What motivates people to perform?

Tricky question. I’ve tried a few tactics, all of which play to emotions.

Fear. Very effective for speed, not so effective for innovation. How do you create fear? Easy: Anger. Shouting. Swearing. Ruthlessness. Heartlessness. Ultimately though, with the right kind of leader, fear turns to respect and the system hums. But. Innovation can’t happen because the innovators of the world do not have to work for anyone. And no one likes being abused.

Greed. Attracts the wrong kind of people and incentivises the wrong type of behaviour. People start to chase money. Businesses don’t make money. Businesses make “widgets.” The by-product of the “widgets” is money.

Pride. A very positive emotion. Make people proud to work for you. Apple does this by churning out the best products in the world and winning your heart with emotional marketing campaigns. Apple’s staff are psyched to work at Apple (except when the conversation turns to sweatshops.)

Hope. The ideal emotion to activate. Barack Obama did this during his 2008 election campaign. He inspired millions of Americans and they came out to support him in one of the most memorable races in political history, ultimately getting him across the line with a landslide. I like hope; it’s a magnet for the best people, and more importantly, its sustainable. Fear creates a self-fulfilling prophecy; the threats can never stop otherwise the foundation of the system will become meaningless.

Hope, on the other hand, is forever.

I personally think everyone has an innate hunger to succeed. The intensity of that hunger is the variable that determines motivation levels. The people with the deepest hunger don’t need to be motivated, get out their way whilst they get on with it.

Overall, it’s not feasible to motivate a large number of people at a one-on-one level. Focus on building an environment that motivates your crew. Offices, coffee, address, parking, brand, products, mission, people. Get that stuff right and motivation takes care of itself.


Also published on Medium.