17 May 2021

The Key to Success, and a call to action, by Subio

The working environment for many has changed considerably over the past twelve months. Many have found it increasingly difficult to keep themselves or others motivated. So, wouldn’t it be great if we could motivate in a few easy steps? How would you feel if someone had a guaranteed formula to motivate you and everyone else?

Sustainable human motivation is an area we continue to explore. Daniel Pink, Barry Schwartz and Simon Sinek are among those leading the social media charge on the importance of purpose, or what is increasingly referred to now as ‘why’. More and more organisations apply greater focus on purpose in order to reach and motivate people, but is purpose really enough? As Sinek suggests, we need to start with why, our very own authentic ‘why’.

There are various schools of thought on how to discover one’s own ‘why,’ but let’s start with what each of us hold dear. Shalom H. Schwartz argues that there are ten basic human values, which include our own concepts of:

  • Self-direction: freedom, self-respect, curiosity.
  • Stimulation: excitement, variety, daring.
  • Hedonism: pleasure, enjoyment, indulgence.
  • Achievement: success, ambition, influence.
  • Power: authority, wealth, recognition.
  • Security: social order, health, belonging.
  • Conformity: self-discipline, interacting with the expectations of others.
  • Tradition: respect, commitment, customs.
  • Benevolence: helpfulness, forgiveness, loyalty.
  • Universalism: social justice, environment, equality.

Almost every human value and compelling reason can be traced back to one or more of these. It is the nuances of interpretation, coupled with the fluid nature of the needs they create which illustrates the problem with motivational hacks. We each have our own unique mix of interpretations and needs based on our life experiences – our own unique  ‘why’.

Our experiences continue to shape us from cradle to grave, either reinforcing our beliefs or causing us to evaluate some that are less-established. Our values and our needs vary and whilst we will have some commonality, the regular flexing of their importance means they change from person to person and from day to day. This creates almost an infinite number of combinations at play on any given day which is impossible to cater to, right?

This is why authentic company values, along with clarity of mission and vision, do play such an important role in motivation – they operate using the law of attraction to help identify some shared core values, but they are not enough in isolation, nor if the rest of your working environment is inhibiting other values or needs from being fulfilled.

For over 200 years we have operated on the principal of power being the trump card in motivation. It has therefore become our default answer to everything, yet in certain situations this can be actively demotivating.

In their research, Effort for Payment, James Heyman and Dan Ariely make a case for the danger of this as a default stance using a simple exercise of moving a sofa into a van. Participants were asked either to help as a favour or for a small fee. The very introduction of money switches the decision from a social transaction (is it the right thing to do) to a financial transaction (is it worth the time and effort). You don’t need to read the research paper to know the outcome of the experiment.

Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes to motivating unique individuals. If we are to sustainably motivate, we need environments which provide clear anchor points that identify and satisfy whatever specific need is important at any given time. We have to invest in understanding our ‘why’ and those of others around us.

Any form of sustainable success comes from being motivated, individually, as a team or as a business. That motivation is fuelled through firstly investing the time and effort in understanding what are the real compelling reasons (why) that drives us to achieve our goals and needs. 

Featured in the June 2021 issue of Professional in Payroll, Pensions and Reward. Correct at time of publication.