’t you give your staff the opportunity to have the same sort of intrinsic motivation? What’s the worst that could happen?




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