We all want to be motivated -- and, as entrepreneurs, we love the idea of being able to motivate others. That’s great in theory, but it’s not always clear how to accomplish this within the day-to-day grind of a fast-moving business. What’s a busy entrepreneur to do?
It’s a widespread problem: According to Gallup’s most recent engagement research, 71 percent of Americans are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their work. Those workers are less likely to be productive.
The traditional methods -- higher pay, for example -- produce mixed results. As Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic writes in Harvard Business Review, “If we want an engaged workforce, money is clearly not the answer. In fact, if we want employees to be happy with their pay, money is not the answer. In a nutshell: money does not buy engagement.”
So if the evidence is convincing, that higher pay doesn’t motivate, what does? The science tells us that intrinsic motivation, when there is interest or enjoyment of a task, is what really drives satisfaction at work. Dan Pink, author of the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, says there are three key drivers of motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
The problem is that most people don’t know how to create intrinsic motivation for themselves, much less be able to ask for it from their bosses. On the flip side, as bosses, trying to motivate can seem like an endless rabbit hole that’s far easier to ignore than to dive into. Instilling mastery and purpose seems too touchy-feely, and granting employees autonomy seems scary.
Motivation is a goal that ultimately falls into the hands of an individual -- there’s only so much you can do as a boss, after all -- but it’s important to create an environment where full motivation is possible. It’s your job to be the catalyst.
With that in mind, I have created a few easy questions that can make the task of motivating employees more standardized and manageable. Try asking your team these questions once a month -- and create a regular dialogue that keeps the topic of motivation front and center.
1. What has been the most exciting work experience for you this month and why?
2. Do you consider your current role your ideal job? What more could you be doing that would benefit the business -- and make the experience more enjoyable for you in the process?
3. Do you feel that you get purpose from our mission and vision? If not, tell me what gives you purpose -- and how you can leverage that mission for our business.
Use these questions as a catalyst for conversation. Let your employees know that its OK to not feel motivated; you can’t improve motivation without talking about it. Let them know that you are there to engage in the conversation and support them in doing their best work. Encourage them to come to you each month with ideas on how to increase their interest and motivation. To stay away from the touchy-feely, ask for specificity. Request that they bring projects, ideas, and a personal mission statement that aligns with the company’s.
If an employee is consistently unmotivated and dispassionate, it will soon be apparent to both of you that there isn’t a fit. However, more often than not, the conversation will catalyze employees to motivate themselves with the company goals in mind -- which, at the end of the day, is your goal too.