How the heck do you motivate yourself and your employees? Part One

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Getting employees to do the work you require of them can sometimes feel like pulling teeth or babysitting. Neither of which are the professions you signed up for as a leader. It can be frustrating and exhausting to remind, urge, prompt and nag employees to take on tasks or complete projects. The question is, how the heck do you motivate them to take initiative, be stirred to action or to complete their duties?

Ah, yes, the age-old leadership challenge, motivating employees. To help you understand how to motivate an employee, let's first look at how to motivate yourself. Then, we will flip it around and see how to use the concepts to motivate your employees.

The Procrastination (or motivation) Equation

Piers Steel, a researcher at the University of Calgary, has uncovered a formula that addresses procrastination and helps to increase your motivation. Because it sheds great insights on both procrastination and motivation, I will use as the base for our discussion.

The formula is this: Procrastination or Motivation equals Expectancy times Value over Impulsivity times Delay. This is what the procrastination or, as I like to see it, the motivation equation, looks like:

Let’s first break down the equation for you, in light of your own motivation or lack thereof.

What do you EXPECT?

Expectancy is what you expect to happen.

  • Do you think the task in front of you will be hard?
  • Do you believe that you will be able to do the task?
  • Do you expect that you will have the skills, time, and resources to do it?

Expectancy includes your level of confidence to take on the task. It looks at your faith in your ability. Expectancy senses how competent you feel you are to do what is required.

The more you expect you can do it, the more motivated you are.

Your level of motivation – Registering for a course

Let’s use the example of procrastinating on registering yourself for an upcoming mediation course.

If you consider the expectancy component of this equation you would want to ask yourself: Do I expect I will be able to complete the requirements for the course?

You may consider your intellectual capacity. Beyond your scholarly ability, you may also reflect on how much time you have to work on the self-study components. Another factor in your expectancy will be your mindset. Do you believe you are a good mediator or not?

If you don't expect you are smart enough, will have sufficient time, or believe that mediation is “in your bones,” your motivation to register for the course declines.

How much do you VALUE this?

Value is your belief in the worthiness of doing this. To consider the value you have, ask these questions:

  • Do I care about this?
  • Does it matter to me?
  • Do others place value on me completing it?

The higher the value that you (or others you admire or respect) place on the task, the more motivated you are.

Your level of motivation – Registering for a course

To gauge your value in registering for the mediation course, you might wonder:

  • Is it worthwhile for me or for the organization that I develop mediation skills?
  • Do I think that I would ever use mediation in my role?
  • Do others value my ability to mediate?

Your answers to these questions will either increase or decrease your motivation for signing up.

How IMPULSIVE are you?

Impulsivity is your ability to resist urges, temptations, and distractions.

In any given task we are motivated to do there are constantly things that can get in our way. How good are you at keeping those things at bay?

The more easily you are distracted or the more interruptions in your way, the less motivated you will be.

Your level of motivation – Registering for a course

Let's say that the opportunity to take this mediation training came to you via email.

  • How many other emails are in your inbox and how many of those emails do you consider more urgent to address?
  • The distraction may be your mind chatter sarcastically reminding you that your organization would never pay for you to take this training. When that negativity hits you, your impulse is to follow that train of thought by closing the email once again, rather than being motivated to approach your boss about funding.

Your motivation to really take a look at the course and make a decision about asking your boss for funding, and then registering, gets impacted by your ability to focus on the task at hand, rather responding to impulses, distractions, and temptations.

How much can you DELAY the project?

Delay is how far away the time frame is that you need to complete the task. The larger delay or timeframe means the less motivated you are to get it done today. The farther away the due date is, the more we procrastinate.

Your level of motivation – Registering for a course

If the email about the mediation course indicates that you have 3 months to decide to register, you're likely going to put off making your decision. You’ll take a wait-and-see kind of attitude. If it's 3 weeks or 3 days away, you’ll be more motivated to take action.

Putting it all together

You can see the more you expect that you will be successful and find value in the action, the more motivated you will be. Equally, the better you are at fending off impulses and distractions and connecting the task to a goal that is a closer time frame, the less you will procrastinate.

In part 2 of this article, we will look at how to use this equation to motivate employees.

Leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead. In Kathy Archer’s online courses and leadership coaching sessions, she teaches leaders the inner and outer tools to restore their lost confidence so they can move from surviving to thriving in both leadership and life.

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