Business copy: Leadership newsletter on motivation

Excerpt from a leadership skills white paper for business executives. Topic: motivation

At the turn of the 20th century Harvard psychologist William James did a study measuring the amount of ability and effort people expended on their jobs in order to avoid being fired. He found that employees could work about 20-30% of their total ability without getting fired for being unproductive. James also found that those same people could consistently work at 80-90% of their potential if they wanted to – if they were motivated to do so. Subsequent studies support James’s findings.

For leaders, the question is, “How can we motivate people to exert greater effort toward achieving company goals and increasing overall productivity? The answer is “We can’t.” Motivation comes from within. The word derives from the Latin root motive, meaning a force or agent that causes a person to act or move. The action, movement, effort come from the person, not the agent.

Thus, to move employees from 20-30% ability to a consistent 80-90%, leaders must create motivating environments that spur people to want to tap into and give more of their potential. When you hear or use the term ‘motivate’, remember that ultimately your employees motivate themselves. Your focus should be on creating opportunities for that motivation to surface and be put to use.

Motivation is an important key to superior productivity and increased employee effectiveness. People who are committed to achieving organizational objectives generally outperform those who aren't. Increasing people’s commitment and effectiveness is not optional for today’s managers and leaders. Companies and managers that don't view employee motivation as one of their most important responsibilities will find themselves overtaken by competitors who do. The most valuable employees will work for those competitors.

You'll find in-depth treatment of motivation in the Motivation Techniques Workbook you recently received, and, in the upcoming leadership training program we'll share ideas for creating a motivating environment and identify actions you can start practicing immediately in your office or work area.