How can you as a manager motivate your employees to provide creative solutions to some of your organizational challenges without focusing on a pay raise or a monetary bonus? Consider an organization you know well, has this or a similar way to motivate its employees been utilized? If not, would this way to motivate have worked?
I feel like this post is a bit repetitive, I think I covered much of this in my week three paper, but I will try to change it up a bit, provide a brief synopsis of some of the motivational ideas I outlined in the paper, and try to look at things from a slightly different perspective.
When I think about motivation, in the context of what I do every day I always think in terms of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. (RSA ANIMATE: Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us, 2010) I also think a lot about achieving “flow”.
Just today I received an email from someone in our marketing department asking if they could republish an article I wrote entitled “Baby Got Bots” by Sir Fix-a-Lot (aka me). It was a play on “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Lot, the correspondence was quite long, even a snippet from the correspondence was too long to paste into the post. I realize a little is lost in the story without the context, if anyone is interested I am happy to post a follow-up.
The email from marketing went on to state “We noticed you write a blog and wanted to see if you were interested in writing pretty short pieces for the website (you will be credited for your work)? I’m working on a proposal to pay eng for content, if that sweetens the deal.”
My response simply was: “Will my writing be directed? I write as an outlet, I like to feel inspired, so the $s not a sweetener for me.”
I am very familiar with Atlassian and at one time or another have been a user of Jira, Bitbucket Confluence, and HipChat, all great Atlassian products. Atlassian was a pioneer with HipChat, although today they are suffering at the hands of Slack. No doubt “The Innovator’s Dilemma” (Christensen, 2016) at work here. I love solving problems; my days are relative, they are governed only by my ability to achieve flow. When I achieve flow a day could be three days, it goes by from my desk chair in a blink of an eye. Other times two hours feels like an eternity as I struggle to achieve flow. My consistent objective for myself and others is to “achieve a state of flow that is defined as that state of mind where one is totally immersed in the present activity to the extent that nothing else can interfere or interrupt it.” (Wilhelm, 2017)
Wilhelm in the “Finding flow: The power of motivation and pleasure” outlines key aspects of motivation that impact flow. These closely align closely with autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
- Competence. Put individuals in a role where they can demonstrate mastery or work toward mastery.
- Edginess. Make sure the work is interesting and exciting. I would say that the more mastery you develop on your team, the more focused you have to be on edginess.
Wilhelm also talks about pleasure and its importance in achieving flow. Creating an environment that is immersive, intellectual and social that focuses on getting something functional done and has a concrete application. Individuals expected to be stimulated and derive pleasure from conditions that inspire them; they want to accomplish something and feel the satisfaction that comes from doing something great that challenged them and is admired by others.
For me, I achieve this through a flat organization, a community of peers and a model that provides creative freedom, but challenges people to solve complex problems with an escalation path rather than management. I look for people to manage up, rather than me managing down. I challenge all team members with the same open-ended challenges; I provide autonomy for team members to pick a project, to ensure it has a purpose (i.e. – it’s meaningful to you) and to work toward mastery. Mastery could be a failed project, but an incredible presentation about the journey. People on the team have varied skill levels, they produce different outcomes, but they all learn something along the way and from each other and are encouraged to focus on the journey, not the destination. I don’t alter the challenges to accommodate for differing roles, it’s up to you to steer yourself towards success; I challenge team members to think outside the box, to not get hung up on the minutia. We embrace the idea that nothing is extraordinary about any role, what’s extraordinary is the cognitive ability of every person on this team, you are all “stunning colleagues.” (Hastings, 2009, p. 24) Every person has something unique to bring to the table, as a leader it’s my job to create a lens that puts each person in a position to grow and contribute.
In February we held a team meeting, and like all our team meetings there was a hackathon. The project was to build something from a Raspberry Pi (Teach, Learn, and Make with Raspberry Pi, n.d.). The parameters where simple, you had to come up with an idea, execute it and then explain to other attendees, why you choose the project, how you executed and finally what you built. The idea was to challenge yourself, to build something cool but also to deliver the message using the Why, How, What model. (Sinek, n.d.)
Here is a time-lapse video of the event (for anyone interested): https://youtu.be/9lwK-nqRMXk
We perpetuate this cultural experience with “Solve IT days”, our version of “ShipIt days” (ShipIt Days, n.d.) which we hold the first Thursday of every month. The process works like this:
- At the onset of each Solve IT Day (8 AM), I designate two team leaders.
- Each team leader will:
- Identify what they want to work on.
- Assemble a team.
- Have 24 hours to work on the problem.
- At 8 AM on Friday each team will have one hour present what they worked on.
For me, it’s about culture every minute of every day. Create the right culture, and everything else falls into place. Money is a factor, but the interesting part is with higher performance money is less of a factor, when performance is poor money becomes a factor. My philosophy is money is an outcome, it’s not a motivator, focus on the money, and you’ll struggle to get there, wherever there is.
Christensen, C. M. (2016). The innovators dilemma: When new technologies cause great firms to fail. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.
Hastings, R. (2009, August 01). Culture. Retrieved March 18, 2018, from https://www.slideshare.net/reed2001/culture-1798664
Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. (2018). Essentials of organizational behavior. New York, NY: Pearson.
RSA ANIMATE: Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. (2010, April 01). Retrieved March 16, 2018, from https://youtu.be/u6XAPnuFjJc
ShipIt Days. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2018, from https://www.atlassian.com/company/shipit
Sinek, S. (n.d.). How great leaders inspire action. Retrieved March 17, 2018, from https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action
Teach, Learn, and Make with Raspberry Pi. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2018, from https://www.raspberrypi.org/
Wilhelm, J. D. (2017). Finding flow: The power of motivation and pleasure. Voices from the Middle, 25(1), 73-75. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.portal.lib.fit.edu/docview/1942179560?accountid=27313
Scott, step 1, get out of that office and among the people (The Death of the Cubicle, 2016). 🙂 Personally, I prefer Enya for an outstanding in-flight nap, but when I need to work, I crank up some Iron Maiden. There is nothing like a little “Fear of the Dark” after all “I have a constant fear that something’s always near” or the “Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner”, how do you not get motivated by this lyric:
“I’ve got to keep running the course,
I’ve got to keep running and win at all costs,
I’ve got to keep going, be strong,
Must be so determined and push myself on.”
BTW, I am pretty sure millennials have no idea that heavy metal is a genre of music. I try to assimilate them by singing Danzig at every karaoke event. I just can’t take the non-stop house music, where the artist is more electrical engineer than musician, but I suppose I should be happy no one is sleeping to Yanni. 🙂
I agree, with you, subtle recognition and inclusion are probably the two most essential motivators that I see. Creating a sense of exclusivity is a legacy strategy IMO, and many organizations are struggling to break free from a dying culture. Sticking with what worked twenty years ago and aiming to satisfy the needs of a workforce that is motivated by exclusive events as a reward is costing them the best and the brightest from a generation and the labor force that seeks inclusion.
My team conducts something we call “Solve IT Days” Where on the first Thursday I nominate two team leads, it’s their job to pick a problem, assemble a team and spend the next twenty-four hours on a solution. These sort of programs have been the topic of conversation and criticism (D’Onfro, 2015). We’ve constrained the program to a specific twenty-four hour period, and we ensure that while the leaders have creative freedom, the problem they are solving has to have some applicability to a business problem. I also a fan of failing, failing fast but not failing at the same thing more than once, we’re supposed to learn from the failure not repeat it. Fast failure and fail forward is something that has also come under scrutiny (Asghar, 2014), but we live in a time where over rotation tends to be the norm, I’m OK with failure, but we are not throwing failure parties, post-mortems with beer and pizza, yes, parties, no.
Asghar, R. (2014, July 14). Why Silicon Valley’s ‘Fail Fast’ Mantra Is Just Hype. Retrieved March 31, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/robasghar/2014/07/14/why-silicon-valleys-fail-fast-mantra-is-just-hype/#475682bb24bc
D’Onfro, J. (2015, April 17). The truth about Google’s famous ‘20% time’ policy. Retrieved March 31, 2018, from http://www.businessinsider.com/google-20-percent-time-policy-2015-4
The Death of the Cubicle. (2016, September 16). Retrieved March 31, 2018, from https://upstatebusinessjournal.com/the-death-of-the-cubicle/