Motivation – Support and faith in their ability

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Motivation – Support and faith in their ability. As managers, and hopefully leaders we’re defined by the accomplishments of others. We know that people work best when they want to accomplish things. We’re at our best when we help others foster that inner urge to do things. Our share, as managers, in their self-motivation is providing the understanding, support and faith in their ability. We’re also charged with establishing and maintaining an environment that encourages motivation. We never lose sight of the fact that actual motivation comes from within the person. We realize the some people are more motivated than others. Some come from miss-managed environments that kill motivation. Past experiences that left them discouraged and feeling undervalued. Frequently, such people are cynical and lack motivation. Don’t give up on those that exhibit those traits. The potential may still exist provided the atmosphere is conducive to growth. Counteracting experience can offset the past, words alone can’t. To give up on an individual to soon is a reflection on our own lack of managerial knowledge and ability. Some of our greatest accomplishments as managers can be in helping poorly motivated workers become more productive. There are also supervisory problems associated with the highly motivated. They tend to overwhelm others due to the inner urge to reach their own goals. They’re likely to be impatient with fellow workers, whom they view as slow and lazy. Working on their ego to get them to utilize some of their drive to help others in the group can be a challenge, but it’s worth the effort. Most important is the realization that each person is different and must be treated as an individual. Each needs the manager’s understanding, patience and assistance.

A successful manager requires more than a good program and work process expertise. They also need full cooperation from those they supervise as well as upper management. Many activities fail to get good results due to a failure to get employees fully committed. Understanding and utilizing motivation is giant step toward selling employees on the value of team work and dedication. So what motivates people? People are prompted to, or moved to action by several kinds of inner drive or stimuli. Fear of reprimand, loss of pay, or loss of job etc. is one kind. A negative or destructive variety. Desire to accomplish, satisfaction in quality achievement, commitment to an end etc. are positive constructive varieties. It’s important to understand the ways of helping different people become motivated in a positive manner. All human behavior is caused by a person’s needs. A person’s needs can be divided into a couple of basic groups, physical or physiological needs and psychological needs. Physiological needs include health, food, drink, sleep, shelter etc. Psychological needs include social activity, family, friends, reputation, feelings of worth recognition etc.

Satisfying the physical needs in a modern society has become relatively easy. Meeting psychological needs is a huge challenge. Psychological needs are less distinct than physical needs because they are of the mind and spirit.  As managers we focus on the psychological needs. About half of one’s waking hours are spent at work. The environment you create has an immense effect on the employee. Respect for people as individuals and recognition of their individual abilities and aspirations are major factors in creating a work environment conducive to high motivation. Most people have a real need for growth, achievement, responsibility and recognition. Psychologists suggest that every individual has some inherent desire to develop their talents. Psychological growth can continue throughout life. Everyone has pride in their ability and likes to be identified with the value or their results. The need to take responsibility and to be recognized for accomplishment also exists in everyone. Obviously, some feel these needs more or less than others but all need to be acknowledged. Not everyone needs to be praised but should be when it’s been earned.

We manage real people, each of whom is different. Our priorities should vary a bit from person to person and due to circumstances. We’re only talking about slight changes so never apply a ridged, one size fits all approach. Each person must be given unique consideration within the general framework of human needs. We must realize that several basic needs effect a person simultaneously. Needs effect feelings and emotions which often eclipse logic and reasoning. Good managers balance the interaction of needs, physical conditions, beliefs, emotions and the external circumstances of the work situation. We previously mentioned communication. It’s a major tool and effects every aspect of human relationships and management. It is the tool of which all other tools and techniques depend. What we say, and what we do as mangers must be consistent. Consistency forms the credibility that motivation is built on.

The greatest challenge facing us in our role as manger is to build and maintain an atmosphere in the group or team conducive to high motivation. An unmotivated group risks systemic productivity loss by all, including some of the top contributors. We don’t manage in isolation. Regardless of the team’s size, you might have five or fifty employees, the same rules apply. You must strive to create an environment the gets all physically, mentally and emotionally involved. Additional attention should be devoted to those that under perform. In extremely rare cases an individual may not be capable of meeting the desired standards. In most cases the employee needs more training, assistance and motivation. Leadership demands that we develop a style that motivates people to produce up to their potential, after they’ve received the appropriate training. It’s your leadership that sets the pace and level of performance. Never forget that motivation is the essence of leadership!

There are numerous theories that help us understand human behavior. There has been much written on the subject. While I’ll avoid great detail, an overview of some of the most important should be helpful.

The late Doug McGregor, Professor of Management at MIT is responsible for the Theory X and Theory Y concept. His Theory X is the assumption that most people inherently dislike work. They’ll try to avoid it if they can, want little of no responsibility, have little ambition and seek security over all else. Mangers who buy into this theory are forced to exercise close control and exercise much authority over staff. They end up backing themselves into a corner. Either they offer strong tangible incentives or invoke a disciplinary actions. McGregor’s theory Y assumes that the majority of people want to work and get satisfaction from accomplishment. This suggests that if employees are committed to an objective, they’ll perform without the need for outside control or threats. Theory Y suggests that employees would even look for and accept greater responsibility. Mangers that embrace theory X avoid the concept of motivation and leadership. They blame lower levels of achievement on the employee. Those that embrace theory Y place the burden of underachievement on management. Theory Y teaches us that employee performance is improved with better management.
Another theory similar to McGregor’s is the concept of motivation by expectation. If we expect employees to raise their personal bar they often do. If we expect them to become committed, take responsibility and then treat them accordingly, there is a positive response in most cases. It may sound strange but one person’s prediction of another person’s behavior is often realized. The expectation is communicated to the other person, sometimes in indirect, unintended ways with predictable results. A good manager seeks to help their staff realize they have more ability than the think they have, so they constantly do better work than they thought they could. Managers can utilize this concept in many ways. The manager who believes in his or her people and ensures that they are well trained, helped and encouraged will always get the best results. Their people will get to know that they are expected to succeed and realize that you measure you own accomplishments in terms of theirs. The opposite is true for the manager that complains about their employees. This manager’s expectation that the employee will fail is usually the very basis of their failure. More often than not, such managers aren’t ready for the responsibilities of supervision.

Frederick Herzberg developed another interesting and important concept in studies of industry. He suggested that when certain factors aren’t present in a work environment, there will be dissatisfaction. He referred to them as hygiene factors. His hygiene factors include such things as adequate wages, fringe benefits, physical working conditions etc. According to his findings, hygiene factors only satisfy physical type needs, without which there is dissatisfaction. We can conclude that they are necessary but not motivating. The hygiene factors are preventive and don’t result in positive attitudes or increased motivation. The factors that he finds lead to positive attitudes and act as incentives he terms motivation factors. Motivation Factors, according to Herzberg, include items such as recognition, feelings of accomplishment, potential for personal growth, responsibility, advancement, individual importance and challenging work. Such motivation factors relate to the job itself, rather to physical things that surround the job. Herzberg’s studies conclude that once the economic needs are taken care of they decrease in importance and can’t be used as motivators. Economic needs will only bring the employee to the neutral point between satisfaction and dissatisfaction and won’t motivate to higher achievement. Managers that approach motivation from the hygiene perspective handicap themselves. Hygiene factors are important, but they aren’t enough.

Some of the actions managers can take to motivate employees to higher levels of achievement include: Making sure that each employee understands why you value them.
Demonstrate that their job is meaningful and important.
Present them with a challenge that can be met, but will provide a sense of accomplishment.
Give credit and recognition for particularly good jobs.
Keep them informed so they feel that they belong and are part of the team.
The following suggestion may be the most important. Let staff know that your job is all about insuring their success and you’re dedicated to it.

One technique that is strongly advocated relates to job enrichment. We shouldn’t confuse job enrichment with job enlargement. Job enlargement, or simply increasing staff’s workload may yield increased productivity, but its short lived and never motivates. Job enrichment involves making work more satisfying and meaningful. It allows employees to utilize more of their potential, creates a greater sense of personal achievement and encourages staff to take more responsibility. Most employees are underutilized and there are many opportunities for improved motivation by enrichment. The following are a couple examples of enrichment that would increase motivation. If you manage a manufacturing business using an assembly line you could develop a system of team based work. Instead of training staff to do the same boring job over and over, each team member is trained to do a number of different jobs. The total team becomes responsible for the assembly of the product. The team is also responsible for the quality of each unit produced as well as the amount of production time involved. The team members become proud of their teams achievements. A variation of the previous example would involve giving the responsibility to assemble a complete unit to a staff member rather than having them perform a single repetitive operation.

Some of the elements that contribute to job enrichment can be summarized as follows: When possible give a person a complete job to do. Help individuals to become experts by assigning them various types of work within the group or team. Relax some of the controls of supervision while continuing to hold individuals accountable. Add job freedom and authority commensurate to increases in their ability and responsibility. Gradually introduce more difficult tasks to facilitate learning and growth, while providing additional training. Discuss long and short term objectives with staff as a recognition of their expertise. Not all of these principles will apply in every case, but use them where possible to increase the likelihood of good results. The basic factors are the introduction of responsibility, pride in staff’s achievement and encouragement to grow. Finally, keep in mind that not all jobs require enrichment and some can’t be enriched enough to make it worthwhile in terms of real increased motivation. Also, that job enrichment can be effective on an individual basis at times. It need not embody the whole group unless the same or similar jobs are being done by the all members of the group.

No one motivational theory is likely to provide all of the answers or apply to every person every time. Theories are based on average people because they are based on studies of large groups. As managers, we never get to supervise the “average person”, I doubt their existence. The “average person” is a composite, merely a device to develop tendencies in human behavior and give us clues that can be applied to individual behavior. We are prone to think in absolutes about these theories. As an example, some contend that McGregor’s theory X / Y suggests that money is not an incentive. It seems more likely that in most cases money alone is not an effective incentive for any appreciable length of time. He, like many others, believed that once an employee got a raise, they thought of it as long overdue, and had little or no effect on work output. The employee was already figuring that more money was due. A similar situation exists in Herzberg’s hygiene factors. The possibilities of improved working conditions may motivate people during an experiment, but when these conditions exist throughout the company it is assumed that they should have always existed and the impact on production disappears. Just as with McGregor’s theories, Herzberg’s motivation factors won’t apply to every employee. Some staff may be cynical, suspicious and unresponsive for a long time, even forever. Some will insist that these are all management tricks, but they always represent a small minority if the motivation efforts are genuine.

I’ve only just breached the surface of motivation. Hopefully, I’ve peaked your interest and motivated you to continue development on the subject.

Now, what do you intend to do about motivation? Are you motivated enough to really work at helping your staff improve their motivation? Are ready to become more employee oriented? It requires that you make time and give more consideration to the needs, desires and feelings of those supervised. It requires that you really believe that each employee is unique and important. It means keeping in mind that most adults can learn, master new skills and even change attitudes and dispositions to some degree. It means believing in and acting on the belief that education, training and development should be continuous. You must commit to lifelong learning. It also means realizing that each group of employees represents a small society of its own which can thrive according to the leadership it’s given. Are you motivated enough to provide the kind of leadership that will create a work environment that fosters growth of motivation in those you supervise? All of this involves continuous, sometimes difficult, self-examination and change on your part, but it has limit less potential for your growth as a manager.

Management via motivation isn’t an easy way out, or an attempt to avoid responsibility. It may even be the most challenging way to manage, but it offers the greatest chance for real achievement. It seeks the development of greater responsibility, accountability and decision making at all levels. It seeks to stimulate participation while bridging the gap between individual goals and the goals of the organization. Management by motivation is a challenge to make work, but it’s well worth the effort. The self-development that makes people good leaders, capable of helping others to become more motivated is of value in all aspects of life. It’s as invaluable in the family as it is in the highest levels of politics.

Brad Porcellato