“Not looking out for the emotional well-being of our people hurts individuals and organizations in terms of increased illness, stress and disability claims—not to mention the opportunity losses of productivity and creativity,” explains motivation expert Susan Fowler.
Surprisingly, when Fowler talks with leaders about what is motivating them on their current tasks and responsibilities, people recognize right away that much of it falls into a Disinterested, External, or Imposed Motivational Outlook.
- A Disinterested Motivational Outlook is where you just don’t care, and you are going through the motions.
- An External Motivational Outlook is where people justify their actions for an external reward—money, incentives, power, or status.
- An Imposed Motivational Outlook is where behavior is driven by fear, shame, or guilt.
But that comes at a cost, especially when people realize the amount of emotional labor they have been using to constantly self-regulate—finding ways to avoid feelings of pressure, stress, anger, disappointment, guilt, or shame.
As Fowler explains, “We spend inordinate amounts of time just overcoming our feelings of being imposed upon, or just overcoming the emptiness that comes from external motivation. It’s like we are using all of our emotional labor on low-level tasks just to muck around with low-level motivation.
“That might help us cope but it’s not helping us experience the energy, vitality, or sense of positive well-being that comes with higher levels of motivational outlook. Those come from mindfulness, developed values, and a noble purpose, for example.”
The search for a higher quality of motivation
In the Optimal Motivation™ program that Fowler has created with her co-authors David Facer and Drea Zigarmi, the focus is on teaching people a way to have a higher quality of life where they don’t have to use as much emotional labor.
“If you have clarity on what you value—for example, a life purpose, or a work purpose—and if you understand what brings you joy and what you love to do, then you have a higher quality of life and well-being. You may still require some emotional labor from time to time to self-regulate, but it is emotional labor that you’re willing to do because you see how it is related to higher quality motivation.”
That’s important says Fowler because people driven primarily by external motivators don’t achieve the sustainable flourishing and positive sense of well-being that you get with higher levels of motivation.
Fowler explains that as a leader, you need to think beyond imposed and external motivators. How could you invite choice? How could you help people build relationships? How can you increase competence?
“You never want to be the one encouraging a person’s need for external rewards. Don’t settle for motivational models that try to find other ways to manipulate or trick people into giving more. Why not take the conversation to a different level? “
To read more of Fowler’s thinking on cultivating a motivating work environment, check out her interview in the June issue of Ignite!, Don’t Settle for Less When It Comes to Personal Motivation. You’ll also see information about a free webinar Fowler is conducting June 19 on The Business Case for Motivating Your Workforce. It’s complimentary, courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies.