Motivation expert Susan Fowler believes that leaders are spending too much time trying to fix disengagement after it occurs instead of questioning the approaches to motivation that may have led to it in the first place.
In a new article, Missing the Point on Motivation, Fowler stresses not to wait until people have become disengaged before taking action. Instead, begin at the source of people’s engagement journey.
She explains that people are always appraising their workplace and coming to conclusions on whether they feel safe, positive, and optimistic about the environment, or threatened, unsure, or fearful. These appraisals lead to conclusions about well-being, intentions, and subsequent behavior.
“A leader’s role is to help people manage their appraisal process now so that people get on the path to employee work passion rather than the road to disengagement,” says Fowler. “Every day is an opportunity for leaders to help individuals shift their motivational outlooks. Day-to-day motivation holds the key to long-term engagement.”
According to Fowler, a primary reason engagement initiatives haven’t been as successful as hoped is that leaders do not understand the role motivation plays in the engagement process. That, and the outdated beliefs leaders have about motivation.
“I think many leaders are afraid of changing traditional methods of motivation because they are worried about how people might react,” explains Fowler. “However, our experience has been that when leaders are exposed to proven best practices and develop skills to use them, they are more inclined to move outside their comfort zone and try an alternative approach.”
Guidelines for Getting Started
For leaders ready to try a new approach, Fowler recommends finding ways of satisfying deeper psychological needs and focusing in six key areas.
- Encourage autonomy. Give people options. Even when you are discussing deadlines, frame them as useful information for achieving important goals rather than ways for applying pressure.
- Deepen relatedness. Appreciate the vital role emotions and feelings play in creating connection. This interconnectedness is something we all long for.
- Develop people’s competence. At the end of the day, it’s not just about what a person accomplishes; it’s also about what they are learning and how they are growing.
- Promote mindfulness. Prompt awareness of options that a person may not have considered. Ask open-ended questions to help individuals see options and rise above old, unhelpful patterns of behavior.
- Align with values. Help others align their work to meaningful values that generate positive energy, vitality, and sense of well-being.
- Connect to purpose. Few things in life are more powerful than acting from a noble purpose.
The quality of people’s day-to-day motivation is the source for the quality of their engagement. For best results, intervene earlier and use more effective and enduring approaches to motivation. You’ll be surprised at the impact you can have as a leader when you meet deeper and more satisfying needs.
To read more about Fowler’s approach to motivation, be sure to check out Missing the Point on Motivation. You can also learn more via a free, online Leadership Livecast Fowler is hosting on Motivating People Doesn’t Work … What Does? The online event is free, courtesy of The Ken Blanchard Companies.