This post distils insights from six sources concerning trends in high-performing organizations (references below).
The most successful organizations have lofty missions they're passionate about. It's in their DNA, shows up in everything they do, and resonates with their customers and staff. People enjoy dedicating their skills and time to deliver the organization's value.
Intrinsic versus Extrinsic Motivation
Extrinsic rewards (such as praise, recognition, and money) incentivize people to achieve organizational objectives. However, intrinsic motivators (our desire for personal growth through relationships, challenges, and opportunities) appeal to our deeper needs.
Extrinsic rewards, such as financial incentives, can be appropriate in some situations but encourage a short-term, narrow focus that reduces inventiveness and creativity. Incentivizing staff can easily create a future expectation that undermines their intrinsic motivation and promotes a mercenary attitude.
Meet Your Staff's Basic Needs
Psychological safety is a baseline enabling contribution.
A fair salary is a prerequisite for motivated staff; fair within the industry and compared to other staff. Above-industry-average pay, benefits, and perks are smart choices that save money. Get past salary issues quickly so that they're not the focus.
Several extensive studies show a significant link between interpersonal work relationships, job satisfaction, and business outcomes, so workplace friendships should be encouraged.
Autonomy means control over where, when, how, what, and with whom one works.
Research shows that organizations that provide high levels of independence to their staff grow four times faster and have 30% less turnover.
Employ internally-motivated people who want to grow and develop themselves, and offer them a high degree of autonomy, the opportunities, and the experiences they seek.
Flow is common in children deeply engaged in play, but it can also happen in the workplace when people are absorbed in challenging (though not overwhelming) tasks. Flow is a crucial driver of happiness and proficiency.
Because our most profound need is for meaning, our organization's purpose must be meaningful, and we need to feel it. While profit is a welcome result, it's not a primary motivator for most people. A well-crafted social responsibility and mission statement cannot substitute for this core need and may frustrate.
Ability and Mastery
Two opposing beliefs underscore people's approach to complex tasks:
- Talents are innate; either we possess them or we don't.
- Although we'll never achieve absolute mastery, abilities are something we can develop.
The first belief limits our growth. The second enables us to persist and break through.
People who know that abilities are developed and seek mastery are more open to constructive feedback.
Two opposing beliefs underscore leadership style:
- Employees need to be motivated, incentivized and monitored.
- Humans are innately motivated by their curiosity, their search for meaning, and reaching their full potential. Controlling them would be counterproductive.
Only the second belief is a humane, sustainable, and effective leadership style.
Matching People with Tasks
Patrick Lencioni's book and personality test, "The 6 Types of Working Genius," surmises that optimal solutions require
- and tenacity
Personality testing allows leaders to pick the right people for a task and the best mix of people for a project. For example, a project team short on tenacious executors may need help to deliver.
Culture and Communication
Gretchen Rubin's book "The Four Tendencies" recognizes four personality types (Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels). Grasping each personality type's strengths, weaknesses, and worldview makes communicating with and supporting colleagues easier.
Should you praise your direct report for a job well done, take them out for lunch, or give them a mascot? While Gary Chapman's "The five love languages" is written for couples, it has applications in the workplace for understanding how people demonstrate and recognize appreciation
- words of affirmation,
- physical touch,
- acts of service,
- and quality time.
Take care with creating expectations of reward, which can undermine intrinsic motivation.
Pioneered by 3M and adopted by some leading tech companies, the idea is that employees get to work on personal side projects for one day a week. While successful product ideas have come from 20% time, the real benefit is stimulating innovation culture. Innovators notice what could be done better in their everyday work, and it's beneficial for organizations to allow them to explore and tinker.
In architecture, innovation applies to design, materials, design technology, processes, workflows, and operations. Cloud49 and StageProject are examples of products incubated and developed, with a high degree of autonomy, within the architecture industry.
1. Drive by Daniel H. Pink
2. The Fearless Organization by Amy C. Edmondson
3. The 6 Types of Working Genius by Patrick M. Lencioni
4. The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin
5. The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
6. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi