To truly capture and define motivation and its parameters is difficult. The very nature of the word varies from person to person after all. So how can we tap into understanding individual motivation?
As a mother of four, I’d like to say that I’m an expert in discovering the tiny facets of motivation in everyday life. Suffice it to say, I’ve been on a mission of nurturing for ten years now and my kids have not run away from home yet. Score! But, I must admit that, despite my best efforts, I still stumble upon roadblocks constantly in my daily efforts to get my children motivated. Chores, homework, after school activities, faith enrichment, meals, exercise–you name it, I’ve surely worked all the angles imaginable to get my kids on board. And yet, everyday I learn more and more about how NOT to try and motivate my kids because its the raw end of a losing battle.
The truth is, motivation morphs and changes day to day, month to month, year to year. What convinced my toddler to eat peas one day, doesn’t work the next. The schemes to get my kids to practice vocabulary words get harder and harder to excite. Charts, lists, allowances, special privileges, and dozens of other tactics work here and there for a while, but end up backfiring or fading out. Rewards are finicky and never guarantee results. Consequences only frustrate. Acknowledgement and ego-boosting tend to help matters along quite nicely, but still I must confess that the motivation I seek for my family is as elusive as ever.
For me, motivation comes from self-competition. I have clear expectations and utilize this as my motivation in all that I do. My goal is to never fail (even though failure isn’t bad) or lose ground in comparison to my past performance and that, beyond anything else, is what gets me to the point of success. My oldest son is very similar. For weeks I’ve been begging him to begin his training for cross-country. I’ve given him many motivators. I gave him an iPod and new music to listen to. I told him I’d make his bed on the mornings he ran. I’ve made his favorite breakfast afterwards. I even told him we’d get him new running shoes. None of it worked. Then one day it dawned on me: perhaps the biggest reward for him is personal achievement. So, I asked him if he’d like to time his runs. Immediately, he said yes. Now, he gets excited for his daily timed trials. He loves the fact that he has the chance to beat his best time and continues to work hard toward increasing his pace and stamina.
In business, employee motivation is met with virtually the same dilemma. What works for one employee, may not work for another. And so the guessing game begins right? Wrong. More often than not, motivation is presented through one of three areas: money, rewards, or recognition. And this is perhaps where the problem with motivation in business starts. In any company, for any job, the parameters for reaching personal goals and/or office expectations does not stray far from the usual promises of bonuses, commission, promotion or even awkward office gimmicks. So where’s the motivation? How can we find what strikes the chord in employees? The answer is through communication.
To discover what sparks the drive in your employees, talk to them and learn what they want, what they strive for, what they need in order to be happy. As surprising as it may sound, not everyone is motivated by money. Sure, a raise is always nice, but a bigger paycheck doesn’t necessarily put at bay an employee’s desire for more. Talk to each of your team members and find out what their short-term and long-term goals are. What you’ll soon discover is that each of your employees has a different perspective and perhaps other ideas on how they can find happiness, satisfaction and ultimately, motivation in their job.