Human motivation, or more specifically what motivates humans to choose certain ways of behaving, is a question that boggles the minds of parents and CEO’s alike and it is of particular relevance in creating and sustaining high-performance work cultures. A recent book by Daniel Pink, Drive, and an earlier book, Why We Do What We Do, by Edward Deci provide insight into this leadership challenge and question. Both authors present decades of research that challenges the traditional philosophy and methods of motivating performance. In fact, the research on human motivation contradicts the underlying theory of motivation in practice in most organizations.
Edward Deci in, Why We Do What We Do, states that there are two basic responses to the rewards and punishment style of control and motivation: Compliance and Defiance and both have negative consequences, intended and unintended. “Where there is one, there is also a tendency for the other, even though one or the other is typically dominate within an individual. Thus, we find some people who are highly compliant, always seeming to do what the situation demands, and we find others who seem to defy all the demands and prods of authorities. But even with these people, where one response to control dominates, the tendency for the other will still be there and could come out in subtle ways. A subordinate who is outwardly obedient to all the boss’s demands might, for example, engage in secret sabotage as retaliation.”
The Gallup Organization in polling of thousands of employees across all sectors of businesses continues to find that 75 % of employees are not meaningfully engaged with their jobs and organizations! There are many assumptions, which can be drawn from this sobering and sad statistic, but one that I think is relevant is the negative affect of carrot and stick approaches have on employee engagement.
In 1960 Douglas McGregor proposed an alternative to this theory. His conclusion, based on research and experience as a leader, was a perspective that held that “taking and interest in work is as natural as play or rest, that creativity and ingenuity were widely distributed in the population, and under the proper conditions, people will accept, and even seek, responsibly.” Unfortunately, the work and theories of McGregor did not receive wide acceptance or application.
Today’s leaders and organizations have not adopted and applied what research has shown to be the proven principles and methods of motivation. Management in most organizations still relies on structures and approaches utilizing the Carrot and Stick approach to motivation, which results in a workforce that continues to perform sub-optimally.
There is a smarter way and it’s based on years of sound research and it is to incrementally transform the reasons why employees perform and engage from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation. This is not new or novel; social scientists have known this for decades, however, because extrinsic approaches are so embedded they are viewed as breakthrough approaches.
The first breakthrough approach to creating high-performing work culture is the practical application of Self-Determination Theory or SDT. It is a theory pioneered by two of the most influential behavioral scientist of their generation, Edward Deci PhD and Richard Ryan PhD. Both scientists have conducted extensive research into human motivation, which identified three factors:Autonomy, Competence and Interpersonal Connectedness as the needs and drivers of developing intrinsic motivation. When these three factors are consciously and purposefully integrated into a leadership approach, and in the design of performance initiatives they will begin the transformation process form extrinsic to intrinsic.
The second breakthrough approach is the neuroscience of emotions and their affect on employee behavior and engagement. This particular area of science is called Emotional Intelligence or EQ. Emotions are inseparable from our thinking and they are the batteries that drive our behavior. Once again, research shows that leaders, teams and organizations that have higher EQ get better results and a workforce that is more engaged.
Organizations can choose to continue to inventing and re-inventing carrot and stick programs and resign themselves to achieving the same levels of performance they have experienced for years; or they can begin to restore and build their employee’s intrinsic and emotional commitment to performance and take the next step in building and sustaining a high-performance work culture.
Contact us about our program, Stop The Insanity … Breakthrough Approaches to Motivation