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Tuesday, July 14, 2020


I recently read Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging by Susan Fowler (2014).  

In this book SF makes a compelling case for organizational leaders to abandon traditional approaches to “motivate” people. Rather, she advises us to focus our attention on creating the kinds of collaborative, reflective cultures that support productive, positive, and self-actualizing work environments. 

My top takeaways include:
> Use of rewards and punishments ONLY accomplish temporary compliance.
> There are six motivational outlooks: Disinterested (sub-optimal), External (sub-optimal), Imposed (sub-optimal), Aligned (optimal), Integrated (optimal), Inherent (optimal). 
> Motivation relies on three psychological needs – autonomy (a sense of self-direction), relatedness (our need to be cared for, to be cared about, and to contribute to a greater good), and competence (our need to feel effective, growing, and flourishing).
> We promote high-quality self-regulation by fostering cultures that accentuate mindfulness, focus on values, and stay grounded in noble purpose.
 Leaders should be focused on motivating themselves, not others.
> Well-being is at the very heart of one’s motivational outlook.
> Quality appraisal processes are centered on reflection, not grading or being graded.
> Five beliefs that erode workplace motivation:  1. It’s not personal; it’s just business.  2. The purpose of business is to make money.  3. Leaders are in a position of power.  4. The only thing that really matters is results. 5. If you cannot measure it, it doesn’t matter. 

Fowler asserts that lack of motivation is not really the problem.  People are always motivated.  Whythey are motivated is the real issue to be explored and understood.

My favorite quotes:

“The real story of motivation is that people are learners who long to grow, enjoy their work, be productive, make positive contributions, and build lasting relationships.” (p. 50)

“A space exists between what is happening to you and the way you react to it. Mindfulness is that space.” (p. 62)

“If you cannot measure it, it is probably really, really important.” (p. 148)

This book reminded me of this Daniel Pink TED Talk regarding The Puzzle of Motivation.  Both are worth your time if you want a better understanding of what motivates us.

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