Five Beliefs that Erode Workplace Motivation, Part 2


My previous blog challenged you to complete five common statements related to motivation. It wasn’t much of a challenge. These beliefs are so deeply embedded in our collective psyche that they roll off the tongue. What is a challenge is to let go and replace these statements with beliefs that promote an optimally motivating workplace.

In Part 1, we flipped the first statement: It’s not personal, it is just business, became If it is business, it must be personal.

In this post we explore the second eroding belief: The purpose of business is to make money (a profit).

We will explore the other statements in upcoming posts.

  • We need to hold people ___________.
  • The only thing that really matters is _______.
  • If you cannot measure it, it _________ ________.

Your Beliefs Determine the Way You Lead

When you hold the belief that money is the purpose of business you are likely to over-emphasize results. You are apt to resort to pressure to motivate people to get those results. You may be tempted to employ questionable ethical practices. When given a choice, you might choose quantity over quality, short-term results over long-term results, and profits over people.

Consider how an alternative belief would generate a different approach to your leadership. How would your decisions and actions be different with the following statement?

The purpose of business is to serve.

Think how this reframed belief might alter your organization’s dashboard metrics—or at least the content and quality of the goals. How might reframing goals so they focus on internal as well as external service, quality of people’s efforts as well as the results of their efforts, or celebrating learning and growth in addition to accomplishments, change the way you lead day-to-day?

Hard-nosed businesspeople will push back on these ideas with a traditional argument, “You can serve all you want, but this soft stuff doesn’t make you money and if you don’t make a profit you will go out of business. Then you won’t be serving anyone.”

It is true that a business must make a profit to sustain itself. But it is an illogical leap to conclude that profit is therefore the purpose of business. You need air to live, plus water and food. But the purpose of your life is not to just breathe, eat, and drink. Your purpose is richer and more profound than basic survival. And the more noble your purpose and developed your values are, the more they influence how you live day-to-day. When you believe that the purpose of business is to serve, you lead differently. Your decisions and actions are more likely to cultivate a workplace that supports people’s optimal motivation.

The nature of human motivation is not in making money. It is in making meaning.

Ken Blanchard says, “Profit is the applause you receive for serving your customers’ needs.” I would add “and your people’s needs.” Research conducted by The Ken Blanchard Companies found definitive evidence that organizational vitality measured by ROI, earnings by share, access to venture capital, stock price, debt load and other financial indicators, is dependent on two factors: customer devotion and employee work passion[1]. It does not work the other way around—organizational vitality is not what determines customer devotion or employee work passion.

Leaders who focus on serving their customers’ needs and satisfying their people’s psychological needs will enjoy organizational vitality. The old sports analogy works equally well in business: Focusing on money and profit is like playing the game with your eye on the scoreboard instead of the ball. In business, service is the game you are playing. Keeping your eye focused on customer service and people development will result in scoring—both to the bottom line and in other more meaningful ways that sustain high performance over time.

Try this for the next month: Challenge the notion that the purpose of business is to make money. Try changing that outdated traditional belief to an Optimal Motivation belief: “The purpose of business is to serve—both your customers and your people. Money is a by-product of doing both of these things well.”

Watch how your people respond to your changed belief. Then notice the results and accept the well-earned applause.


About the author:

Susan Fowler is one of the principal authors—together with David Facer 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.


7 thoughts on “Five Beliefs that Erode Workplace Motivation, Part 2

  1. Pingback: The Purpose of a business should be to serve its customers and people. | Business Insights from Generation X

  2. Pingback: If You Are Holding People Accountable, Something Is Wrong (And it isn’t what you think.) | Blanchard LeaderChat

  3. Pingback: If You Cannot Measure It …Five beliefs that erode workplace motivation (Part 5) | Blanchard LeaderChat

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