Reading an article recently about how to keep staff motivated during lockdown, I was reminded how limited our language is when it comes to the subject of motivation. The article was superficial at best, but the thing that struck me was the one size fits all approach. The thinking was that if a manager takes a particular step, everyone on the team will remain motivated during lockdown.
A couple of points here; Firstly, it’s assumed that everyone’s already motivated going into the lockdown which is highly unlikely given that only about 15% of the global workforce is engaged at work (1). Secondly, there’s often an underlying concept in the workplace that taking a particular action or initiative will be motivating for all. And that’s simply not the case.
Let me give you an example. Earlier in my career, much earlier, my first sales role in fact, all the sales people globally had been invited over to the UK for a 2 day meeting to launch a new product. I was excited. We all were. We were an innovative company and new product launches meant good things were about to happen.
After perhaps 15 minutes or so of general introductions on Day 1, the Global Sales Manager announced a new bonus scheme associated with the launch. The company wanted to gain traction quickly, and before we’d even seen this new laboratory instrument, they made us an offer. For every one of the new instruments we sold in the following 6 months, we’d be given a bounty. For those of us based in the UK it was £500.
As I heard this, my eyes rolled around their sockets. Why? Because I wasn’t motivated by money. That was not what was going to get me out in front of customers waxing lyrical about this new instrument. But, I looked to my right and there’s Paul frantically making notes of all the customers he can go to see next week. He’s thinking of low hanging fruit and how many multiples of £500 he can pull in before he gets his pay packet at the end of the month. Why? Because Paul is different from me, he IS motivated by money, he is what we call a ‘Builder’ in the Motivation Language we use.
But all wasn’t lost for me. I couldn’t wait for Day 2 when we got to play with this new bit of kit with all its new features and accessories. I was able to use it, think about how I would change my demo routines and most importantly, I was able to lift the bonnet and learn about how this instrument worked, what made it tick and how I was going to fine tune it to get the best performance. I was thinking about how I would impress my customers with my knowledge and expertise, how I’d be able to show them first hand that this was the best solution for their application. Paul meanwhile, he was at the back of the room with his head in that notebook, now on his third page of potential buyers, less interested in the technicalities of the product. The Motivation Language we use for my motivator in this case is the ‘Expert.’ The Expert is motivated by knowledge, expertise, being seen as the specialist and mastery of their chosen subject or subjects.
Builder and Expert are just 2 of the 9 motivators that drive and energise us all. All 9 are present at all times, but they are in a different combination and intensity for each individual. So ‘Builder’ was in fact one of my motivators but for Paul it was number 1 and very intense. Imagine how powerful it can be to truly understand what motivates people and to have the language to be able to discuss motivation in detail. When you know what motivates individuals in your team, you can begin to consider tailored rewards strategies matched to an individuals motivators to maintain or improve motivation levels. With improved motivation comes greater engagement and retention of staff. What’s not to like?