There’s a fallacy that is so prevalent in today’s corporate strata that leads upper management to believe that employees operate better when they’re offered more money. Managers and directors like to dangle bonuses and incentives in front of their staff like a carrot on a stick thinking that they’ll move faster, sell better and accomplish more.
Organisation expert Patrick Lencioni once said, “Engagement is not a function of money and status.” Money is not the best way to drive and motivate your people. Yes, they will make people move faster in the short term, but a company that only uses money to drive engagement and performance will lose in the long term.
I’m not saying that money doesn’t help motivate people. It does, but only to a certain level. Money as a motivator has a diminishing marginal return once it hits a ceiling. I’ve met people who make millions and work in comfortable corner offices but find no joy or drive to operate. On the other hand, there are organisations where people get paid nothing and volunteer but operate at such an excellent level. I’m not saying we don’t need to pay our staff. But if volunteers can get motivated, why can’t paid staff?
What is it that drives people apart from money? What can leaders provide their people in order to motivate them? Here are three things leaders must provide their staff, aside from a good profit, to drive them to greater heights.
At the core, people should ultimately work in order to pursue a purpose. Money is a practical need we all have, but we all know that getting rich without really finding meaning in what we do will not satisfy us at the deepest level. We want to know we are fulfilling a greater mission.
We all have something that drives us, something we feel in our deepest gut is the one thing we should do. As leaders, we need to help our staff find what their deepest sense of purpose is and connect them to that.
Employees feel a disproportionate level of dissatisfaction towards the efforts they put out when they feel like their work amounts to nothing. As a designer, the greatest joy in my work comes from seeing my output actually make it to deployment. To watch people interact with my creations and see them come out to good use. I’ve had multiple projects where I got paid a lot of money. But the output was never deployed and I was unhappy with the project.
People want to see the significance of the efforts they put out. When we connect people’s work to the needs that they meet and the difference it makes, they will become more motivated to work hard.
There’s nothing that bores a professional more than being in the same spot for a long period of time. That’s probably why many people want promotion. It’s not just the money. It’s the realisation that we are growing as well.
Growth is a personal responsibility, but it is also a leaders job to make sure people exist in an environment where they can grow. You can take the most aggressive weed and plant it in the driest most barren soil and watch it wither and die. Do you provide your people with an opportunity to grow? When we don’t, it’s just a matter of time until they get bored and either move on or stagnate productivity-wise. But when you do, provide growth, they will be motivated.