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Common motivation traps. - by TimC

Everyone is motivated.  However they aren't always motivated by the things that we would like them to be motivated by.

There have been countless studies and case histories done on the subject of motivation. Although there are many similarities as well as differences in their ultimate results there are several concepts that can be pulled from all the research regardless of its focus or purpose.

Motivation is often seen as an illusive yet critical idea when we attempt to discover what seems to push some people forward while keeping others stuck in a way of thinking, acting or believing.

Let's look at a few common consequences of the available body of research.

One.  No one can ever have it all or do it all. People have motivation in degrees.  Some seem to be overflowing with it while other's have trouble getting out of bed each morning..

Two.  It is individual. What motivates one person often has no affect on the next person.

Three.  To be effective for the long term it must be an inside-out, not outside-in process or philosophy. 

Four.  The common types of motivation of fear and reward have their limitations and positive and negative consequences.

Five.  People get it and lose it at various times in their life for very predictable and/or very illusive reasons.

Six.  Goals, values, beliefs, expectations, attitudes, circumstances, perceptions and emotions all play a vital role in a persons ultimate motivation..

Seven.  Where there is an inconsistency between talent or ability and outcomes, motivation, whether positive or negative, always plays a role in contributing to why.

Eight.  You can't measure motivation.  You can measure results but motivation is not the only factor contributing to results.

Nine.  The word motivation contains the concepts of motive, goals or purpose and action. Purpose and motives can range from the idealistic, transitory and spiritual to the more concrete, practical and factual.  Action can range from sporadic to focused, from a little to allot, from now to later.

Ten.   No one can ever really know why another person does or does not do, feel or act in a certain way.  Human behavior is somewhat predictable but it is not an absolute science.

Let's get back to the title of this article of common motivation traps.  What are they?

As an employee as well as a business owner, father, speaker, consultant and trainer I have witnessed a variety of frustration among a great deal of people due to their lack of understanding  of the concept of motivation and their relationship to and their responsibility for other people in their life.

Motivation and the amount of it, at any given time in a persons life, is a very personal  thing. People can influence other people for good or for evil but the ultimate responsibility for a person's behavior is, has been and always will be, themselves.  One of the greatest frustrations in a person's life is the unrealized expectation of another persons behavior.  In other words, why won't my kids, spouse, parents, employees, customers, friends etc. act, think or feel  the way I think they should?  Why do these same people act, think and feel the way they do? Don't have a clue folks.

Our role as managers, parents, spouses, friends and so on is not to motivate other people.  You see we can't really.  Real motivation is an inside-out process.  When we believe that we can motivate others, we are assuming motivation is an outside-in process.  Our role is to create an environment where people would want to, and are able to motivate themselves.

If you look back at the two traditional  motivators of fear and reward you will see that they 're both based on an outside-in philosophy.  They are only as successful as the person being "motivated" is willing to let them influence them.  For example if you use fear on an employee, let's say the threat of the loss of their job to get them to improve their performance.   If they have the attitude, I don't need your job, I am a talented and hard working individual, I quit.  Your threat was useless.

Fear and rewards as motivators are only effective if the person you are trying to motivate is concerned or interested in your threat of punishment or your reward. These motivators are really a motivational environment.  Neither of these environments contribute to peak performance behavior within an individual.  In the long term they are more negative than positive.  Yes, even reward motivation can have its negative consequences.

People have not basically changed in the past several hundred years.  Most people want the same things in life.  Recognition and/or praise, challenge, a feeling they are making a contribution, security, to exercise the freedom of choice, the need to be in on things,  to feel worthwhile and productive and the ability to have influence or control over their life and destiny.

If you want a motivated family, organization, team, department or group of any kind satisfy as many of the above needs for the individual or group as you can. If you want a de-motivated team, group, organization etc provide none of these. 

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