September 30, 2014
You'll probably hear the word "motivation" at least a hundred times over the next year. It's one of the most misused terms in the lexicon of leadership. So the following thoughts may be helpful as we review the "Five Biggest Myths of Motivation."
"People can be inherently lazy; they just need an occasional kick in the ass." Whatever the barrier, it's almost never laziness. People are inherently uncertain, but seldom confident enough to articulate it. Depending on our social style and experiences, most of us are malleable and receptive to coaching and direction that leads to personal growth (when leadership taps it).
"Money does the trick; it's the quickest way to get someone's attention." Wrong. Study upon study, especially for Gen-Y and Millennial generations, proves "money" is not only subordinated on people's motivation index, but short-term as well. If money was the universal motivator, every seller would be Tony Robbins. In fact, money ranks several rungs down the motivational ladder.
"Certain types of people are naturally motivated." This "special genetics" theory gets us into rocks and shoals. Does that imply General Patton was "born with it" while Admiral Nimitz was not? Does it prove John Kennedy "had it," but Lincoln didn't? After all, those leaders were complete style-opposites. I'm fond of a longstanding military saying: "You can't tell what a warrior looks like." Bank on it ... you can't.
"I have the power to motivate people." Perhaps the biggest motivational mirage of them all comes with the notion that one person can singularly affect a "motivational transplant." As a leader we can only participate in the motivational process by (1) taking time to know someone's history and core beliefs, (2) understanding their strengths and weaknesses that eventually lead to their vision of success as they define it.
"A little intimidation often does the trick." Ah yes ... the classic break-room memorandum that reads, "Firings will continue until morale improves." Less viable than all other techniques, fear as a motivator usually destroys any hope of your organization forming a lasting core-covenant and usually results in your losing a person long before they actually depart. Overwhelming evidence supports a universal truth: People don't leave companies, they leave bosses.
For every Norman Schwarzkoph, there's a David Petraeus. Both were superb commanders though very different in leadership style, proving there is no "best place" to be. When a boss or department head is flamboyant, it may only represent their way of getting something done.
Businesses don't compete, people do. The study of motivation is a complex subject pondered over the ages. Being better at it means losing some unproductive predispositions while understanding how and why people engage in Webster's definition, "the condition of being stimulated."