“Between stimulus and response there is a space.

In that space is our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our freedom”.

Viktor Frankl

Creating an environment that encourages high performance should be a goal worth pursuing by every Manager and/or Leader. This is enhanced by having a pervading culture where workers have intrinsic motivation – one where people want to do things the way they should be done, not one where workers do things for fear or favour – because they have to (extrinsic motivation).

Consider that motivation can be divided into two basic categories, want to, or have to. That is to say an individual does or doesn’t do something because they feel they either want to or have to.

We at Leading Teams accept the work of Viktor Frankl where he tells us individuals can choose how they respond to a situation, their attitude and then subsequently their behaviours.

Imagine then how useful it might be for a leader to understand the real motivator for their team members or even to shift people’s thinking away from the negative “I have to” mindset to a more positive” I want to” one.

Money is often thought a common theme as a motivator to work. I have heard the phrase, “I don’t have a choice, I have to stick out this boring job because I need the money” or “I hate this job and wish I wasn’t here” many times. In fact over time I’ve heard this so much I have developed a strategy whereby I suggest that it’s a simple matter to relieve them of all their misery – I offer to help them write their resignation. This then allows us to explore the other motivators for them staying and fleshing out what they might be able to do about their situation. At the very least we seek to have them accept that they chose to stay in that job because the consequences of leaving are even less palatable.

People with a negative mind set about their work environment can often do the bare minimum required of them, and worst, leaders and fellow team members begin to think less of them, even limiting what they ask them to do. We might even see their behaviour as validation for our own choice of management/leadership style; what a vicious cycle indeed. Sometimes managers and leaders say that they have to put up with that person’s poor performance or behaviour, and they proceed to validate that decision. Are you a leader who overloads your “good” motivated workers because you trust them over the less motivated? I’ve never been convinced this is fair.

The reality of course is that people choose to endure such jobs or situations because of the rewards they receive. It’s not just the pay, it’s what the pay allows them to do. House and feed themselves and their family, enjoy a holiday, educate their children, own items they enjoy are all examples. But people don’t always make this link as strongly as they could and leaders don’t always help them understand. Managers and leaders accept poor performance or behaviour because the consequences of addressing it are also unpalatable.

The idea is not to have someone always living in the “want to” camp, but having them limit the ‘have to’ mentality and acknowledging they have a choice, they are in control of their attitude and can change it if they really want to. Accepting however that the consequences of that change may be a loss of, or reduction in those things they value.

If you look at your team or individuals within that team and see a less than motivated group or an individual who isn’t doing their best, rocking the boat, pushing back all the time or simply not complying with instructions, what do you say to yourself? Yes, individuals are responsible for their own behaviours, the choices they make. But that isn’t the end of the matter. Do you explore why they make those choices, what parts of the situation do you own, what environment have you created (or allowed to exist), is it a positive environment that encourages and engages or is one that engenders a “have to” mentality?

Do you look at a situation, analyse it and apportion some element of blame, do you make or accept excuses rather than accepting responsibility for your end of the motivational equation?

Do you avoid action because of your own motivational needs?

Well whichever it is, remember that is your choice.

I recently experienced a shift from the ‘have to’ to the ‘want to’ motivator. It was a member of a senior executive team I’ve been working with for some time. He was well aware of a need to address poor performance within his team, but had always believed the new more assertive approach was a “have to” part of leadership not a “want to” and it didn’t suit his personal motivation to be seen as fair and to be liked. So even though he improved marginally when his team really needed him to stand firm he was unable to do so.

Recently I had the senior management group complete a self-assessment using the following framework

– Under pressure, am I competent at my job?

– Under pressure, do I live our values and our trademark?

Not only did he doubt his ability in each area, one of his direct reports self-assessed as failing on both parts. Primarily because her team was performing well below an acceptable level and as such she must accept responsibility. Her debriefing was quite emotional and within 48 hours she resigned. I hasten to add that I have personally spoken to her and her husband and they couldn’t be happier with the outcome – apparently she hadn’t been that happy for some time.

The executive manager says he had an epiphany – a life changing event – during that assessment, a moment he won’t forget for the rest of his life. He now wants to change and be seen as a stronger leader because he was letting down the organisation, not to mention his team.

But whilst everyone had seen and acknowledged his need to change, he never had the emotional power to change, nor could he see the need to – until the honesty of one of his team allowed him to see the real impact of him not changing.

Now he wants to prevent that from occurring again, he wants to pass the competent and character test. As a direct result of this shift in thinking he has held genuine discussions with a number of his team, begun a restructure to correct some cultural and behavioural issues and received some positive feedback from his peers about the new approach.

He has simply decided to make different choices and wants to implement them.

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Want To

Internally driven
Very strong
Longer lasting
You feel in control or empowered
Takes longer to identify the driver
Benefits may not be visible at all
Will often see people exceeding expectations set by others
Positive motivator
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Have To

Externally stimulated (often)
Fear of favour
Very strong
You feel powerless and disempowered
Lasts only as long as the stimulus is present
Uses positional or emotional power to influence
Much easier to identify the driver
Is in the here and now
Often will only achieve the minimum required to either achieve the reward or avoid the punishment
Negative motivator
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Kraig Grime
Kraig Grime

Kraig worked in leadership and change management at the Navy and Air Force for 20 years before joining Leading Teams in 2001. Kraig is based in Ballarat.

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