Blog post January 2012
Scenario #1: The new owner of the business walks into your office and says, “Based on my review of your performance we’re going to increase your annual salary by $25,000.”
Scenario #2: The new owner walks into your office and says, “Based on my review of your performance we’re going to decrease your annual salary by $25,000.”
Which scenario causes a deeper emotional reaction?
Exactly. As applied psychological research has shown, the pain of a negative is more intense than the pleasure of an equivalent positive. Not only is it more intense, one negative experience can override multiple positive experiences. Making a disrespectful comment, for example, can outweigh all the positive recognition you’ve given to an employee.
Law #3: First, eliminate the negatives
If you want to create an environment that helps your people perform at their best, focus on eliminating the negatives before you introduce the positives. Otherwise those positives may have little effect.
Last week I wrote that you as a leader don’t cause motivation. You hire people who are motivated, then you create the right environment to help channel and unleash that motivation.
So what’s the right environment? You’re not going to like the answer.
Law #2: Motivation is not one-size-fits-all
It depends. Sure, there are some universals: people want to feel respected, they thrive when they have a sense of purpose, and they feel good when they accomplish things. Beyond that almost anything goes. Some want you to point them in the right direction and then get out of the way. Some need your approval after taking each step. Some like to try different approaches, some like to conform. Some like to interact with others, some want to be left alone. Some want to lead, some want to be led. Some want to be recognized on the big stage, some want to be recognized in private.
The bottom line: know your people. Different people respond to different environments for different reasons. That’s human nature and that’s OK.
You’re excited about the opportunities on the horizon. Time to focus and mobilize your people, then let them loose!
So best not to screw things up. Which is why for the rest of the month I’ll cover the three laws of motivation.
Law #1: You don’t cause motivation
Your people aren’t machines who wait passively for someone to push the right buttons and – voilà! – now they’re motivated. They have their own motives, their own wants and needs. Motivation isn’t something done to employees. It’s something you help unleash and channel.
Motivation is what results when you have the right people in the right environment. If you don’t have the right people you can be the best manager in the world and they won’t be motivated. And if you don’t create the right environment then even the best people will feel frustrated.
Don’t focus on motivating people. Focus on creating the right environment so the right people will be motivated. Convey a sense of purpose that is meaningful to them. Make sure they’re equipped to succeed. Provide coaching and support. Ensure they feel valued.
Poor managers are quick to attribute failure to having the wrong people. Strong managers take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask, “What can I do to create a better environment?”
Is your organization continuously improving? Are you evolving your products and services? At a pace to not only keep you in the game but help you win the game?
Google makes around 100 upgrades to its search engine each quarter. At any given time they’re running between 50 and 200 experiments to test potential improvements. How do you measure up?
Think of your organization as a science lab. You encourage your people to think and to generate hypotheses about how to do things better, how to make things better. They test the most promising hypotheses, many of them, but one at a time so as to control for the effect of other variables. They draw conclusions and implement the most promising ideas. Maybe they develop broader theories which lead to the testing of new hypotheses.
Hypotheses, testing, control, conclusions, theories … this is the language of innovative organizations as well as science.
Your white lab coat awaits, professor.
The New Year. For many people it’s a time for reflecting, setting goals and making plans.
Most of them will fail. So if you commit to anything at all this year, commit to this one thing:
That’s it. Start one thing. Stop doing one thing. Make one significant change. Select one thing that you want to do, can do and, regardless of what obstacles or challenges arise, will do.
Feel good, feel successful when you do that one thing. Then, and only then, consider one more thing.
What am I going to do? I’m going to change which websites I look at each day. To take in different perspectives and stretch my thinking.
Do it. One thing.