Motivation: Stick? Carrot? Or is there a third option?

May 1, 2018

As a former Finance Director I bring an unusual insight into motivation. In my quest to build a strong and highly profitable business, I loved direction, clarity, structure and processes. We’d become ISO accredited in Quality, Environmental and Health & Safety, and had excellent Business Operating Systems. But even I eventually realised that authority, financial controls, stick and carrot only get you so far. I found ourselves creating more processes to catch out the people who weren’t complying – before realising I just need to understand why.

Wasn’t it Einstein who said the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect different results?

‘Why?’ is intangible and open ended. It might open up questions and thoughts that we don’t want to explore. It’s not as simple and clear cut as a nice process. BUT, if you are committed to significantly improve business performance, we need to move beyond authority, processes and control. And by ‘we’, I also mean ‘you’. This is not a challenge we can leave at HR’s door.

In a world that’s focused on productivity, it feels crazy to leave untapped ability on the table. The UK is 20% behind the rest of the G7 countries in terms of productivity, which simply means it costs more to do business in the UK. It means there less money in the UK economy for wages, innovation and the NHS. And yet, 64% of people say they have more to offer in their skills and talent than they’re currently being asked to use or demonstrate. That’s 20 million workers. (According to Engage for Success.)

And whilst motivation is not as definitive as a nice process – but it’s a far better way to do business, especially with today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment and complex demographics.

So how do we motivate people?  Read more