Why Motivating People Doesn’t work…and considering what does

Tesse AkpekiWhen I watch reality TV programmes, like the Apprentice, Dragon’s Den (the Sharks Tent), the X-factor or Strictly Come Dancing, I often get the sense that they may be limited in authentically motivating the players involved to achieve their highest potential.   I get a different notion when I look at The Voice which appears to be based on a different model.   Reading the work of Susan Fowler premised on the notion of   “Why motivating people doesn’t work and what does” I picked up tips that can motivate and those which don’t. It is a bit frightening to see I have tried approaches which Susan says in her books can be a turnoff and actually achieve limited success. She mentions the following that can be used, albeit differently to achieve more impact:

Verbal Cheerleading can diminish people’s sense of autonomy and internal fortitude. Instead focus on coaching people or groups around their goals, purpose and intention, so they can empower themselves with their own resolve.

Competitions – can generate external pressure that defeats people and undermine long-term skill building and sustained high performance.   Instead consider what behaviours need to be encouraged. This may lead to participants gaining experience, obtaining insights into development needs, having their underlying needs met, working collaboratively rather than beating someone else, gaining power and status, winning an award, or receiving an incentive.

Imposing values – may lead you to running the risk of eroding people’s sense of autonomy. Instead offer opportunities to explore their own reasons for acting and link this to the organisational values.

Incentivising–   trying a range of incentives may end up feeding people junk food. Instead find out what really motivates people and tap into that authentic stuff.

Praising – may come across as externalising the reasons people take action ( to please you). Instead distinguish praising from appreciation, acknowledgement and recognition.   Provide informational feedback, trust people to evaluate their own performance and offer a heartfelt expression of thanks.

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