“How do I keep my team motivated?”
You’ve just asked this question for the umpteenth time or overheard a manager on your team ask it. Things were going well in the first and second quarters. People seemed motivated and ready to hit the year’s goals. But now, motivation is lagging. Maybe it’s the anticipation of the holidays or one too many eggnogs the night before. Whatever the cause, your leadership team is scrambling for ways to reignite the energy that seemed to exist in spades earlier in the year.
According to John Hittler, however, your employees’ motivation isn’t your responsibility. As a leader, the real question you should ask is, “Why is it my job to keep my team motivated?”
Motivation Is Not The Answer
Having spent the last 15 years coaching CEOs and Fortune 500 leaders, Hittler heard the question of motivation come up again and again. In that time, Hittler discovered motivation isn’t the barrier — or solution — to success that it’s often made out to be.
In his recent book, “The Motivation Trap,” Hittler puts forth an idea almost as provocative as his last name: Trying to fuel motivation is mostly a waste of time. By the end of the book, you’ll understand why.
Just A Short-Term Solution
“The Motivation Trap” starts by describing the way people use motivation. Leaders see motivation as something they can win with a carrot-and-stick approach, but it’s actually just a short-term stimulus. When leaders use motivation to spur their team on, they’re driving productivity with a tool that’s incredibly unreliable.
Think about it: How many times have you woken up feeling fully motivated and ready to take on the day, but by 10 a.m., the caffeine has worn off and you still have a day’s worth of work ahead of you?
Motivation is just a spark. It’s not the long-burning fuel that keeps teams working hard. “You get started with motivation. You get results with additional, more effective tools,” describes Hittler.
He goes on to define these tools as purpose, courage, habits, inspiration, systems, and processes. Hittler delves into definitions of each tool, unpacking them and using real-world examples to bring each to life.
Wielding these tools, a leader can open the vault to sustainable productivity. With the right systems and processes in place, employees will be able to find their sense of purpose and develop good habits. Within those elements, they’ll also find their own sources of encouragement.
Unlike a carrot-and-stick approach that just keeps people interested long enough to get the carrot, this alternative pathway to motivation is much more effective at encouraging a team to bring their best every day.
Empower Your Team
Of the takeaways of Hittler’s book, an important one is the idea that traditional motivation is forceful and relies on external forces to work. You don’t have control over your employees’ sources of motivation (say, how good they’re feeling on a given day or a rough patch in their relationship) but you do have control over the systems, processes, and habits that become the norm at your workplace and fuel productivity.
Hittler calls on leaders to empower team members instead of coercing them into productivity. As a leader, it’s not your responsibility to keep your team motivated. It’s your responsibility to lay a foundation that allows each one to find their own motivation, purpose, and inspiration within your company.
For CEOs, managers, parents, and anyone who wants to help their team perform at its best, there’s a lot to be learned from “The Motivation Trap.” Check it out to discover key strategies for sustained success.