Care over scare

A couple of weeks back I wrote about factors and situations, for these pages, on the subject and relevance, of de-motivation, caused intentionally and unintentionally. Today’s piece is about conscious motivation and unrecognised motivation or the one, to put it differently, caused by the subconscious state of the mind. “Causing people to act” is best described in a single, word, called ‘motivation’. “Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing.” –William Shakespeare

Motivation through the power of office doesn’t work anymore. It is an ancient tool. Compliance through force is a fad of the past. The nature and methodologies of doing work has gone through a tremendous metamorphosis, largely due to the fact that the piece of technology is growing bigger and bigger in the pie of every assignment … the demarcation lines of performance and responsibility are now more smudged and not clearly divided, making evaluation on motivation difficult.

There is no cut and dried solution to induce motivation. And there is no single motivational tool that can be applied across an entity and to all situations. Motivation is dependent upon what is most important to a given individual -his values, beliefs, goals, ambitions, etc will go to determine the deployment of the relevant motivational tool.

For understanding why motivation is important to the ‘living’ world, we must bear in mind that both the mankind and animal kingdom, perform only when motivated. So, let’s evaluate common human behavior -what motivates a mother to break her deep sleep, several times during a night to check if her baby needs to be taken care of in terms of feed, change, sleep, sickness, etc. No, father naturally wakes up for this reason -in exceptional standards, they too do too, but not as naturally as the mothers do.

So what exactly is the cause of the mother’s motivation? Is it the naturally blessed fountain of love that triggers action or is it a sense of responsibility, a sacred duty to undertake or is it the fear of failing as a mother? What is it? My view is it is all except fear of failure. To gather this motivation, does she need a reminder? No. A Threat? No. A reward? No. But she does, without cribbing, losing her smile, or calm no matter how often she has to do it. Think!

Do men (fathers) look after their families because they subscribe to Maslow’s theory of needs and hence feel obligated to do so? A father, who hasn’t been schooled on the theory, also does it, without any dilution of resolve. So, what is their motivation to serve?

Parents require no external push of any factor of motivation to do what they “naturally” must and will do. To get this amazing quality of motivation on an “on mode”, they neither take classes, nor expect reward and recognition. There is divinity in this motivation. It is done selflessly.

Why can’t “selflessness’ be a motivating factor in a corporate setup? It isn’t so because we have invariably enslaved ourselves to an environment of competition? Does competition teach or induce motivation? Yes, it does, if the objective is to win against an opponent or to put down views and enthusiasm of teams. Competition proverbially can be healthy, but practically, it can never be so. In a recent presentation to senior group of officers I remarked, “Let’s indulge in cut-throat cooperation in making this project successful!” Their jaws dropped. What? Cooperate and still be cutting throats. Yes, it is achievable if success is not claimed by a single individual, but is without great amount of visibility shared by all. The question, written large on their faces was: How can anyone have positive feelings in a dog-eat-dog world where the only sentiments competition evokes are envy, jealousy and selfishness?

The naturally inbuilt motivation is strongly eroded through elements of being competitive. Rarely does anyone receive an offer of assistance on the corporate floor. One doesn’t get to hear comments like: “I will cooperate with you, for your success.” ‘Every man for himself’ is the modern day management practitioner’s the creed and hence helps promotion of individual behavior.

As a manager, I always placed heavy reliance on the intrinsic and inherent motivational factors, of my teammates. They always out-classed the material and external motivational tools of rewards, pay-raises, and perks. I remain a diehard believer in internal motivation because it is driven by values, both personal and organisational. Those colleagues, who find affinity between their internal belief system and the core values of the organisation, rarely do need external stimuli, for being productive.

Decency in basic conversation can make colleagues move mountains. We come across many managers, who have fearsome tongue-lashing skills, but they are never able to generate genuine enthusiasm among their reports to perform. People respond to gracious demeanour more than any other trait of their supervisors. Grace and decency are powerhouses of motivation.

If a colleague reports sick, call his residence, speak to his/her family, convey concern, offer assistance and do it for divine reasons, and once the colleague is back at work, you witness to your wonderment, how his motivation has been turbocharged.

In my career, no fear could ever motivate me. The only motivation that spurred undiluted commitment was care, concern, and gentlemanly behavior of my supervisors. I am blest. The soft power of motivation than the hard tools has more durability and sustainability.

Of course organisational culture has a major impact upon staff’s motivation levels. Job details, are important tools, empowerment and clarity of objectives enrich motivation. Each organisation develops its own internal standards of motivation. These have to be in alignment with the aspirations of the staffers.

Caring bosses motivate more than does Mr Grouch! For the motivated, their slogan in life is in the words of William Shakespeare, “The best is yet to do”.

The writer is a freelance columnist