The Secrets of Human Motivation:
Getting employees to do what you want them to do can be a real trick, but managers have developed four distinct approaches to the subject: Sticks, Carrots, Intrinsic, and Humanitarian. Everyone who has ever worked for an angry boss can understand why I call them “Stick Men” (or women).
The first job I ever had was as a fourteen-year-old busboy and the K&W Cafeteria in Raleigh, North Carolina. One of my two immediate bosses was a great believer in the power of intimidation. He was a large and stern man who rarely smiled, at least at work. He wielded his power like a jockey wields his stick, unafraid to yell and curse. Threats, guilt, shame and fear were the tools of his trade. The specter of a swift dismissal loomed over the heads of employees like a dark cloud that never dissipated. Consequently employees worked hard, but only while he was watching. On his days off, however, they sought to make up for their overwork by loafing. They talked of their contempt for him in the break room as they munched their free chicken ‘n’ dumplings or hamburger patty that the cafeteria provided as a part of our compensation each day. But the cafeteria never seemed to improve, no matter how loud his screeching or menacing his manner. This is because the “sticks” style of motivation is akin to trying to walk up a never-ending down escalator. With enough effort and determination you can certainly make progress, but the moment you stop to rest, take a vacation, or enjoy your weekend, all gains are lost. This style of motivation rarely works, and usually backfires.
THE CARROT METHOD
Better bosses attempt to inspire workers to greater effort and success by promising pay raises, bonuses, a bigger office or a fancier title. The lure of cash and prestige is dangled in front of employees to entice them to greater effort, rather than dangling a sword of Damocles over their heads to scare them. For sure, this represents a step forward in the motivation game, but it rarely works on those who are not already ambitious and looking for advancement. Said another way, extrinsic motivation tends to fade away when tried on a person who isn’t already internally driven to excellence. To a cafeteria employee, or a landscaper, and extra 25 to 50 cents an hour just isn’t that exciting. What will a minimum wage employee do with that extra $2 or $4 per day? Move into a gated community? Buy a Tesla? Purchase a beach house? The allure of a low-paying job is the lack of stress that offsets their lower income. People who chose that road will not be lured off of it by the promise of greater compensation. They plan to make more money eventually, of course, but only by riding the seniority slow-train through to retirement.
THE SELF-ACTUALIZATION APPROACH
Great leaders manage to get the most out of every employee by appealing to their higher natures. A principal inspires school employees to remember the difference they make in students’ lives. A police chief rallies the troops by regularly reminding them that their every workday deters crimes that would diminish, disrupt or even end the lives of the citizens, including those of their own family members. A master motivator reminds workers of their great potential and stirs their emotions to want to be their very best. There is a reason that college graduates forgo lucrative careers to join the Peace Corps, or become social workers, or join the priesthood. Someone in their past inflamed them with a desire to devote themselves to making the world a better place. But there remains an even higher level of motivation. In my speeches I strive to spark the imaginations of attendees so that they see themselves as critical members of a team that makes a positive difference in their school, their hospital, their community, their church, or other organization.
THE LOVE CONNECTION
One of the first industrial magnates in America was Andrew Carnegie, one of the richest men in the world. He earned his fortune in the steel business, but readily admitted he knew comparatively little about the manufacture of steel. He had hundreds of employees who understood the process better than he. His genius, however, was that he understood people. A reporter asked him, “Mr Carnegie, how do you always get the very most out of every employee?” His reply was a classic: “When I meet a man, I go in looking for gold, not for dirt.” Andrew Carnegie was a miner who dug deep into the souls of his people to find nuggets of greatness that he could bring to the surface to show the world. This unfailing belief in his people led them to revere him to the point that they couldn’t bear the thought of letting him down.
After a championship run by an athletic team, whatever the sport, it is quite common to hear the players tearfully express how much they love their teammates and their coach. They had played beyond their own physical limits because they were driven by a desire to do their very best on behalf of the people they cared about. Many a parent has risked life and limb by racing into a burning building to rescue the children they love more than themselves. The fear of letting loved ones down is one of the greatest motivations in the human repertoire. A great leader engenders the love of his or her workers by being selfless and caring, and encourages love for fellow employees, thus galvanizing them into a team. Make sure you strive to motivate your troops by building a caring team.
Billy Riggs is a funny leadership speaker and a motivational magician who presents moving and hilarious in-service presentations. You can purchase his book, How to Become a Born Leader here. Or, use the contact form to inquire about how you can have Billy present to your group his hilarious and entertaining programs.
You can watch Billy’s 90-minute program, How to Become a Born Leader, at Seminars on Demand. Purchase the right to watch this program with your leadership team here. You can only watch it once, but you can start and stop as often as you like. Break it up into 15 minute segments and show it to your managers over 6 sessions.