We can coerce or threaten and, to use that horrible word, “incentivise” people but most people only really do things they want to unless in desperate straits. In other words motivation, for most people, is internally generated.
Maslow‘s idea of people seeking self-actualisation may be considered old hat now but you can still see evidence of that human potential philosophy in the field of positive psychology.
Similarly Herzberg’s two-factor theory distinguished between motivators – which were intrinsic to the job, and demotivators, or hygiene factors, which constantly need attention like money which motivates for a while but then loses its incentive value.
Dan Pink‘s seminar on this topic is interesting and thought-provoking and you can watch it by clicking here.
First posted September 2010
I recently walked through the “business section” at Waterston’s Manchester branch and was simply staggered by the number of “expert” books on “leadership” “culture change” “emotional intelligence” and every other subject that you might consider to be directly or indirectly related to the effective running of organisations.
Similarly visit any bookshop at an airport and you will find it stacked high with “management” books…………surely you would have to be in a desperate state to want to start buying and even reading a management book on a flight.
Perhaps it is about the international businessmen feeling that they have to justify their business class seats by giving the impression that they are doing something business related.
But back to the books………….given that these books have been produced for over 50 years now one would think that they would have had a major impact upon organisational performance yet one has only to…
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Professor Adrian Furnham’s column in The Sunday Times is always of interest to psychologically minded executives and his book; “The Elephant in the Boardroom – the causes of leadership derailment”, should be essential reading for all would-be directors.
As a psychologist I liked the piece in which he explained why nice guys don’t always win – because of their Agreeable personality.
Agreeableness is one of the Big 5 Personality Factors (along with Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Neuroticism).
He points out that Agreeableness can be a handicap in business as the higher you score on this factor, the less likely you are to succeed as a business leader!
Most of us would prefer to work for an agreeable rather than a disagreeable boss, wouldn’t we? Well perhaps not says Furnham. Agreeable bosses may make you dissatisfied by not dealing with poor performers and being too forgiving, maybe treating you all the same, or being manipulated by your more devious colleagues.
One of my earlier posts “Sometimes you just have to tell em” was about research at Roffey Park that showed that we are not very good at dealing with underperformance or telling people what we want, that strong managers get more respect, and that a firm consistent approach is better for morale and performance generally.
And it gets worse – if you’re a female. The Times reported last year on some research carried out by the Institute of Employment Research and concluded that; “It doesn’t pay for a female boss to be too nice“. The research showed that personality factors do come into account and that, for example, nice people earn less.
A more recent paper presented to the Academy of Management by Beth A Livingston from Cornell University analysed surveys spread over 20 years. She found that significantly less agreeable men earned 18.3% more than men who were significantly more agreeable. For women the difference was less, just 5.5%.
Livingston said; “Men’s disagreeable behaviour conforms to expectations of masculine behaviour“.
Apparently nice women are being swept away by openly aggressive ones who know what they want.
Working hard obviously helps but if you are too conscientious you may be seen as neurotic (or get bullied), and extraverts do no better than introverts.
Professor Cary Cooper, at the University of Lancaster Management School, agrees but also thinks women have more emotional intelligence than men and are not generally as egocentric.
So agreeable managers have to learn how to toughen up – for the sake of their team and the organisation, just as the disagreeable ones have to learn how to be nice – if only for the PR.
The July 2010 issue of Psychologies magazine has picked up on this topic in their article; “Why it pays to be tough at work“. It suggests that the prevailing view that it’s not the cleverest (presumably meaning IQ) but those with the highest emotional intelligence that succeed is wrong.
That was always a simplistic view at best and one that Adrian Furnham disagrees with as he says there is evidence that disagreeable poeple do better. The German research quoted says agreeable women earned £40,000 less over a lifetime than women who behaved more like ruthless men.
The article’s author then has a go at empathy. She quotes Jack Welch’s wife as saying that; “too much empathy is paralysing” when you have to give tough feedback or make tough decisions, and goes on to talk about women being prone to slipping into “good mother” roles where they create “gardens of entitlement” sowing seeds of future problems (such as?).
After dismissing empathy – by quoting Neutron Jack’s wife for goodness sake – the author next attacks self-knowledge which she doesn’t consider essential for top jobs as it can detract from self-confidence if it makes you aware of your failings (is she serious that these people don’t need feedback ?
Some people have short memories; what about Enron, the banks or BP?. Furnham is quoted as saying that people who get on may be narcissistic – which is not the only dark-side attribute.
If men overestimate their abilities and don’t navel gaze while women underestimate themselves and have self-doubt (imposter syndrome) then women seemed doomed to fail according to the author and people like Suzy Welch.
In fact the author seems to welcome emotional stupidity as it makes less demands on her. She even has a dig at Anne Mulcahy, ex-CEO of Xerox, because, although she has written about what women can bring to the workplace in terms of emotionality which makes them better leaders, she cut 1/3 of the workforce.
Did she not wonder how Neutron Jack got his nickname?
Original published on 12 April 2010
The factor with the strongest correlation is Leadership: employees must have faith and trust in their senior management team to be engaged.
To do that leaders must gain their trust, live the values, and inspire the team.
Their 2009 survey revealed, in answer to the statement “I have great confidence in the leadership skills of the SMT”, there was a 54% difference between engaged and disengaged employees. In answer to the statement; “senior management truly live the values of this organisation”, there was a 51% difference.
In the top 10% of companies there was a massive 94% confidence rating that the leader ran the company on moral principles. Would that figure be so high today in the depths of a recession?
Giving something Back (GSB) is one way of engaging employees. Organisations with a good track record of this get higher scores from staff for leadership, pride in their company, and personal well-being.
There does seem to be a rash of books and articles on the new leadership approach needed since the recession. And values and principles are high up among the key factors which is maybe why organisations turn to women when they are in a crisis as they appear to be more trusted as CEOs even though, or maybe because, they seem more willing to criticise their organisations.
Updated since first published 02/04/2010
He takes us back to the work of Harlow (more famous for his surrogate monkey mother experiments), McGregor‘s “Theory X, theory Y”, and Type A/B theory.
He reports numerous studies showing that altruistic behaviour can be tainted by financial incentives and suggests that financial incentives only work for certain kinds of work and that even then over the long run they don’t – remember Herzberg‘s 2-factor theory?
He asks why people contribute to Wikipedia and devote hours to work for which they receive no financial recompense. It’s not always about the money.
In fact he believes that it’s more about Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.
He suggests that you can be a Type I or a Type X which he describes as:
Type I behavior: A way of thinking and an approach to life built around intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, motivators. It is powered by our innate need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.
Type X behavior: Behavior that is fuelled more by extrinsic desires than intrinsic ones and that concerns itself less with the inherent satisfaction of an activity and more with the external rewards to which that activity leads.
If you want to know which you are, go to his web-site and complete a free self-assessment questionnaire.
And if you haven’t seen the RSAnimate on Youtube it’s here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=US&v=u6XAPnuFjJc
Well they are according to the World Management Survey.
A research team from Harvard, the LSE, McKinsey and Stanford surveyed over 10,000 companies in 20 countries about management practices including operational and people management.
They ranked the US managers as the best in the world followed by those in Japan, Germany and Sweden. Great Britain, Italy, France and Australia came next with India, Brazil and China propping up the list.
The study reports that American managers are the best at managing and motivating staff. “American firms are ruthless at rapidly rewarding and promoting good employees and retraining or firing bad employees”
The authors think it’s because there is more competition with large and open markets which allow only the best-managed firms to survive. They also state that America traditionally gets far more of its population into college than other nations. And (perhaps more importantly) it is easier to hire and fire employees in America.
They contract the USA with China where companies often employ managers who don’t speak the same language as the workers and have to rely on interpreters or sign language to communicate with them.
So how true is this?
The American College Board report (on education in the USA) shows that in terms of the percentage of 15-24 year olds with Associate degrees or higher America, with 40%, ranks 12th just ahead of Sweden but just behind Australia. Canada. Korea, and Russia top the list, Japan comes 4th, the UK 17th and Germany well down the list. Of the bottom three in the best-managed survey only Brazil is included in the college board report and they come last.
When it comes to older employees aged 55 – 64 America comes 4th behind Russia, Israel, and Canada. So not quite as good as the survey suggests in terms of education.
When it comes to employment flexibility it’s hard to identify data about employment protection. The USA came bottom of the list of OECD countries based on 2003 data ie it was the least strict/most flexible.
If we look at holiday entitlement it appears that America is the only country in the OECD which doesn’t require employers to grant any paid vacation/holidays and so 25% of all employees get no paid holidays at all. For others 9 days with 8 national holidays is the average. Some companies provide 2 or 3 weeks but usually insist that employees take only 1 week at a time and keep in contact. (Military service employees get 30 days plus national days).
The EU stipulates 2o days or 4 weeks as the minimum for paid holidays whilst Canada and Japan only legislate for 10 days. And not every country legislates for paid public holidays including the UK, the USA, Sweden, Japan, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
When it comes to sick pay most countries provide some relief for short-term sickness but again America is the exception with no national guaranteed scheme. 40% of US workers receive no paid sick leave and for lower paid workers that figure reached 80%. Apparently three-quarters of Americans don’t think it’s important although 1 in 6 say they would be punished for taking short-term sick leave.
And what about the American economy? It’s all about jobs at the moment with an unemployment rate of 9.2% compared with 7.7% in the UK (although comparisons are not straightforward because of definitions and people on JSA here in the UK). With a potential US workforce of 155 million there were only 18,000 jobs created in June. Unemployment rates are up, job creation is down, so whichever way you look at it it’s not good news.
So it seems that the cards are stacked against employees in the USA with very little employment protection, minimal holidays, and little or no sick pay. Cynics might argue that it’s the economic situation and the culture that makes US companies successful and managers have very little to do with it. So is it really true that American managers are better motivators?