The “If / Because / In spite of” Dynamics of Motivation


At a manufacturing plant in Illinois, a foreman told me he returned from vacation to find his crew had accomplished very little during his time away.  He was disappointed in production numbers, and I could tell he was disappointed in his team. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to build this team,” he said.

Then this week, in Ohio, several of the Team Leads I was meeting with talked about the motivational patterns they see in their crews.

     “Some people know exactly what is expected, and they get to it.” 

      “Some people work if you tell them what to do and keep on them.”

I call this the “If and Because” of motivation.

Many years ago I was introduced to three levels of  attitude and action.  In short, some people will behave as expected IF someone else provides incentives:

            “I will work hard IF you pay me enough.”

            “I will do my work IF you are around and watching me.”

            “I will be responsible IF there’s a chance I’ll be in trouble if I don’t.”

In these instances, motivation is provided by outside forces. People who ascribe to this philosophy are difficult to work with.

 Sometimes we hire exceptional people who are productive BECAUSE:

            “I work hard BECAUSE that’s what I committed to do.”

            “I am reliable BECAUSE I take ownership of my behavior.”

            “I am productive BECAUSE I take pride in my work.”

If you have ever worked with these types, you know what a high performance team can look and feel like.

 And then there is this other category of workers who truly fly high. These employees come to work and are productive IN SPITE OF:

            “I am productive IN SPITE OF the fact some on my team are draggers.”

           “I am committed to good work IN SPITE OF the fact my supervisor is less than effective.”

          “I am a reliable team member IN SPITE OF the fact some people aren’t always trustworthy.” 

These employees are self motivated. They are mature, and they are self managed. They know who they are and what they stand for. They refuse to return ineffectiveness with more ineffectiveness because they have embraced true accountability.

Is everyone possible of developing an IN SPITE OF orientation to work? Probably not. But anyone who leads others can choose to be a motivational teacher. And we might be surprised what people can accomplish.

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