Thursday, May 8, 2014

Some more thoughts about donkey motivation

In the past, motivation was thought to come from a carrot and stick approach.  However as Whitmore writes:  "The carrot and stick analogy originates from donkey motivation ... if we treat people like donkeys they will perform like donkeys ... if people are going to perform, they must be self-motivated."

There is a whole chapter in the book about motivation and self-belief.  This is based on Maslow's hierarchy of needs.  At the top of the hierarchy is the state of self-actualization which emerges with the physical and self-esteem needs are satisfied.  In this state the individual is not driven by the need to prove himself - either to himself or to anyone else.  Further down the hierarchy work can provide for people's primary needs.  People work for money with which they can buy food, water, clothing and shelter.  Work also satisfies some higher level needs such as working in a community, promotion, prestige and good pay.  However Whitmore writes that many people today are striving not for these things but more for self-belief:  "traditional businesses and management methods are very poor at meeting this need.  In fact most managers fail to do so principally because their desire to feel in control discourages them from building self-belief in those they manage."

Whitmore writes about the fact that there is a huge difference between getting esteem from others and self-esteem (or self-belief as he calls it).  He writes:  "Self belief is not met by prestige and privilege, which are more symbolic than substantial.  It is built when someone is seen to be worthy of making choices.  Promotion without genuine empowerment and the opportunity to express potential is counterproductive."  I thought about this a lot.  It explained why even when in my last job I got promoted to a position of responsibility, I felt worse than when I was a simple IT teacher.  When someone else was still making all the decisions, especially ones where I felt I had greater knowledge and certainly greater principles about digital ethics, I just ended up feeling used.

It's interesting that Whitmore identifies most business leaders as being at Maslow's status and recognition level and also that he writes that it is here that they do most harm.  At this level these people are often arrogant, assertive, domineering and self-important.  He writes about the necessity for a leader to progress on to the next level, which is the need for self-belief.  At this level the leadership gets better.  With self-belief the leader is not arrogant but authentic and altruistic - those at this level are leading for others rather than for themselves.  The best leaders of all, however, are a level above that of self-belief - that of self-actualization.  This level is often referred to as the level of service - which is often what gives life meaning and purpose.

But the problem is that not many people get to this level.  Businesses (and schools) are full of people who are lower down the ladder.  They have power and they have people that they can use it on.  Many leaders are stuck on the status and recognition step and many never get beyond it.  It is these people who have a large amount of power together with a large amount of self-interest, and to be perfectly frank these are the sort of people that I hope never to work for again.

Photo Credit: iki-photos via Compfight cc

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