Last week I attended a webcast on the science of motivation, led
by Dan Pink, author of Drive:
The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. The webinar was really interesting in that
Pink addresses motivation as an intrinsic need, comprised of autonomy, mastery
and purpose. What really caught my
attention was the comment that disengagement in the workplaces costs about $300
Billion per year.
In talking about autonomy, Pink claims that “management” is an
1850’s technique and that engagement occurs through self-direction rather than
by being managed. Example of autonomy in
the business world include “Fed Ex Days” at Atlassian where employees are given
a day to be creative and then present to a “board” the next day – called “Fed
Ex Days” because they have to deliver something overnight. At Google, “20% Time” is where employees are
given 20% of their time to work on things outside of their area of
responsibility. In both cases, the
deliverables from these activities often become parts of the corporate
As part of the webinar, we took an “Autonomy Audit” that consisted
of four questions, rated from 1 (low) to 10 (high). Pink suggests that managers try the Autonomy
Audit with their teams and predict the average score. The four questions are:
- How much autonomy do you have over your time
at work – for instance, when you leave, when you arrive, and how you allocate
your hours each day
- How much autonomy do you have over your tasks
at work – your main responsibilities and what you do in a given day?
- How much autonomy do you have over your team
at work – that is, to what extent are you able to choose the people with whom
you typically collaborate
- How much autonomy do you have over your technique
at work – how you actually perform the main responsibilities of your job.
Greater than 34, you’re probably in the right spot; fewer than 27
or so could indicate a problem. Pink did make the point that the
distribution of the points may matter more than the actual total.
The second component of motivation was described as mastery – the
desire to get better at stuff and make progress in one’s work. And the only way to know if you’re getting
better at something is to solicit feedback. Whether it’s asked for or not, it’s always a good idea to set out your
own learning and performance goals – specify what you want to achieve, and
check in with yourself once a month. Determine where you’re achieving, where you’re falling behind, any tools
you need to achieve goals, etc.
Pink shared an interesting tool called “iDoneThis.” It’s basically an email-based productivity
log. Each night you receive an email
asking what you accomplished for the day. Your response to the email creates a calendar entry for your
accomplishments. In our email-based
world, this might be a great way to track your accomplishments for performance
review time, your monthly check-in on progress, etc. I’ve only used it for a short time, but I
find I don’t like to disappoint my calendar by not having anything to enter.
The third component of motivation was purpose. Not surprisingly, when people are reminded of
the purpose of their job (or even that their job has purpose), they are more
likely to engage in doing that job well. Most often, people think that leading is about the how – that is, getting the job done. As a leader, however, it’s more important to
focus on the why - people do better
when they know why they’re doing something.
So, what did I get out of the webinar that I think is worth
passing on to you? Two things – one from
a leadership perspective; the other from an individual perspective.
First - as a leader, if you feel that your team could be performing
better, take a look at autonomy, mastery and purpose, and determine if those
needs are being met for all your team members. If not, determine what steps you can take to improve each area. Maybe it’s as simple as explaining the “why”
of a particular project; maybe you need to provide more latitude in how a
deliverable gets accomplished.
Second, as an individual, do your own self-audit with regard to autonomy,
mastery and purpose. If you feel like
you’re lacking in autonomy, have a conversation with your manager to see what
might change. If you’re lacking in
motivation, do self-reviews each week to give yourself a sense of
accomplishment within your job. If
purpose is lacking, spend some time contemplating “why” you’re doing your job
and if that fits with your intrinsic needs.
Overall, I think the webinar provided attendees with the opportunity
to think outside of the “financial rewards box” when looking at ways to improve
performance and motivation amongst team members. If you’d like to hear more about motivation
from Daniel Pink, check out the TED talk
that he gave at TEDGlobal 2009.