Quality of Motivation

What is quality of motivation? The premise is quite simple. In fact, it generally creates that “aha” moment where you find yourself asking, “why didn’t I know this before?”

The element of adding quality to motivation is pure genius. Let’s start with what motivates people. At their core, all humans are driven to maximize pleasurable experiences and minimize painful and stressful ones.  Few people question that premise.

Over time we develop skills which form habits that drive our behaviors to attain and maintain such pleasures as well as avoid and escape pain and stress. It goes without saying that some of us are better at achieving joy and success in our lives than others. The same goes for dealing with pain. 

The more skilled we are the more productive lives we live and the less moody we are when things go wrong. The problem is that many values and habits we learn as kids sometimes interfere with our ability to attain the good things in life and avoid the stress associated with even day-to-day events. Think about this – how does “don’t talk to strangers” impact an employee’s ability to network?  Or what about “wait until you’re spoken to?”  Or “don’t sweat the small stuff?” Or “if all your friends jump off the bridge, will you follow?” And the biggest of them all – “nothing comes easy” or “no pain, no gain.”  It’s corollary – “don’t be such a baby.”

Most of us don’t give a second thought to these tapes we hear as adults. But decades of research have proven that these tapes influence behaviors that get in the way of achieving our potential and relieving stress in our life. At first glance, these tapes seem normal and positive. Some may even be uplifting. You might even find these “tapes” highlighted on motivational posters! Unfortunately these are the same motivational skills that keep many of us mired in place – running faster, working harder, but not making much progress.  These behaviors are highly effective in the short run, but grossly inefficient over the long haul.

The genius of the quality of motivation is that it identifies both productive and counter-productive behaviors and creates a snapshot of individual effectiveness and efficiency. It highlights the motivational skills and resources that put us on the right path and those that give us short term bursts of motivation but almost guarantee some long-term negative consequences. Most motivational books and speakers focus on increasing the quantity of our motivation. Few if any mention the second component – quality of motivation. There’s good reason why.

Skills and habits that create immediate motivation are easy to develop and access. The skills required to develop productive behaviors take time, hard work, and practice.  But productive and sustainable motivation requires both quantity and quality. Don’t get me wrong – focusing on quantity and intensity does work. It’s just that the results are most often short-term with serious negative long term consequence.  These short-term motivators become career derailers. They force highly skilled employees to pass up promotions. They force the brash, outspoken high potential politician out of office.  They cut promising athletic careers short. They create a sense of hopelessness in the worker who was recently terminated or turned down for a job. The same model works for companies too. 

Here’s one example of how quantity without quality motivation training can go badly. Consider that accident rates often increase immediately after safety training. Why? The participants “feel” they are safer post-training and are more mentally motivated to stay safe. They are emboldened having passed the course and receiving a certificate of completion. They now know what to do. The problem is that they didn’t necessarily figure out a way to break a bad or careless habit. If prompted and time allows, they will react safely. But in an instant, past habits will control the behavior of the recently trained employee. If training doesn’t address personal behaviors and deterrents to bad habits, participants will feel safer while still using their old unsafe habits. It’s like driving and texting. After learning about the dangers, many people feel empowered and smarter. They mean to stop but as soon as the tone rings, temptation gets the best of them. A sense of fearlessness trumps safety every time!

The same holds true for many team building and motivational events. The enthusiasm, energy rush, and shift in attitudes rarely works longer than a few days, if that long. Motivation training does increase the intensity of emotions but generally only increase the quantity of motivation without altering the quality. Motivating employees however is often like herding cats…just when you think have them figured out, they take you by surprise and prove you wrong! To make employee motivation even more challenging, the competition for skilled employees is causing companies and its managers to do a lot of crazy things. At best they get short term results. But more often than not, efforts to motivate employees backfire – diverting resources and distracting managers and employees. Instead of inspiring the workforce and raising the level of productivity, managers are forced to put out fires and mend relationships.

To learn more about how to raise of the quality of motivation in your business, call us today at 800-803-4303 or complete the request form below. 

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