Three Elements That Sustain Motivation

We all have extrinsic motivators in the work place.  I know that if I want to get paid and keep my job I need to do the tasks that are assigned to me.  There is a big difference though, between just getting something done and being intrinsically motivated to perform that task to the best of my ability or to work toward achieving mastery.  According to Daisy Yuhas in the article, “Three Critical Elements Sustain Motivation”  there are three factors that have been found to impact motivation:

1) Autonomy

The perception of autonomy leads to feelings of control.  When we feel that we have a choice about the tasks we do we are more likely to be persistent and expend more energy in pursuit of our goal.  In a project situation, the way in which team members are engaged in the process can have a big impact on feelings of control.  For instance, during the SCRUM process if team members have chosen post-its off of the task board and put their names on them, they will feel much more autonomous than if a project schedule was handed to them with their name by a task.  Even if they were the only one on the team who could have performed the task, it still feels like a choice if they call it out and claim it as their own.

2) Value

When we value the task or goal related to the activity we are more likely to pursue it.  I know that I feel more engaged in tasks that I feel really add benefit to a project or to tasks that help me to grow in mastery. From a value perspective this is because I believe in being a contributing member to the betterment of society and I also believe strongly in continually pursuing growth, expertise and mastery.  If tasks assigned to employees can be framed in a way that touches on that employee’s values and they can see the benefit of it, they are more likely to be motivated to do it.

3) Competence

The more ability we have in doing a task the more we tend to enjoy it.  This is especially true if we believe that hard work, rather than talent,  leads to mastery and excellence.  When I am first learning a new skill, such as learning a new instrument, I am eager to practice because I’m buoyed by the excitement of trying something new.  After a few sessions however I find that making myself sit down to practice is difficult because the initial excitement has worn off and my competence level is low.  Constantly making mistakes is frustrating.  If I persist in practicing however my competence grows and I garner enjoyment from playing that instrument.  This experience illustrates the idea that increased competence when performing an activity increases enjoyment, which in turn increases motivation.  On a team, a manager may be able to increase a team members motivation by helping them to gain more competence though increased training and mentor-ship or by assigning them tasks where they have a high level of competency.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful.  What factors do you find help you maintain motivation on your team?  Please leave me a comment and let me know.

Agreeableness and Success

I think that when it comes to the work place I might be in the minority because even though I like my co-workers to be agreeable, I’d almost take competence to agreeableness.  I like to have a good discussion about the pros and cons of various ways to proceed on projects and I get frustrated when these important discussions don’t happen because the group prefers being easy to being good.  Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t like working with someone who is negative and/or nasty.  I just don’t value being agreeable over all other traits.   For this reason it did not surprise me when the article “When Nice Guys Finish First” by Daisy Grewal confirmed that while most employers prefer to hire agreeable employees those same employees are less likely to get promoted and tend to make less over all.  Of course this result may stem from the agreeable person’s orientation to good relationships, which seem to have a positive impact on the quality of their lives as,  “Findings from the field of personal psychology suggest that nice people tend to have stronger relationships, better health, and superior performance at school and on the job.”

In spite of these genuinely good life outcomes for the agreeable the advice in the article is that the nice guys (and girls) should use more assertive language and project confident body posture.  I honestly don’t know that I agree with the wisdom of trying to change others perceptions by focusing on posture and wording.  For while this may be a fun exercise I think that our posture unconsciously gives us away and that these signals developed naturally for a reason.  Our posture is a form of communication that accurately depicts us as we truly are and trying to artificially “make expansive gestures”, as the article suggests may backfire and cause a person to come across as unnatural or as giving mixed signals.  The more I read about how a person is supposed to change one aspect of their behavior in order to communicate that they are something they are not, the more I think that the place to truly change these attributes is to begin with your internal mental space and not the external representation of that space.

Personally, I am trying to develop myself as both agreeable but also willing to be assertive on improvement and quality of work.  I think that encouraging a team to challenge each other in a constructive and professional way is the only method that will get a team to truly function at a high level.  Without that level of challenge a team will be content to coast along at a happy mediocre consensus.  I think that this ability for a team to both be agreeable, yet willing to host dissent, comes from a corporate culture that encourages trust as well as setting up the team with the expectation that they will effectively engage in creative conflict.

There is my opinion then on agreeableness.  It is an important characteristic that need not limit a person’s success, but not because of artificial attempts at aggressive posturing.  Instead I think it is important to realize that challenges can be fun and a growth experience for everyone if the challenges are made in the right way and there is trust among team members.

Anyone disagree with this?  Is that an odd challenge to throw out to the ultra-agreeable of us out there?