Coaching M眉nchen Business Life

Carrots, donkeys and motivation

– What is your secret for motivation ? –

Many companies still use “Carrot 馃 and stick 馃Ο” (bonus and fear) methods to motivate their employees to give their best … but we are not donkeys.

Today’s still most used system to “motivate” people to be more productive is from a time where work was in most cases very different from todays work. It originates back to factories with mostly labor work, where people had to follow simple, straight forward rules. The believe behind the bonus system is that you get more of the behavior you want if you reward it and if you punish something you get less of it.

While this might have worked back then, in todays mostly creative, intellectual work it leads exactly to the opposite – performance drops due to pressure. You don’t believe that? There are proves in many different studies (see video).

For intellectual work money is only a “hygiene factor” i.e. people have to have enough money to not worry about their live and money has to be spread in a fair way. Beyond that it has only low impact to motivation and eventually negative impact to performance. 

So what else can companies do to stimulate performance (and keep high performers in the company)?

  • Give Purpose
  • Allow Autonomy
  • Offer Mastery

Purpose gives people the feeling that they are doing something important, it drives them out of bed in the morning and equally important it allows people to autonomously decide the best way forward.

Autonomy creates engagement. People don’t wait until they are told what to do, they simply do it as soon as needed. They feel responsible. They develop their own ideas, find and fix errors without being told to do so.

Mastery drives people to do things even without payment like in sports, puzzle solving etc. Mankind simply wants to prove that we can do it. So we need in live enough tasks that challenge us, not only boring, repetitive tasks.

The logical conclusion is that a traditional, top-to-bottom leadership style, where the manager decides what to do and how, does not stimulate motivation and performance for any type of work that requires more then rudimentary cognitive skills. The modern world needs a much more cooperative leadership style than we typically see in many traditional companies.

Thanks to J眉rgen Dittmar for re-sharing this great video from RSA Animate, which he shows in his really recommendable Management 3.0 courses.

2 thoughts on “Carrots, donkeys and motivation

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