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Why You Should Stop Trying to Motivate People

A bonus here, a raise there. Or maybe we should use fear instead? The classical carrot vs whip dilemma to either increase efficiency or lower the turnover rates. There are a lot research papers showing that employees are engaged somewhere from 17–35%. I find that a bit scary.

Extrinsic motivators such as carrots seem like the good guy way of doing it but it never really pans out in the end. If somebody else is offering a tastier carrot people will go for that one instead.

You’ve most likely come in contact with sales-driven companies where there are constant competitions between individuals and teams on who can sell the most or figure out a solution the fastest. Yet I don’t need to state a bunch of statistics to argue that their turnover rates are pretty high. Sure, people get stuff done on short terms but how many get left behind, irritated, hating their job, just for a little bit more money? How many of those go on to having 40 year old crises and totally changing their career path, get totally burnt out or depressed? A good amount.

Instead of making sure they get what they want, start asking why or how things drive them.

The room for reflection is often the first thing to go in stressful situations and in my opinion it should be held onto the most. We don’t learn from failures without the time to reflect on what happened and if we don’t have the space to talk with others and share our reflections we lose out on all those chances of connecting on a deeper level. The connections that enable us to collaborate.

How many times have you been in situations where small petty things became huge over time because somebody didn’t take the time to talk it out?

You can’t motivate people; though you can ask the right questions which will make them find their inner motivation. Giving people the space for reflection on intrinsic motivators create meaning which creates participation on a much deeper level. When each person isn’t resisting their own feelings and is able to go to bed thinking: Ah, that felt meaningful today. Then you can actually keep them engaged.

Too many of us are scared of letting people think for themselves believing that once they do; they will leave the company or get disengaged from the project, etc. No, quite the contrary; if you create the space for self-leadership, reflection on own motivations for every team you will get a team or company that aren’t a bunch of happy dogs running around for treats but actual people. People who will figure out creative solutions to whatever task they have at hand. People who are driven by their inner monologues and meaning. People who are happy and want to share that happiness. People who are motivated.

So, next time you are thinking:

 Ah, we need to get this done fast and much better!!!

Why not try slowing down & take your foot off the gaspedal? Start talking about what’s going on, what people are feeling, why they’re feeling like that and don’t forget yourself.

If you need some tips & tools on how to create that space for reflection you can contact us anytime!

Photo credit: Allegory Malaprop CC BY-ND

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