Motivation and Inspiration

19th March 2012

Redundancies aren't the tonic, that's for sure. A lift in spirits would help – and while fear may prompt people to work harder in the short-term, it also causes anxiety and stress which could prove detrimental to long-term effectiveness.

So what should companies focus on to inspire and drive their profits sky-high? Doesn't motivation come down to money in the end?

Not necessarily. "Clearly people need enough money to have what they want. However, if it takes them away from what they want from life, it isn't going to benefit them," says Dr Roderic Gray, author of A Climate of Success in the Guardian. "Everybody has social needs and you don't leave them behind at work. People are at their best in an environment where they feel they belong, are valued and they are developing."

Mindful Money's psychologist blogger Ken Eisold agrees, disputing what most of us might say is the main motivator behind success.

He says on his blog: "Conventional wisdom tells us what motivates most employees is money. Classical economics confirms: the bigger the salary, the more work an employer can expect to get – and better work too.

"A new book challenges this, with strong evidence to back it up. To be sure, money still works as a reward, but according to Daniel Pink in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us:  "Rewards can deliver a short-term boost-just as a jolt of caffeine can keep you cranking for a few more hours. But the effect wears off-and, worse, can reduce a person's longer-term motivation to continue the project."  But the belief in the motivating power of money has proved to be powerfully resilient.

Over the years, a number of experts have questioned the power of money as the primary reward for work. Ken cites renowned management theorists such as Douglas McGregor, Frederick Herzberg, and W. Edward Deming, who have all stressed the fact that workers are not like rats in a maze. 

"They seek more meaning in their work as well as more individual control over it. But by and large these thinkers are remembered for their innovations and peripheral impact, not such core beliefs. Human resource managers still focus their attention on compensation."

Pay packages for senior staff outside the banking sector have come in for a bashing – so companies, facing shareholder pressure, are opting for longer-term incentive plans that will pay long-term. But what is the best way to incentivise employees?  

Duncan Bannatyne wrote in the Daily Telegraph: "In my experience, talented employees are motivated by taking control of their jobs and being given the opportunity to climb the career ladder by managers who recognise their contribution…

"In my health club business, we try to offer staff a broad range of incentives, including free use of the gym equipment and swimming pools, and flexible working hours, which allows them to balance work and home life.

"…It might sound obvious, but the key to getting incentives right is finding out what your employees actually want. In my experience, that is more than simply financial rewards. Members of staff want to work in an environment where they can enjoy what they do but also improve and realise their potential."

Commenting on how great leaders inspire action, this Ted video relates guru Simon Sinek's opinion that companies such as Apple motivate by focusing on the belief behind their success – the WHY, rather than the WHAT. They work from the inside out, starting with their inspirational belief at the heart of their business to sell this to their employees and those who invest in them – it is the passion – not that they make great products – that works.

Ken adds on his blog: "… Pink cites the work of Edward Deci and Richard Ryan at Rochester University, based on the idea that we have "three innate psychological needs-competence, autonomy, and relatedness. When those needs are satisfied, we're motivated, productive, and happy. When they're thwarted, our motivation, productivity, and happiness plummet."  They call that "self-determination theory," SDT.

Ray_Fletcher 1 comments: "Ken an excellent article, and I agree totally with your views. I believe SDT has much in its favour and perhaps one of the reasons why organisations are wary of it is because using it is opening a "Pandoras Box" – once they open the flood-gates of thinking (real thinking) they cannot close them again without significant destruction to morale.  I may be mistaken, but I doubt this is an aspect that is covered on MBA programmes. Overcoming the resistance to such change is the challenge for the future – and the future starts now."

In the current climate it's vital to be on top of your game, and for this you need to inspire, listen, and re-emphasise the passion behind the message you're delivering.


More from Mindful Money:

Can you be a contrarian investor?

Can we have transparency – or is that the wrong question?

Mood swings and the market: how to understand irrational investor behaviour

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