Motivational Sales Job
Motivation is a peculiar form of selling that is rarely recognized as such. When most people try to motivate others, they think their job is to pump people up to do a job better. That's an incomplete and even inaccurate view.
You are trying to get people excited about what they are doing — but that's just the surface. Look a bit deeper and what you're really doing is offering a transaction, something that is part and parcel of a sale. The customer (who in this case is a member of your team) is being asked to part with one thing to gain another. It's a quid pro quo, Latin for the phrase “this for that.” Put differently, you're involved in a business transaction.
The Motivation Transaction
Let's begin to break down what really happens. When you try to motivate someone, you offer a product: a pleasurable emotional sense that team members feel when they actually want to act in support of something they believe in. This is heady stuff. A person has a chance to spend time, not at a grind, but at an activity imbued with full emotional investment as well as the distinct sense that he is doing what is right. What better way can you think of spending a day?
When you're involved in the emotions of people, you must tread carefully. If you enter into a transaction with the sense that you are looking to use other people — manipulate them — you will not motivate. Instead, you create a sense of distrust and perversely lower their motivation.
For this valuable product — does it sound like a sales pitch yet? — all you're asking in return is the commitment and effort to complete certain tasks that help advance the group's goal. To do that, team members must value the goal and understand the importance of their role in making it happen.
A Practical View
Don't worry if it sounds confusing at first. Consider your own experiences. When you feel motivated to take on a volunteer position, or you sign up for extra work at your place of business, or you do things around the house, you get a considerable emotional high from the activity. As you feel that pleasure, the effort you make feels light and you're glad to be doing it.
Contrarily, when you aren't feeling motivated, even something that is usually a pleasure can turn into a chore, whether it's cooking dinner, exercising, reading a novel, or finishing a report for your company. In that instance you're no longer connecting what you are doing to what is important to you, so you're acting out of obligation. No wonder it feels like a drag!
Making the Transaction Work
When you get a gut feel for the transactional process, you can begin to address how it works and what you need to do to make it work for your team. What you're really doing is becoming a salesperson in the highest sense of the term. If you do something that doesn't fit with the principles of these emotional transactions, you'll know that you're not really providing motivation.
Typically, you have a series of activities that can range from offering calculated compliments and hanging inspirational posters to some formal recognition of successful employees. But by taking a cookie-cutter approach and treating all people as interchangeable parts, you aren't taking into account each person's emotional needs. Instead, you've reduced the motivational activity to a string of physical actions.
The problem with motivational checklists is not that the activities are inherently incapable of motivating people. Sometimes they can be effective. But like any good carpenter knows, you can't use a pry bar for every problem. When you always reach for the same tools, you aren't trying to understand each situation on its own, and when you fail to do that, any motivation you manage to create is the result of pure dumb luck.
The effect is equivalent to speaking Romanian to someone who only understands Spanish. The two of you are talking different languages. Rather than offering a solution to a team member's emotional needs, you're looking for a physical solution to your own (specifically, getting something done to advance part of the goal).