Are you the kind of person who…?

Here’s a great story about motivation by Peter Bregman in the current Harvard Business Review. It’s a quick read.

There are a lot of studies on what motivates employees, and many of you saw my post last August featuring the TED talk by Daniel Pink, proving that big bonuses are counter-productive.

It turns out that the personal story we construct about ourselves is the biggest determinant in performance and motivation.

Unconsciously, we ask ourselves: ‘Am I the kind of person who…?’

AARP asked some lawyers if they would reduce their fees to $30 an hour for AARP members. Their answer was NO. So then AARP, counterintuitively, asked them if they would donate their time to help retireess pro bono, and their answer was overwhelmingly YES.

The lawyers were subsconsciouly asking, ‘Am I the kind of lawyer who gets paid $30 an hour?’, to which their self esteem answered ‘No.’; and, ‘Am I the kind of lawyer who does pro bono work for the needy?’ to which their self esteem answered, ‘Yes!’

Each of us constructs a personal story about ourselves, often without even realizing it, through our decisions and actions every day.

‘Am I the kind of person who helps someone when they stumble and fall?’

‘Am I the kind of person who willingly gives my expertise and time free to the less fortunate?’

‘Am I the kind of person who stays late to finish the job because I want the boss to know she can count on me above all others?’

These questions fit into our personal stories and help determine whether or not we do something. And once money is introduced into the question, it changes everything.

When we’re paid to do something, it changes our story about ourself.

The question then often becomes, ‘Am I the kind of person who is only worth…?’ And the answer is often, ‘I’m not getting paid enough to do…’ Or, ‘I’m worth more than …’

I am not suggesting here that money is not important to your workers and staff.

I’m saying that if you go to the trouble to find out what each individual’s story about themselves is, what qualities about themselves are most attractive to them, you’ve found what motivates them.

Once you learn to fit your requests and needs into their story in a way that brings them intrinsic satisfaction, you’ll motivate each team member to give you their best every day.

And they’ll want you in their foxhole every time the battle starts.