Some of the best-prepared people I know are the least productive, and they are quick to offer the excuse that they are idea people, perfectionists, or easily distracted. Most experts agree the real key is motivation.
In other words, highly motivated people will solve problems, learn new approaches, and deliver results on a far more timely and consistent basis than co-workers whose motivation is lacking or somewhere else.
In a new book, What Motivates Getting Things Done, clinical psychologist Mary C. Lamia explores the different motivations that drive people to pursue excellence.
Lamia argues that the most productive people learn first to interpret the messages from their own emotions, and secondly, pay more attention to the motivational style of key people around them to be less annoyed and more synergistic with their efforts.
From my own experience, I see many of the same key motivators in highly successful business people, including the following:
1. Stimulated by the act of completing a task.
Most often, these people are the ones who keep detailed task checklists, and get great satisfaction from crossing off each item as it is completed.
The best task-driven people are motivated by the task itself. In other words, all business people, like others, are most productive when they love their work.
2. Motivated by meeting every deadline.
These are the business professionals who have a natural default mode of starting immediately on every task, with the goal of finishing early for extra credit and extra satisfaction.
If there is no deadline, they may make up one just to manage to it. While generally this trait is seen as positive, potential negatives include too much multitasking, appearing pushy, and not enough focus on quality.
3. Need to avoid shame, anxiety, and fear of failure.
Some highly successful people are actually procrastinators, and are driven by anxiety and low self-efficacy to start late but work overtime to prove themselves.
Active procrastinators are motivated by last-minute time pressures to complete on time. Passive procrastinators eventually give up or fail.
4. The power of positive recognition from others.
While some are motivated by their own negative qualms, others are motivated by positive feedback and incentives from peers and managers.
They produce results because it gets them accolades and rewards--and more motivation. In this respect, you are the key to their productivity and success.
5. A perfectionist's pursuit of excellence in all things.
The behaviors that people refer to as "perfectionistic" range from a healthy inclination to get things done very well to never-complete behaviors based on unrealistic standards and dreams. Obviously, business leaders must nurture the healthy side of perfectionists and be selective in hiring.
6. A strong emotional commitment to personal goals.
People who set personal business and professional goals are more highly motivated to produce results and find success.
Workers who see business work as a necessary evil, or a path to a paycheck, are not motivated to measure business results, no matter what incentives you provide.
7. Willingness and ability to learn quickly from mistakes.
In business, there are so many unknowns that some failure is inevitable. The key to productivity and success is what you make of your failures.
Successful people are motivated to learn from failure, and follow up quickly with changes, while others play the victim and look for excuses.
Lamia makes an interesting point that humans are a marvel of evolution in not being solely motivated by positive emotions. Some are strongly motivated, and even driven to success, by the desire to turn off negative emotions, including fear of failure, shame, anger, and disgust.
The challenge is to understand yourself and others around you to capitalize on these emotions.
Deadlines and results are just two of the many metrics you must use in business to measure yourself and others on motivation and productivity.
There is no substitute or excuse for not getting things done in business. The long-term viability of your business and your career depends on it.