How many words have been written about motivation! And it is obvious why – if you have at least one wage employee you’re facing this problem every day. If you are a boss it means that you don’t do the entire job by yourself. You have to delegate your tasks to employees, and you don’t have enough time to control them every minute.
But, on the other hand, the only thing you can delegate is authority – the right to make some decisions. The bad news is that you can’t delegate responsibility. No matter how many subordinates you have, in any event you’re the one who is responsible for the result. And if you have a boss whom you report to he won’t be particularly interested who exactly had done the job if something went wrong.
So it is obvious and natural that you want your subordinates to work as hard as possible, to do their best to achieve the objectives or even do some more. But it is not that easy.
In chapters 4 and 5 we discussed the matter of motivation, sometimes indirectly. And it is not strange – in the modern world people are a more important asset than money, equipment, real estate or technology. Nowadays a manager is not the man or woman who has an MBA degree but the one who knows how to organize and inspire their staff and get them motivated.
There are two basic, fundamental approaches to motivation. The first one is the old one. We do not have enough time to go deeply into details, but basically it sounds as “you get paid as much as you perform”. Which means that the better (the harder, the more) you work the more you get paid. If you’re a sales rep and you have made some new deals you may count that soon you’ll get a decent reward – a paycheck with pleasant numbers, a bonus and so on. If you’re a manager you may have your personal KPI’s – and the higher your scores are the better you will get paid. There are a number of different ways to connect your personal performance (or sometimes the whole company’s financial results) with your salary, but the basic principle is the same.
There is a different approach, well known because of Google. From the point of view of the XX century manager this company is a complete mess. No time schedules. No severe restrictions. No KPI’s. Comfortable offices with play zones, soccer tables and free food. Employees legally may spend up to 20% of their time working on their own projects. It seems like chaos but this company is exceptionally efficient, and the core reason is that their employees are highly motivated. And these days a lot of IT companies try to go this way believing that this method is better in the way of getting their staff to be more creative. Actually they don’t motivate employees – they inspire them. There is an impressive lecture by Daniel Pink on TED.com in which he insists that the old-fashioned “carrot and stick” method is not effective in the XXI century.
The truth is, as usual, in the middle. Sometimes you suppress the good will and creative energy of an employee connecting his wage tightly to 3-5 KPI’s – he (she) just doesn’t want to do anything else. But sometimes when your subordinates are too free to be creative they forget to work. To work not always means to generate ideas – sometimes it just means to do your everyday routine, and do it well. If you’re a CEO of an airline company you don’t want your pilots to be particularly creative – you want them to act by the book, especially in dangerous situations. The IT-world is now very popular and glamorous – according to Nielsen’s global surveys 57% of youngsters all over the globe want to work for IT-companies (in India – 72%, in Germany – 70%< in the USA – 65%). But there is a good old physical world and smart machines haven’t yet completely replaced human beings from the factories. So somebody has, if not to produce things manually, but at least to manage the process and to maintain the machines.
Moreover, the effectiveness of a motivation system depends a lot on the national culture. I doubt that “inspiring” systems would be very efficient in Asia (for instance, in Japan or South Korea), where a boss is still a very powerful and influential figure. It won’t work completely in Russia and other former USSR republics where people don’t get accustomed to take responsibility for their deeds. I have never been to Africa and have never worked in the Arab world but I think they have their own cultural features.
So just keep away from magical ideas and conceptions of all time. The modern world is too diversified and sophisticated to use a “magical pill” curing all illnesses, universal principles working all over the world. If you are the boss your main task is to know your subordinates very well. And to understand what motivates them better – the flexible schedule, a possibility to work at home, an opportunity for promotion and to realize their own ideas or just a good salary.