creating a motivational environment

What do you believe motivates people to take action?  As a leader, how do you create an environment where your direct reports are more likely to find the motivation they need to succeed in their roles?  What options or choices do you give them in how they deliver the goal you have outlined?  How is the work goal linked to a larger purpose, something greater than the individual?  How do you demonstrate empathy and care as you offer assistance to your employees in reaching their goals?  How do you emphasize learning and stretching goals rather than performance goals?  What leader behaviors create the environment for employees to perform at their optimum?

Susan Fowler, David Facer & Drea Zigarmi, authors of Optimal Motivation, share what leaders can do to initiate, activate and cultivate an optimal motivation environment.  One of the ways of doing this is by understanding the basic psychological needs and using behaviors that reinforce those needs being met.  Based on the latest motivation science, when the three basic psychological needs are satisfied – autonomy, relatedness, and competence — people will persist and thrive.  To break it down:

  • Autonomy – our need to see ourselves as the origin and ongoing source of our own behavior; to have the freedom to act independently
  • Relatedness – our need to care about, to be cared about, and to feel genuinely connected to people
  • Competence – our need to feel effective at meeting the challenges and opportunities in our environment and to bring about our desired outcomes.

Think about when you have “performed at your best.”  How are these needs being met?  Do you see the connection between meeting the basic psychological needs and individuals commitment to the outcome?  Research argues that performance without a sense of well-being cannot, or will most likely not, be sustained over time.  Motivation is not just about performance, but the vitality, energy, and deep feeling of well-being generated when the basic psychological needs are being satisfied in the process of pursuing a goal or doing a task. 

This is just a small piece in the grand spectrum of how leaders can create and cultivate optimal performance from their employees.  So next time you are questioning your own motivation or that of others, evaluate the psychological needs and see if there is a gap in meeting them.

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