The 7 M’s of Motivation

12th September 2011

Caroline

Employee Engagement & Motivation

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As Entrepreneurs, if we are to grow our businesses then we need the help of a motivated and productive group of people, we can’t do everything on our own. One issue that continually comes up in the work we do with Business Owners / Entrepreneurs is how to re-motivate / re-energise business teams so that productivity and creativity increases.

One of the delights with working with humans is that we are all different and that what motivates one does not necessarily motivate the other. And yet there are certain principles that when you keep them in mind will help you motivate the individual’s within your team and in turn the team itself.

For ease of recollection, I have called these principles: the 7 M’s of Motivation.

M1 – Motivation is an Inside Job
We can create the environment and circumstances that are more likely to be motivational to employees. We can incentivise them, which again for some will be motivational. Ultimately, motivation comes from within. If an employee finds the environment, the incentives, the targets appealing and worthwhile to them, then they will experience the emotion of motivation. Put another way, motivation is not something we do to someone else, it is something they create for themselves.

“That doesn’t help me” I hear you cry. The following “M’s” will direct your attention to things that we can do to create an environment, approaches to structuring the goals in such a way that your team members are likely to find them motivational.

M2 – Make it a Verb
Motivation is not a “thing” or an object. It is not something that you can pick up. Grammatically we treat the word ‘Motivation’ as a noun, therefore we treat it is as if it is an object. Objects are solid things they are not flowing. An emotion is a changing and flowing experience.

Make it a verb. Change your thinking from ‘Motivation’ to ‘Motivating’. i.e. what are you doing to make their role, the environment they work in motivating? What can you do to make the role or the project more motivating?

When clients say “my staff are de-motivated and underperforming, I need you to motivate them” I often respond “Did you hire them that way?” to which I get the indignant response “Of course not!” My response is the crux of this point “So what are you doing to them to de-motivate them and cause them to under perform?”

Setting clear targets, providing praise and clear feedback, providing them interesting and engaging projects to work on, ask employees for their point of view or ideas on a matter are all simple things that can make a big difference to how motivating and engaging the work environment is.

M3 – Make it Personal & M4 – Make it Significant
We recognise that different things motivate different people or in the common vernacular “Different strokes for different folks”. Here are some pointers that will help you to think through how you can make the goal significant to them personally:
– WIIFM: What are they going to get out of pursuing the corporate goals? The acronym WIIFM (What’s in it for me) shines through loud and proud at this point. Employees have their own reasons for coming to work; some are of more value to you than others. However, if employees are encouraged to consider how they will achieve personal benefit whilst creating business benefit then that will improve morale and motivation. Often employees will not have ‘connected the dots’, they will not have looked at how doing their role, how completing the project will benefit them. Those benefits do not have to be financial in order to be worthy and motivational to employees. Even those with the most limited career aspirations want to learn and grow.
– Ask yourself a better question: Sometimes employees cannot see what benefit they could derive from doing a particular assignment. Then I encourage them to “Ask a better question”. The quality of the questions you ask yourself determines the quality of answers you will get. By asking yourself a better quality question such as “What are they ways in which I can learn from this?” can give new insights and new meaning to assignments. It can offer a purpose, personal and significant to that person.

M5 – Make it Compelling
If someone is not motivated about a goal, it is because it is does not hold enough appeal to them, it is not attractive or juicy enough for them. A client of mine was struggling to complete writing the last few chapters of his book. He said “I want to finish the book, but other things keep cropping up”. The reasons why he should complete the book were not strong enough and other things competed with his attention.

Make the goal so exciting, so compelling that a person is naturally drawn towards achieving it. With this client, writing the management book, I got him to imagine that his completed book had become No 1 in the Business Section of WH Smith and that he was on his way through Heathrow airport on his away to an international speaking engagement. As he walked past WH Smith there was a queue of people waiting to buy his book. One guy looked up from reading the book, recognising my client as the author from his picture on the cover, and came over to him asking him to sign the book and saying how brilliant his book was and what a difference it had made to the success of a friend’s business! My client’s face lit up as I was painting this picture. He had had his eyes opened to a purpose that was so much more significant that he was compelled to complete the book.

Help them to make their role, the achievement of their projects, compelling.

M6 – Make it Propelling
All human behaviour can be boiled down to two fundamental drivers: Pain and Pleasure. Fundamentally, the reason behind all human behaviour is either to avoid pain or to gain pleasure. Some people will do more to avoid pain, whilst others will do more to gain pleasure. For example, when I ask the groups I work with “I will pay you an extra £2000 for taking on extra responsibility in one of two scenarios: 1) you can use it for a holiday to the Caribbean or 2) you can avoid your house being repossessed. In which scenario would you do more for?” From the show of hands more people would do more to avoid their house being repossessed than they would for the holiday. i.e. more people will do more to avoid pain than they will gain pleasure.

When you help employees realise the implications of not following a particular course of action ( the pain) and the benefits of following a particular course of action ( the pleasure) then that sets up what we call a PROPULSION MECHANISM where simultaneously we are moving away from what we don’t want and moving towards what we do want. This is particularly effective for motivating people and is a strategy we use to great effect with our clients. NB. It has to be personal to the individual to be most effective.

M7 – Make it Real
With some projects the end goal seems so far away, it is difficult for employees to imagine its achievement. This is true of big change projects. However, if we can make the vision compelling for our staff and make its attainment seem more real then it is going to be more motivational.

Studies have shown that the brain does not know the difference between what you vividly imagine and reality. When employees visualise the achievement / completion of the project and all the benefits they are going to receive personally and professionally from it that not only activates the TOWARDS motivation, it also gets them in a great emotional state. When we are in a good state our performance increases. The more we focus on and visualise the achievement of our goals the quicker we will bring them into reality.

It is likely that you will not be able to spend time with all your employees to coach them through these ideas but what you can do is work with your direct reports and share with them these principles who in turn can apply them to great effect for themselves and with their teams.

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