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4 tips from ‘Motivational Psychology’

Leaders often face the challenge to mobilise people. But it does not have to be hard. According to ‘Motivational Psychology’ it is possible to create circumstances where people like to be mobilised and like to participate.

Getting people mobilised or motivated may be one of the biggest challenges for leaders, but they might not realise: people like to be motivated by nature. In the right circumstances they can’t wait to be mobilised. But in the absence of such circumstances, they dig their heels in. Please find below 4 tips to create the right circumstances.

1. Let people participate

All too often you hear people talking about the new generation employees: “They are different. It is not about the money for them, they want to make a difference.” This is not entirely true. Research shows that young people are indeed interested in money. But also, younger employees are not fundamentally different than their more mature colleagues. Both feel it is important to make a contribution to those issues they consider important. Research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) shows that a sense of being able to make a concrete contribution is a strong human driving force.

‘I want to help’
Wikipedia is often used as a textbook example of intrinsic motivation. Thousands of editors put many hours into writing and editing for this online encyclopaedia, without any financial compensation. Their reward? The feeling that they help unlocking information to millions of people on this planet.

Leaders have to make sure three things:

  1. Their people must know the organisation’s mission.
  2. They must know how their team fits into the organisation.
  3. Preferably each person in the team should know his or her own role in the bigger picture. So they know what they are working towards.

‘I want to know my role and purpose’
This is backed by a study by Gallup, questioning almost 50.000 companies. The study shows that if employees know what their contribution is they are less inclined to leave the company, they are more productive ánd they are more customer-friendly.

2. Let people make their own decisions

The opportunity to make your own decisions is often identified by psychologists as one of the main human drivers. Research shows that the expectation alone to being able to make a decision activates the ‘rewards centre’ in the brain. Withholding ones autonomy, on the other hand, can cause feelings of stress.

Less stress
According to David Rock, founder of the Neuroleadership Institute, reduced autonomy results in a strong feeling of being threatened. A good example is someone being micromanaged. This leads to stress and this is one of the reasons why people in a command & control-environment often experience discomfort.

More self-management
The need for autonomy leads to a call for more self-management in organisations. Self-managing teams are not always necessary for this. It can be enough to make sure people can make their own decisions. More transparency helps as well. Do you inform people about the direction of the department? Do you start the dialogue? This shows you value their opinion and you take them seriously.

3. Let people help

The paradox of organizational leadership is that leaders want people to join them by telling them what to do. While people want to help when the opportunity is there, without being told what to do. Psychological studies show that people help someone else if they feel empathy for that person. Even if that causes discomfort or pain. Psychologists are not sure as yet whether this is congenital behaviour or whether we do this because we expect something in return.

Empathy is key
Getting people on board means giving them the opportunity to fulfil their need to help others. Empathy is key. Empathy is not achieved by keeping a distance, by being very demanding or by imposing tasks on people. You have to make sure people respect you. You must be transparent about your motives and visions. And you must involve people and level with them. Do you have the courage to be vulnerable? This will help you getting people on board. For one simple reason: they see an opportunity to help you.

4. Let people achieve

Contributing to something they consider important is not the only reason that al those Wikipedia editors spent many hours editing and researching. Status is another reason. Do you perform well? That raises your status as an editor.

People ‘want to be seen’ in their work
One of our deeper drivers is the need for social status. Male or female, regardless your culture: we all want to differentiate ourselves. This need for status can have a negative impact if people are carried away by megalomaniac ambitions. But it has advantages as well. We use all our energy and creativity to perform well.

Unlock the biggest power source
Do you feel insignificant in the organisation as a whole? Then you won’t feel the desire to invest extra time and energy. But do you feel appreciated by your colleagues and manager? Then you are keen to put in the same effort again. Or more. By taking people seriously and valuing their work, managers can reveal a great source of power. Called: motivation.

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