Book Report: Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us

Instinctually, many of us may think that motivation at work is driven by money. Or maybe power. Or, in the case of some of us (ah hem) the mission of the organization for which we are working.

Daniel Pink, a smarty-pants lawyer-turned-motivation-researcher has spent four decades researching the idea of motivation. In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, he shares his findings about motivation which boils down to three main factors:

  • The ability to direct our own lives, which he calls “autonomy”
  • The ability, freedom, and space to learn and create new things, which he calls “purpose”
  • The ability to do better by ourselves and our world, which he calls “mastery”

So, what does this mean for you and the teams you manage? Mainly, I think it means making space for you and your teams to engage in your work in those three ways. How can you help your team members to build their autonomy, purpose, and mastery?

This book, and the third factor in the list above, inspired me to integrate one super simple practice into my every-day management style. When I delegate tasks or make an ask of my team, I gave them a compelling “why” that is linked to the bigger picture of our work–why what we were doing was going to make the world better.

Now, let’s say that I was asking my team to do something mundane, like, say submit their milage report. How in the world would I be able to link that to saving the world? I admit that at the start of my practice, I had difficulty linking tasks like this to our mission. With practice, I became a pro. So, for this example, I would tell my team that by submitting their milage reports we could assure our donors and funders that we were responsible stewards of their donation, that we actually were doing consistent and meaningful work in the community, and that our timely report submission was a sign of our respect for them.

Pink fights against theories that folks are motivated “extrinsically” with  short-term incentive plans and pay-for-performance schemes and the traditional carrot-stick motivation and punishment.  Pink writes that those extrinsic motivators “can deliver a short-term boost — just as a jolt of caffeine can keep you cranking for a few more hours. But the effect wears off — and, worse, can reduce a person’s longer-term motivation to continue the project.” That reduction in long-term motivation is partially due to the waining intrinsic motivation BECAUSE OF the extrinsic motivator–it is a vicious cycle once extrinsic motivators are introduced.

I found two of Pink’s illustrative examples particularly compelling. Swedish blood banks decided to change things up and pay people to donate blood. They anticipated that their blood bank would be filled to the brim. In fact, they saw blood donations plummet. Why? Well, you may have guessed…turns out we are motivated to donate blood out of the goodness of our hearts and not for literal blood money. The good Swedes are motivated intrinsically, not extrinsically. The second example that I found compelling was about Encarta. Remember Encarta? It was a pet project of Microsoft’s Bill Gates. It was a 1990’s CD-based encyclopedia that Microsoft paid big bucks to develop. Microsoft eventually threw in the towel and admitted defeat. While Microsoft never publicly stated it, it was presumed that their defeat was at the hands of Wikipedia–an online encyclopedia with content that is generated for free by people like you and me out of a desire to share knowledge. Those who contribute to Wikipedia are those who are motivated, again, intrinsically and not with the traditional carrot.

This book is most applicable to those who are managing people and teams. However, I think it is also tremendously useful to teachers and parents as they consider how to build motivation in children. I also find it particularly useful to consider as I develop trainings that are meant to change behaviors over the long term.

With this new knowledge, that we can and should build intrinsic motivation of our teams, I pose the question: How do you help to promote building purpose, mastery, and autonomy in your teams?

You can read the book, which I highly recommend. But, if you only have 18 minutes and 36 seconds, here is his TED Talk that describes some of the highlights of his theories.

Picture a Leader. Is She a Woman?

Check out Nancy Pelosi. Even a glance will show you that she is the only woman at the table (and one of 2, it seems, in the room).

The New York Times wrote an article entitled Picture a Leader. Is She a Woman?

The author shares findings from an organizational behavior professor from the UK. She asked executives to draw a picture of a leader. Invariably, they drew pictures of men.

The researchers took the research further to investigate how “holding unconscious assumptions about gender affect[s] people’s abilities to recognize emerging leadership”.

“What they found, in a study posted by the Academy of Management Journal, seems to confirm what many women have long suspected: getting noticed as a leader in the workplace is more difficult for women than for men.”

This drew my attention because I have led a similar activity in a leadership training. Except, I do not ask participants to draw A leader, I ask them to draw a picture of a leader who has inspired and motivated them. While I cannot say with perfect accuracy how often women or men were drawn, I can 100% tell you that the participants have drawn women far more often than men. I have done this training now with hundreds of participants from six countries. The results never vary. Men and women alike draw women more often than not.

Maybe this exercise will be more balanced as women and men see more examples of women in leadership roles. We are still, in 2020, seeing a lot of “firsts” for women in leadership roles and women being rewarded and recognized for their contributions.

For goodness sake, we saw the first all-women space walk in 2019!

We also saw the second woman ever to win the Nobel Prize in economics! In 2019.

If I were to dive deeper, I’d posit that, true, sure, maybe it is harder to be recognized as a leader as a woman. But once you ARE a leader, you are more likely to be seen as a GREAT one. An inspiring, motivating leader.

What do you think? Once women are leaders, are they more likely to inspire greatness?

What it Takes to be a Good Leader

I’d like to share some  ideas about what it takes to be a good leader.

Take a listen to this talk by Roselinde Torres.

She distills the best qualities of leaders into three elements:
1. The ability to see changes that may be on the horizon and prepare for them
2. Networking skills that bring various perspectives to the work
3. The willingness to take some risks and abandon practices that may have been successful in the past but no longer serve the team

The reflection questions below may give you insight into your own practices and habits (and maybe encourage a change or two!):

  • What are your skill levels as they pertain to those three qualities?
  • Take a moment to think about, as she suggests, how you spend your time–do you allow yourself the opportunities to develop in these three ways?
  • Are you cultivating your team to be leaders?

What do you think about her distillation of leadership qualities? I would add skills around trusting and transparent communication to her very valuable list. To me, trusting and transparent communication is critical to giving and receiving feedback and to ensuring that your team is helping you to see what is on the horizon.

Have you considered watching TED talks like this one with your own teams? I have always appreciated leaders and managers who ensure that I keep learning and developing. Plus, they are short enough to fit into team meetings or over a lunch break. How do you help to foster growth and development in your team and in yourself?

Authentic Leadership

I keep a running list of topics that I want to write about and reflect about for this blog. According to my plan, I was going to write about the book Lean In today.  But, with all of the controversy circling about Facebook and Sheryl Sandburg, the author of Lean In, I just didn’t want to.  I have been thinking a lot about authenticity in the workplace and so, perhaps, my schedule was the best prompt to put some of my thoughts into words.

Authentic leadership is still being researched and formulated into a practice base–which to me seems, well, inauthentic. Authentic leadership is about building relationships based on honesty and ethics.  Are we still in a place in our humanity that we need to build an evidence base around the benefits of honesty and ethics at work? Apparently so.

I have always been drawn to work at mission-focused and -driven organizations.  Perhaps such organizations cultivate natural, authentic leaders. Perhaps that shows my bias, too, towards thinking that achieving a lofty mission while doing right by people is more important than the bottom line, profit, or reputation.

Why do we have to pit profit or self-interest against doing right by people, ethics, and authenticity?  I have had the good fortune of working with and for truly authentic leaders and certainly hope that I emulate and model that style. My question today is how we can teach it and cultivate future leaders who put ethics first? Any ideas?

The Happy Secret to Better Work

Here is one of my favorite TEDTalks—The Happy Secret to Better Work.
 
 
 

In his very humorous talk, Shawn Archor talks about how we view the world and how that affects our happiness. Seems obvious.

He also says, though, “75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.”  

So what do you, as a manager, do to build that optimism and resiliency among your team? I’ve written about the need for feedback, both constructive and positive, in the past. How can we link that to building that ability to see stress as a challenge and not a threat?

I’ve incorporated several of the lessons that Shawn talks about here (and elsewhere) in my life, including keeping a running list of what I am grateful for. Even on the most craptastic days, there is always something out there that can add beauty to our lives. And if I am really struggling to find something, I create something by reconnecting with a friend, setting a coffee date, or even planning a trip (one of my favorite activities!). I usually write my list before I even get out of bed in the morning as a way of framing the day in the most positive sense possible.  

Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe

I was recently reminded of this great TED Talk by Simon Sinek called Why good leaders make you feel safe.  

In his talk, he suggests that when the right environment is created, we are all capable of doing remarkable things and acting in great service to others. He attributes trust and cooperation to building that great environment.

But, how do you do that? Simon proposes some suggestions, have a listen!

What are your thoughts?

How do you make your team feel safe?

Or, in your own heart, what could you be doing to increase that level of safety and security?  

Book Report: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: a Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni uses a fictional tale to impart some serious leadership and management lessons.

The five dysfunction are….drumroll….absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results.

My biggest complaint/annoyance with this book and with MANY other leadership/management books is that any research base that informs this book is completely obscured. Sure, we learn from doing and we learn from the experience of others, but without any proof that these five, dysfunctions are THE five dysfunctions, this book is too reductive for me.  Plus, the presentation of the dysfunctions in a fable further obscures any research or evidence. The last few pages describe, fable-free, each dysfunction and offers suggestions to remedy each dysfunction. I found those last few pages more useful than the rest of the book.

There are positive elements….

In the fable, the CEO of the company brings together her senior leadership team.  They do not see themselves as a team but as heads of separate departments and we are led to believe that their lack of cohesion is the reason for the company’s floundering.

The CEO begins by asking these critical questions about her team:

  • Do your team members openly and readily disclose their opinions?
  • Are your team meetings compelling and productive?
  • Does your team come to decisions quickly and avoid getting bogged down by consensus?
  • Do your team members confront one another about their shortcomings?
  • Do your team members sacrifice their own interests for the good of the team?

Once she ascertained the answers to those questions she was able to build their sense of team work, as a senior management team. The positive changes trickled down into their respective departments.

Of course, books like this are only helpful if we put them into practice. Do you think you could have an open conversation with your direct reports and use the questions above as a way to garner more information about how they see their team? Have you identified any key dysfunctions in your team? Could they be tied to any one of the five dysfunctions that Lencioni highlights? If so, that can be a great place for a diagnosis and thoughtful action.

This is an easy read, it only took me a few hours to read it all.  Again, the suggestions for what to as a manager if your team is struggling are useful but aren’t particularly novel.

All in all, I’d suggest passing on this one in favor of some good online research…like this resource on building trust or this one on fostering healthy conflict. Better yet, I can give you and your organization an engaging presentation about the dysfunctions and offer you tools to help build your team!

Book Report: Getting to Yes

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In by Robert Fisher is a classic. It was first published in 1981 and reissued ten years later.  Here is a PDF of the book for easy reading (and sharing!).

If you are about to ask for a raise, promotion, or buy a used car, this book is for you!

Getting to Yes offers a framework for “principled negotiation” for two or more parties to work together to best address their mutual interests with creative, objectively fair solutions.

In many ways, the method of “getting to yes” is similar to the practice of nonviolent communication.  The goal is to remain neutral and objective while negotiating; Fisher uses the expression “separating the people from the problem” to describe it.  Another element of the models encourages a focusing the negotiation on interests at hand.  Unlike typical visions of hard-headed negotiations, this element encourages thoughtful questioning of the rationale behind positions instead of a quick response which may be presumptuous or charged.

The stand-out element, for me, in this model is the process by which the parties are encouraged to brainstorm possible options for mutual gain.  The book offers suggestions for how to encourage looking a problems from varied perspectives and even suggesting outlandish options to encourage generation of more logical ones.

Fishers partner, William Ury, has a (well done) 30-video that covers the basics of the model.  Check it out!

Book Report-Eat the Frog

 

If you are anything like me, you constantly fight the bad habit of scrolling through social media and emails first thing in the morning.  I like starting my workday with a sense of feeling up-to-date; the downside, of course, is that my email can dictate what I accomplish for the day as opposed to my prioritized to-do list….and there is a hack for that!

I recently did a training for a group of senior leaders who wanted to generate some ideas and brainstorming about how they, as a group, could set some norms around productivity.  They have the mindset that if everyone followed some of the same guidelines, it would be a whole lot easier for everyone. For example, they were considering having so called “quiet periods” where emailing each other and setting meetings were off limits so that they could all chip away at their to-do lists and accomplish some of their bigger projects.

Before the training, I did some more reading to help them along with their brainstorming. I landed on the book Eat That Frog!: Twenty-one Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracey.  

The title comes from the brilliant Mark Twain who (may or may not have) said “If your job is to eat a frog, eat it first thing in the morning, and if your job is to eat two frogs, eat the big one first.”

Tracey encourages readers to stop multi-tasking and stop spending time on fruitless tasks (even if they are ticks off of a to-do list). What he encourages is a mindfulness, although he doesn’t call it that, about how we spend our time, what we wish to accomplish, and why.

The main premise is built on the Eisenhower method, which is also similar to a favorite from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Consider all that you have to get done and then put each item into one of the following categories:

Things you don’t want to do, but actually need to do.
Things you want to do and actually need to do.
Things you want to do, but actually don’t need to do.
Things you don’t want to do, and actually don’t need to do.

Your “frog” is in the first category. It is the challenging task, it is the one that can be hard to be motivated to do, it is the one that you desperately want to put off.

Once you know what your “frog” is…the next step is to take action. Like many other productivity experts, Tracey suggests breaking down the “frog” task into multiple small “chunks” of work. He suggests that the endorphin rush you get from ticking off your to-do list is a motivator in and of itself (he does not cite any evidence for his claim). I can’t fight that notion that once the big, ugly task is over, the rest of the day can feel like a cakewalk!

As a fun reminder to tackle their frogs, I got everyone in the training these little froggies to keep at their desk.

What are some of YOUR favorite productivity hacks?

 

Book Report: Feminist Fight Club

Not only did I read Feminist Fight Club, I was a founding member of a club! So, to say that I am a fan is an understatement.

This book is deemed the “Lean In for the Buzzfeed Generation”.  The aspects of Lean In that didn’t resonate for me (the assumed wealth, position, and even ability to organized one’s own schedule) are all absent from this book. It is part guidebook for establishing ourselves professionally, helping to raise up women around us, and a troubleshooting resource for pay negotiation, office politics, and the like.

It is cheeky. It is irreverent. And it is so unlike so many other career management books (ie: written for women and by a woman), it is focused on advice for those early in their careers.  It will likely not be the best advice for those of you who are even in your 30s.  I found the advice to be not-quite-fitting for me, but wished I read it when I was 22. For those of you who are well into your career, consider giving this as a gift to a younger woman. For those of you who are early in your career–get this book, talk about it with your friends, gift it to someone else, and in a few more years, read Lean In.