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Practical Motivation - Back to Basics

By: David A. Goldsmith

Motivational Essentially, to motivate a piece of equipment to operate, you need to give it the proper source of energy and to push the start button. If only people were so easy. Authors like Bob Nelson, in "1001 Ways To Reward Employees," provides ideas and techniques that firms have successfully used to motive employees to perform better on the job. This process appears to be a tactical approach, suppling ideas that we can then use in another form, but it does not answer the question of how we actually motivate?

If everyone reading supplied an answer to a similar question, "How am I motivated?", we would get thousands of different answers, each being correct. There is no start button for people, or is there? Here is a more theoretical approach to the never-ending saga.

The person who sits at a desk all day, works on an assembly line or even is responsible for 10's of thousands of employees is motivated by something. One may say that some of the drive is learned, some believe it is natural--genetics. To many, this is more confusing than helpful since most people do not have degrees in psychology or take the time to learn about individuals' behaviors in organizations.

Let's break the confusion by changing the picture. Imagine putting a small, concealed video camera on the worker and taking them away from the work environment. One might see this same person leave work, jump in to a meticulously cleaned car and head home to spend 7 hours in their basement building furniture or even putting together detailed computers. That same person who's added no value to a meeting, EVER!!!, leaves the office to run the local Girl Scouts chapter or manage a sports team. It's like back in high school. Remember the days when we would sit at our desks waiting with drooping eyes for 3:00, and at the bang of the bell, everyone would run out into the hallways and with a burst of excitement head off for a job, school sports or to practice music lessons.

We are all motivated. To have to understand if the reason that we do what we do is cultural seems irrelevant to many. Yes, we are motivated by the parenting or lack of parenting our society gives us. Some more than others to achieve business acumen. If we existed in the forests of the Amazon, we would be hard pressed to believe that we would dream of having a Nintendo game or a house with carpeting or central air, or even more extreme, a private limousine and helipad in our back yard. What we need to realize is that if we are not tapping into the dreams, pleasures and values of the individual sitting in the chair next to us we will not be able to motivate them as we otherwise could.

Some thoughts:
1. Get to know what makes people tick. (Hobbies, interests, skills outside of work..look at their resume.)
2. Develop a vision (or whatever you call it) that encompasses the best skills and traits of the team.
3. Motivate through action. When other see everyone "kicking in," it's easier to participate.
4. Make some aspects of work fun. (How do you do that? ...If your staff is competitive, have them compete against another group or internally.)
5. People love recognition but in different ways. Some like the plaque or trophy, while others thrive on a listing in the company newsletter. Others may want no recognition except a pat on the back and/or a pay increase that fits their perceived value.
6. Stop being so important to yourself. Be the person at home sometimes so that others see that you, too, are human. (If you scream and yell at home, skip this one.)
7. Take a course in something that challenges you. Learning to play the violin, one of the most difficult instruments to learn, brings you to the humble realization that not everything comes easy.

As we are yet to have to teach robots and AI (Artificial Intelligence) to be motivated, we will always be left with the realization that in a complex world with people of all sizes, shapes, colors and backgrounds there will never be a perfect answer. Capturing these diverse characteristics and making them work for your staff, your company and you is the objective. In the end, human nature, individual interests and shared objectives give us the skills to congregate and survive.

David and Lorrie Goldsmith are managing partners of a firm that offers consulting and speaking services internationally. David was named by Successful Meetings Magazine as one of the 26 Hottest Speakers in the Industry. More information at http://www.keynoteresource.com/
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