Sunday, 17 April 2011

Motivation 101 - what is it, why do I crave it and how do I get it?

So today I've been reading around the subject of motivation. I'm mostly concerned about how I can get a better level of motivation from my team, but if I can learn the tools to motivate a few other people around me at the same time, so much the better!

What is motivation anyway? You cant touch it, you cant buy it (not directly anyhow) and you cant seem to train it in. For the purposes of this blog, when I say motivation, I mean passion, dedication, enthusiasm and all of those other words that in the workplace roughly translate as someone who enjoys their work and so goes the extra mile to make a really great job of it.


Why do I want this motivation? The answer is two-fold:
  1. I want my team to be the best team in the department, no company and through their rise to greatness, achieve some recognition for myself (and and easier more fun work life!)
  2. I want the best for them. I have to work with them every day and if they are miserable because they aren't motivated, then they'll crash me out too.
Now for the hard part, how do I get it from my people? In order to answer the question, we need to understand where it comes from. I haven't done primary research for this, so instead I'm going to lean heavily on this whitepaper by Kaisen Consulting (who have done the research!).

The good folks at Kaisen sent out 250 questionnaires asking people what made them feel good and bad at work. The assumption they make is that the good factors positively affect motivation, and the bad detract from it.

The first interesting finding they made was that 3 types of response stand out by some distance in terms of how many people said them:
  1. Achievement - Doing something that you feel is worthwhile.
  2. Working with others - this one fascinates me as I've seen a lot of people not wanting to work with others in my career
  3. Getting recognition for your achievements.
The Kaisen paper also tallies up the frequency of which people reported the bad things at work. Of these the top few were (in order):
  1. Negative experience with a colleague
  2. Lack of recognition
  3. Politics
  4. Stress
So, as a working theory, what if I were to try to add more of the good stuff into my team, and remove some of the bad stuff, would that increase the motivation I saw? Do I need to measure my people's motivation to be able to see if what I'm doing helps or hinders?

I don't have all the answers yet, but this is a marathon, not a sprint. Motivation is a work in progress for me and I'll share my learnings here.

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