Strategy

12th November 2015

Worthwhile Work

Back in 1959 Frederick Herzberg first published his paper on The Motivation to Work. In the half century or so since it was published it has remained one of the leading works on the subject. How leaders get their people to behave the way they would want is a constant challenge in almost all businesses.

Probably the biggest revelation Herzberg made was the notion that there were two parts to motivation to work; causes of satisfaction and causes of dissatisfaction and that these two elements seemed to be almost the inverse of each other. One of the biggest shocks for some was Herzberg’s discovery that salary was not the biggest source of satisfaction, only ranking sixth but that it was third or fourth in the rankings of causes of dissatisfaction. You can reasonably draw the conclusion that paying people more is not a motivator, but that not paying people enough is a source of demotivation.

The top causes of satisfaction are: Achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility and advancement, all of which are greater sources of satisfaction than salary. The great news about this is that these are pretty much free and often simply involve treating people well, but it never ceases to amaze how scarce achievement and recognition can still be in some organisations.

When we help our teams feel that their work is important, that it matters, we do more than increase their motivation to work, we provide meaning and purpose. As business owners and business leaders surely our role is to help people find meaning and purpose in what they do and to help them to recognise and plot their progress daily, monthly and continually. This is where the compelling scoreboard is so useful and so important.

Anyone wanting to understand about teamwork and motivation should read ‘Gung Ho’ by Ken Blanchard, part of The One Minute Manager series of books. I know there are other more modern, more technical and more academic books on the subject but there are few which can capture the essence of what great team work feels like better than this short fable. It starts with worthwhile work.

As business owners and leaders surely our prime obligation is to help our team see the importance, the relevance and the worth of the work that we ask them to do. Work that is worthwhile ceases to be work and starts to become a pleasure, a meaningful, worthwhile and therefore fulfilling endeavour. This in turn sparks a beneficial upward spiral.

To quote the subtitle of ‘The Progress Principle’ by Amabile and Kramer “using small wins to ignite joy, engagement and creativity at work” is a big part of what being a leader is about. Imagine if the whole team were engaged, creative and joyful each day wouldn’t we have created a better place, and if enough of us did that we would be starting to create a better world. It is certainly worth trying.