At the midpoint in my career, I worked in a sales center. That is the formal way to say a call center. The environment was a shock as everything was monetary based. The number of sales, average order sizes, and compensation plan accelerators.

Salaries were a mix of base and merit. Meaning in order to make their entire salary agents had a to sell to a certain amount. Like most sales plans, if they went over quota, you would make more. It was a money craze, that was the entire focus.

The Leadership team had mostly grown up in sales environments and defaulted that every motivational issue was about money. What the leadership team didn’t see is that hitting the quota meant scraping by financially for these sales agents. Their compensation wasn’t about extra spending money, they were looking to survive. Also misunderstood was that they were only achieving the basics of agent needs which was just a manipulation by teetering with someone’s wellbeing. While compensation as a motivator is seen in most sales organizations, it also permeates corporate America. A laziness to think beyond money as a cure all.

Animal Behavior

Motivation at its very basic level equates to why an animal performs a behavior at a particular time. The classic experiment of mice running a maze to earn a reward of cheese. Satiating their hunger or enjoying the treat of cheese acts as the motivation for the mice.

In 1943, psychologist, Abraham Maslow, wrote “Theory of Human Motivation.” Known as the pyramid model of motivation where the bottom level must be accomplished before the next factor would work. The first level is achieving physiological needs. This is food, water, shelter, and rest. Once those requirements are satisfied, the mind is motivated by safety needs and feeling secure. Then the human mind can be motivated by belonging, having friends and being one with the group. The fourth motivational factor consists of esteem and a feeling of prestige within the group. Lastly the mind seeks to achieve self-actualization of reaching its full potential.

Using the sales world previously mentioned as an example. The sales leadership team thought the application of money brought esteem with prestige and accomplishment. In fact, it, only achieved the physiological stage to ensure that their family was fed. This mismatch of understanding motivations creates disfunction in an organization understanding where people are at and what they care about.

Drivers of Movement

One philosophical question on motivation is if someone can motivate another individual or not. Superficially it is easy to say yes, I can motivate another individual to perform some behavior. But is the external motivation internally driven by their own desires? If that is true, can society consider external motivation as manipulation?

I’ll give my own experience from Boot Camp. A Drill Instructor would yell at me, or another do something. It could be marching, eating, or cleaning a footlocker. On initial look it appears that his yelling is motivating me into action. On a deeper look I and others go into action with the motivation of safety to not get yelled at again. This is an internal driver.

Internal or external motivation forms a secondary way to look at behavior. External motivation consists of compensation, rewards, and praise. Then internal motivation revolves around self-satisfaction, the higher end of Maslow’s pyramid.

Because Of Total Performance

Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor run a performance-based consulting firm. Their firm helps quantify the financial and productivity impact of low motivation in organizations. In 2015 they co-wrote “Primed to Perform” to codify their theory of total motivation.

Their work segregates motivation into two types. First are direct motives where people show where they can play, they have purpose, and there is potential for more. Secondly, there are indirect motives. These consist of emotional pressure, economic pressure, and inertia of it takes too much effort to change directions.

Total motivation centers on the principle of structuring the environment to maximize direct motivation. Creating abilities to play and giving people purpose. Then to minimize indirect motives where you remove the external pressures. This starts the creation of a high performing culture that maximizes adaptive performance via total motivation.


Why People Lose Motivation

Read More about Culture

Let 9m Facilitate Your New Culture

Share This