Why I don't like the word "motivation"?

Recently I have been asked about the way I motivate people on the teams I lead. The short answer is: I don't. In fact, this question makes me shiver. Let's look at the reasons why.

First of all, let's look at the definition of the word:

motivation (noun) - məʊtɪˈveɪʃ(ə)n

a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way.

Given the nature of the word, it seems like the act of motivating is providing a reason for people to behave in a certain way.

I don't think that it is generally a good strategy to use carrot approach. In our industry people usually are not motivated by material things or the next promotion (Though these things are good :))

I found following three tips to be useful for maintaining a healthy microclimate in the team:

Hire people that are self-motivated

Motivation has to come from within. If you hire people that are not motivated to do great work, what makes you think that you will be able to give them a reason to do it?

Does that mean that I don't keep track of the teams microclimate or that I don't care? Of course not.

Keep 'em challenged

Great leaders keep challenging their people. If your team is constantly doing the same things over and over again, the work will become mundane and unpleasant.

Ask your developers to speak to customer, make a presentation at your local user group or even run a marathon? Whatever makes them better. Be a constant challenger.

Praise publicly, criticise privately

We tend to forget the value of acknowledging the success of our team members. When we praise a coworker publicly, it shows that you value their input to the rest of the group. This might seem trivial and unnecessary, but it is one of the best ways to keep people engaged.

It is never easy to give negative feedback. Don't fall in to the trap of shaming someone publicly. It is really easy to do and you might think that the group will learn a lesson, but the best case scenario is that you will make another paper cut to teams microclimate. When something is gone wrong, take a person to a meeting room and explain the situation and tell them what you think. Let them have a chance to explain themselves. If the person is understanding, make sure he(she) will commit to not making the same mistake twice.

Janis Miezitis

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