It’s Not Just About Praise Anymore

Richard Lavoie’s book, “The Motivation Breakthrough,” was written for educators but provides interesting insight and tools for those who lead in business.

The standard methods of motivation include competition, rewards and punishment. The old notion of competition, that everyone is focused on winning to be in first place, is outdated. Rewards simply don’t motivate some people. Punishment, or the threat of it, works as a motivator for some and serves as a challenge others.

As Lavoie outlines, motivational strategies must be different because people are different. One size does not fit all.

Praise is overused and seen as the “mother of all motivators.” Because of this, people have become cynical about receiving praise because it has been given by insincere people throughout most of their lives.

Interestingly enough, there are still plenty of individuals who have no other way to motivate and so they perpetuate the problem.

Using praise works for those who are motivated by status, recognition or affiliation. It does not work for those that seek prizes, power, are autonomous, or seeking to establish and build relationships.

Power, as a motivator, is not for everyone. Those that seek power tend to be more aggressive than others, and strive for autonomy. How to you motivate someone seeking power? Provide them with choices. When these individuals get to choose, they become more motivated because they can make decisions.

Aligned with power is the motivational tool of projects. Inquisitive individuals and those seeking independence are stimulated when challenged with a project. Those motivated by recognition or relationships are not. Projects take people out of their comfort zone, allowing them to interact and work with others. These individuals like to learn and be rewarded for the opportunity.

Work is by nature a social activity, and many individuals are people-oriented. It is possible to motivate some by placing them with others where positive relationships can be formed. Joseph Wambaugh’s best-seller, “Hollywood Station,” describes several examples where The Oracle (the lead sergeant) changes squad car personnel assignments to keep his police officers motivated.

Prizes hold appeal to those who are driven by status, recognition, affiliation or power. The problem with using this tool as a motivator is that the prizes may be given after such a long period of time that participation might wane because of it.

Providing intermittent prizes that are not announced will help keep people focused on the bigger prize.

What is the bigger prize? The business owner and leaders within the organization need to define this for each employee. Is it a raise in pay? More recognition? More time off? Is it flexible working hours? Or a four day workweek?

Prestige is critical for everyone. People not only want to be recognized, but they want to be viewed as important. Individuals want to be seen, heard and treated with respect.

For those individuals that need to be autonomous, for those that are aggressive, for those that are power driven, getting recognition is critical.

Praise, power, projects, people, prizes and prestige all work if you are trying to motivate people. I know some owners who no longer care about motivating those in their employ, and the results of the employees show up on the income statement and balance sheet.

Most owners are interested in motivating those that are on the payroll. What does it take for an owner to uncover what each employee wants? Start with the question and follow by listening hard. Then, follow through.