Conway Daily Sun, July 14, 2010
By Michael Kline
I have heard smart people argue it is impossible to motivate people; that the best we can do is to create an environment for people to become motivated. Okay, smarty-pants, let’s not argue semantics, lest we miss the point entirely. Let’s talk about the challenges of reaching the desired results and set aside the technical language for a moment.
Sometimes, one of the easiest ways to get closer to understanding what something is, is to know what it is not. For instance, a satisfied need is not a motivator. Imagine you were locked in a small, hot box with no air holes. You would be significantly motivated to get air. If you were locked in a cage, you would not be sitting there thinking how thankful you are to have air, you would be solely focused on your desire to get out of the cage. Air is now taken for granted and freedom is your new motivation. If you feel trapped working in a boring job, or living in a tiny house, or stuck in an unhealthy relationship, your primary motivator is to solve the problem at hand. Do you still need air? Of course, but air being an “already satisfied need” you do not consider it a motivator.
For the unemployed, some argue that any job is better than no job. This is true, but what happens six months later when you hate the job and can’t live on the wages? Now the motivation is to get a better job. It’s a tough choice to hold out for the better job if you don’t know when you’ll find it.
Money does not always motivate someone who has their financial needs met (as defined by them). Other priorities, such as a sense of freedom, or self expression, or control may be more important. So, that’s lesson number one – a satisfied need is not a motivator.
Next, consider who it is you wish to motivate. It’s not a bad thing to “be used” by someone, especially if you consider it your task to be of service to your employees in the first place – your job is to help them see their work as a means for them to reach their personal goals. Now, you have their attention! The trick is to find out what they really want. Ideally, this means what they want from life in general; in the short term, we can also talk about what they want on a day to day basis.
Public recognition works wonders on some folks. However, recognition is not motivating to a shy, task-oriented person who just wants to do their work and be paid well for it. Before you go out and buy your little plastic statue/award to present at the annual meeting, make sure you’re not insulting and embarrassing the person you wish to appreciate. Your best salespeople may not like being rewarded with a 7 day Caribbean cruise. If that sounds insane, get over it – not everyone wants a cruise. I do, but I’ve done all the normal cruises and now I know exactly want I want, so just give me a check that fits your budget and I’ll take it from there!
What is it people want? If you can figure that out, you’re a genius, and you still only have half the answer! The other half of the answer comes when you can figure out how bad they want it. Most people can’t even say what they really want in life. At the risk of offending everyone to some degree, I say we already have everything we really ever wanted. If you wanted something you didn’t get, you just didn’t want it bad enough. This is the point where you argue with me saying “I couldn’t have what I wanted because (insert your explanation here)”. I’m sorry, but if you really wanted it bad enough, you would have overcome your excuse and gotten what you wanted. It’s just that we didn’t want it more than we wanted other things we chose instead.
You shouldn’t have to give away the store to motivate someone. And, if you did, would it help? As a faithful follower, (you are, aren’t you?) you probably know we are in the processing of selecting apprentices to take over our stores. Interestingly, we have not had any unemployed people apply for the positions. We have received a great response, but only from employed people. This study is in its early stages, but I wonder if people who are unemployed don’t think they could get the apprenticeship. I could be way off-base, but at least for some, is the lack of self-confidence the same influence in their life that led to their unemployment in the first place? I wish I could interview the people who decided not to come for an interview! Perhaps they don’t read the paper other than the classifieds. I would read every page of the paper looking for possible opportunities on the horizon. Is this a motivator? A free business education, not available at any school for any price, while getting paid to work a pleasant job, and getting the business (for free) at the end of five years of service, with nothing to lose. Yes, it is. We have more than enough applicants, but all currently employed, hard working, creative people, who are willing to work as many hours as it takes, do whatever job description it takes, at whatever pay they need to take. It appears it is not a motivator to the unemployed, or those who are not willing to do what it takes. Perhaps when you’re unemployed, you just need a job – any job, not some pie-in-the-sky dream building opportunity. The lesson learned (again) is it’s difficult to figure out what motivates others. I’m sure we will have many lessons to share from our big experiment.
So, in conclusion, when considering what it is that will help move us forward, or to motivate others to move forward, we need to remember three areas of concern. Find an unsatisfied need, consider the personality and self esteem of the one to be motivated, and find out what they really want and how bad do they want it. This runs parallel to the three steps to success in anything – decide what you want, find out what it will take to get it, and then do that.