The surprising truth about what motivates us

By June 19, 2016Current, Work

TL;DR – It ain’t just about carrots and sticks. Think MAP!

Do you suffer from massive bouts of depression on Sunday nights? Do you turn a deep dark shade of blue come Monday morning? Do you find that you have to drag yourself to work? If you are an employer, do you find that some of your staff are more like zombies than actual human beings? How do you motivate your staff or remain motivated yourself?

Jack Sim, serial (successful) entrepreneur and the founder of the World Toilet Organisation, had some interesting advice for how to motivate employees. His advice was to “trust them (employees) to make decisions and take full ownership of not just their portfolios but the entire vision of the whole organisation.”

Jack Sim believes that empowering people will also spur innovation and improve productivity:

“When the right people are given authority to take charge, you also employ much fewer people, communication is more direct, and innovative decisions are swifter.

I also realised that if people are energised and always busy, they have no time to play politics… So the solution to productivity is to trust people enough to throw them into the deep end of the water and let them swim. Work becomes fulfilling when you are accountable and given ownership of decisions.”

It sounds interesting. Many young people are keen to prove themselves and would relish being empowered. But are they really ready? As Robert Teerlink, former CEO of Harley Davidson once said,

“If you empower idiots, you get dumb decisions faster.”

Oops. Looks like merely empowering employees isn’t enough to motivate them, and most likely will end up ruining your company.

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Empowerment must go with appropriate, well-scaffolded training so that we gain mastery of what we are doing. And, just as important, if not more so, we must see the purpose of what we are doing.

In other words, the key to being motivated is [textmarker=00000]MAP[/textmarker].

This is the key theory in the best-selling book, “Drive” where author Daniel Pink suggests that to motivate employees who work beyond basic tasks, give them these three factors to increase performance and satisfaction:

Mastery — The urge to get better skills.

Autonomy — Our desire to be self directed. It increases engagement over compliance.

Purpose — The desire to do something that has meaning and is important. Businesses that only focus on profits without valuing purpose will end up with poor customer service and unhappy employees.

If someone sees purpose in what he does, is given sufficient autonomy, and is given opportunity to gain mastery, then you are likely to get someone who is extremely motivated. A friend related her experience:

“In my mid 20s when I knew next to nothing, I met a boss who taught me loads and trusted me a lot. I experienced the most personal and professional growth then.”

But my friend had a caveat that all that depends on meeting the right boss or mentor, which, according to my friend, “probably easier to kena train delay than meet the right boss”.

Of course, having MAP doesn’t mean you don’t need to be paid appropriately for the value you create. We can’t eat mastery, autonomy, or purpose. Money doesn’t guarantee happiness. We’re practical like that, hurhur. But money provides us options. So to beat the Monday blues, to be motivated at work, it we need to add (sufficient) money to the mix. Stir well. And what we get is…

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Ikigai is a concept from Okinawa. Ikigai is often thought of as a reason to get up in the morning. That is a reason to enjoy life. More profoundly, it is used to indicate

“the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile. Secondly, the word is used to refer to mental and spiritual circumstances under which individuals feel that their lives are valuable”.

If you find yourself chronically suffering from Sunday night and Monday blues, it’s time to spend some time taking a good hard look at your life and start planning your own MAP to find your ikigai.

[textmarker=00000]Related links[/textmarker] 1. Millennial Benjamin Loh disagrees with DPM Tharman and he has published his thoughts here. Loh has cited from survey that says young people want a lot of things for work, like global opportunities, constant learning and meaningful work. Sure, but we think wanting is not the same as hungry. And oh, Loh has also drawn reference to Daniel Pink’s MAP (Mastery, Autonomy & Purpose). (Loh later published this on Facebook after reading DPM’s full speech transcript.)

2. Nearly 16 million views for this TED talk by Daniel Pink, go watch!


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Joey Wee

Author Joey Wee

I am nice, most of the time!

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