A client asked me yesterday, “Why are you so interested in writing about optimal and suboptimal motivation? All managers care about is productivity, accountability, and results—isn’t it like pushing water uphill with a toothpick,” he asked.
Beyond absolutely loving that visual, the question really caught me. How often to do you hear someone ask you why you do what you do?
My “whys” are straightforward.
First, I think all employees, from today’s new hires to the most seasoned top execs, long for a more fulfilling work experience than they have. Most can’t, or won’t, say it like that—not in such blatant terms. But their words, body language, mental and physical exhaustion, dry business approach, and chronic complaints about other people (seldom about themselves, of course) offer some evidence of this assertion.
Second, the need is widespread. I have never had less than one individual from a consulting, coaching, or training program in any organization come up and tell me during or afterwards, “You need to get my boss to learn this stuff.” They explain that the motivational culture they currently work in consists mostly of pressure and demands for ever greater accountability.
My third reason is the most potent of them all. It helps make the entire world a better place. In essence, this is optimal motivation as moral agent. Huh? Moral agent? Well, I believe people long to do good work. They long to be part of organizational cultures that are psychologically healthy, intellectually vibrant, and purposefully productive. Motivation research shows we thrive with such vitality and well-being. And don’t you think employees also have a right to it, too?
In the end, my biggest why is that enriching the work environment by teaching others how to leverage the most up-to-date science of motivation in practical ways is the morally right thing to do. It’s one small action that offers the fresh possibility of making life more fulfilling for everyone.
When asked how well the traditional mantras of, “Results, results, results!” and, “People need to be held accountable,” helps them thrive at work, most employees report, “They don’t—not really.” We have enough old approaches like that. Instead, what we need now is actionable individual, interpersonal, and systems-focused tools that help all employees—individual contributors and management alike—to rejuvenate their stale and pressure-filled work environments. We need psychologically healthy ways to bring employees alive, and to make work—and our entire lives—better.
About the author:
The Motivation Guy (also known as Dr. David Facer) is one of the principal authors—together with Susan Fowler and Drea Zigarmi—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new Optimal Motivation process and workshop. Their posts appear on the first and third Monday of each month.