We’re hardly shocked anymore when we discover that a star baseball player DID take steroids. We’re disappointed, but not shocked. The use of performance enhancing drugs is a cat and mouse game between players and coaches who want ever-increasing power, and regulators who are desperately attempting to maintain a level playing field.
In corporations, that performance enhancing drug of choice is motivation. Leaders and managers believe that if their “players” are juiced-up enough on motivation, they will perform at game winning levels all the time. And the drug is addictive. The more its dished out, the more dependant people become, and are less able to perform under ordinary conditions. Ordinary conditions which we might call life as we know it.
I’m not opposed to motivation, but I don’t want to depend on it to achieve my goals. There are two glaring issues at play: first, motivation is an inside job, and second, mood fluctuation is normal. Genuine motivation comes from alignment of values, strengths, and behavior. When my skills and talents used on meaningful objectives I feel motivated. When I work on something that does not call forth my best, even the most inspiring motivational speech will only carry me until my adrenalin is metabolized.
What lazy managers spy as evidence of motivation is more often a fight or flight response – heightened voice, shiny eyes, sharp quick movements, aggressive gestures. Of course, this is includes reduced critical thinking, creativity, and logic. Externally infused motivation is adrenalin, and is highly addictive. Mood swings are normal. Rather than adrenalin, managers ought to look for consistency. The power of true motivation is that it transcends our mood.
Genuinely motivated people apply their efforts to meaningful projects, are committed to their team, their values, and their vision. I can be frustrated and anxious and still work with full commitment – that’s motivation.
I challnege leaders not to be lazy and attempt to “pump up” your people’s adrenalin. Rather, get to know them, apply their talents and strengths, develop and coach them, discipline quickly and cleanly when necessary, and stay focused on a clear vision. Allow clear direction, perseverance, and courage to guide you to consistent high performance. Use the motivation drug for emergencies and deadlines, not for every day performance.