Archive for February, 2014
Years ago as a FedEx employee, I learned an important lesson in motivation. At that time I worked in the Mergers and Acquisitions department of the Treasury division. Those were heady days, with the company growing by leaps and bounds. One day we learned that a new pay-for-performance program would be implemented; it required all employees to identify outcome measures that demonstrated their value. While additional pay certainly was attractive, we scoffed at the notion that anyone could measure what WE did. As a result, we failed to turn in the required measures. Paying us a visit, our human resources (HR) representative made the situation very simple: “no measures, no money.” We came up with the requisite measures in record time.
As a university professor, I taught a required HR course that our fully employed MBA students usually assumed was about the “soft” side of management. Given that a sizable percentage of the students were engineers returning to study finance or accounting, the first day of class each semester found me facing a room full of adults who believed they had better things to do than learn about HR. Having been in their shoes when I worked at FedEx (i.e., a finance person who didn’t want to be bothered by “pesky” HR folks), I delivered this message: “Although you must take this class to earn your degree, the fact is that HR is the only course in this entire program in which you will learn things that will be of use regardless of your profession. Whether you are – or want to be – a manager, an employee, or a business owner, you will learn things you will use the rest of your life. So you can choose to be miserable for the next fourteen weeks, or to focus on learning information that will serve you well for a lifetime.” After I adopted that introduction, my MBA classes became a lot more enjoyable for the students as well as for me.
These examples exemplify the use of the biggest motivator I know: enlightened self-interest. The key to appealing successfully to people’s enlightened self-interest is to focus on the word ME in answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” from their perspectives. The answer cannot be about their team members, their organization, their friends, or even their families; it must be about them personally. In the first example, the benefit was higher pay; in the second, it was the value that would accrue to individuals as a result of knowing the ins and outs of managing people effectively.
The “enlightened” part of this concept is important: because we don’t always know what’s in our best interests, education plays a key role in aligning interests. In the first example, we learned that earning the rewards truly required measurable performance outcomes. The MBA students discovered that paying attention to something they had to do anyway could result in tangible benefits. With interests aligned, life became much easier for all parties, and desired results were achieved more rapidly and without the drama.
Next time you want or need to align others’ interests with your own, try appealing to their enlightened self-interest. You’ll be amazed at the results.
Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.
© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.