Successful advisors are invariably self-motivated. But when we look to motivate our staff, we tend to forget that motivation comes from within.
Our instinct is to apply what Frederick Herzberg called KITA: a kick-in-the-a– approach. Over 30 years ago, in a classic Harvard Business Review article, he also told us KITA doesn’t really work. “If I kick you in the rear (physically or psychologically), who is motivated? I am motivated; you move! Negative KITA does not lead to motivation but to movement,” he warned.
Similarly, the positive form of KITA, which Ivan Pavlov applied in his experiments — offering rewards to stimulate a response from dogs — doesn’t really work because again you are supplying the motivation. To get more movement, you must supply more rewards.
“I can charge a person’s battery, and then recharge it, and recharge it again,” Herzberg writes. “But it is only when one has a generator of one’s own that we can talk about motivation. One then needs no outside stimulation. One wants to do it.”
But how do you install a generator in somebody else? How do you instill the same motivation in them that drives you?
The first step is to eliminate the barriers to motivation in your office. Ask your staff: “What can I do to make it easier and more enjoyable for you to accomplish your work?” Or, “what keeps you from being motivated around here?”
If you’re managing a team within a larger enterprise, many of the demotivators may be larger corporate policy. But getting the issues on the table and trying to change them, or alleviating the distress they prompt, can help to motivate staff. If you’re running your own office, the demotivators are probably practices you have encouraged or allowed to take hold over the years. It’s time to change.
Next, move on to the three Ps — praise, pride and purpose. Those are the positive sparks that may recharge an individual’s generator for a long time.
Praise lets staff know they are appreciated. It often seems awkward to give but we learn to praise our children naturally when they are young and should do it just as automatically with staff. Thank them regularly (and sincerely) for contributions at meetings or work you appreciate.
Pride is another great motivator, as Jon Katzenbach reminds us in his recent book Why Pride Matters More Than Money (Crown Business). What can you do to give people more pride in their work? How can you increase the sense of accomplishment, approval and camaraderie?
Give staff a sense of purpose by recognizing success. Ensure they want to reach higher by setting aspirations that touch the emotions. “Impossible dreams are a source of pride even though they remain unachievable. No one really expects the Marines to win every battle and save every life — but the impossible dream is the fundamental underpinning of motivation in the Corps,” Katzenbach notes.
As with the Marines, you also have to set a noble purpose that everyone can buy into. Having ecstatic clients is a noble purpose, but so might be having the most efficient or highest-producing or fastest-growing office.
I’d add another P (or double P, actually) — personal purpose. Find out what motivates each staff member personally, and try to encourage it in the workplace. At times, that means letting their personal purpose override yours.
Let’s say you and your marketing assistant disagree on which of two new target markets to attack. Which choice will lead to your assistant working harder and more enthusiastically? And is it worth that added motivation to give up on your own preferred selection?
It’s difficult to recharge somebody else’s generator. But understanding that principle and working steadily to eliminate demotivators as well as build a foundation for motivation will pay off over the long term.