Techniques for Motivating People
We can learn a lot from Jack Sprat when it comes to the subject of motivation. According to the nursery rhyme he and his wife had differing tastes and you could only stimulate their appetites by presenting the correct food to the appropriate person. How like real life that is! Some people wake up motivated, making your job as a manager or supervisor really easy, or so it seems. Others seem to need constant attention and/or disciplinary action to cajole them into a working frame of mind.
The truth is that we are stimulus-response organisms and we have a choice of three classic responses to every situation. We can either do nothing, take fright and run or fight. Motivated people are fighters, they see a job to be done and they won’t stop until it’s deleted from their To Do list. Some people just don’t see what needs to be done and appear to be unmotivated, others know what needs to be done so they run in the opposite direction or do anything else to avoid it.
As their supervisor, your job is motivation and it is important that you understand what makes them the way they are. Ideally you want a team of self-starters; people who don’t need a gun in their back to perform in the required way but how on earth do you do it?
Dr Meredith Belbin has conducted some fascinating research that gives us an amazingly simple tool to help motivate others in the team. He discovered that we all have a natural preference for a certain role; he calls it a Team Role. If we can satisfy our needs in that role then we will be more likely to operate as a useful team member. If we can’t fulfill that role, it is possible for us to adapt to an alternative role but it may not be an easy change for some.
There are nine Team Roles altogether and they are split into three categories; action oriented roles, people oriented roles and cerebral roles. Already it is easy to see how people may be mismatched with the job they have been given. Imagine giving a people oriented person a job that denies them the company of others; they are almost guaranteed to be unmotivated. Or give a cerebral person a job that demands spontaneity and they will seem to be underperforming because of their tendency to think things through.
Within the categories there is even more scope for disharmony. The three action oriented types are: Shaper, Implementer and Completer Finisher. The Shaper is tough, energetic and thrives on stress; the Implementer is regimented, dependable and well-organized and the Completer Finisher is meticulous, careful and apprehensive. All of them work hard to get the job done but in very different ways and probably in preferred environments. There are no prizes for guessing what happens when you put a Shaper in a Completer Finisher job. It would be a bit like asking a boxer to do needlepoint.
Working out the preferred team roles of your people couldn’t be easier. You could ask them but the chances are they might not know. Thankfully Dr Belbin has devised a very simple questionnaire that does the job for you. Once you understand this classification system it is very useful language for designing jobs, recruiting, promoting and, of course, for motivating because it should be encouraging you, the supervisor, to match people more accurately with the jobs that you give them to do. Let’s face it, given the right food, Jack and Joan Sprat licked the platter clean.