In Daniel Pink’s book, ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’, Mr. Pink discusses his theory on motivation and its underlying ideals of Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. These ideals elevate motivation, in the eyes of the ‘motivator’, to more than just a reward or punishment style of motivating but as he says “upgrades” motivation from the “carrots and sticks” (‘A sense of mastery serves as a big motivator for people, says best-selling author Daniel Pink’, 2018). His use of the carrots and sticks analogy is described as a reward and punishment system where an employee is rewarded for positive behavior (or outcomes) and are punished for negative behavior (or outcomes). He believes that this type of approach does not motivate those who are performing duties which require creativity or critical thinking and may be sorted for more menial tasks, if at all.
It reminds me of an episode of Parks and Recreation, where Ron and Chris are trying out their own motivational theory on Jerry. The theory is the essence of the carrot and stick motivational theory and ends comedically but comes to the same serious conclusion as Pink; “The problem with making extrinsic reward the only destination that matters is that some people will choose the quickest route there”. This is where Pink’s ideals for motivation come into play, when requiring cognitive or critical thinking functions leaders must provide intrinsic, or internal, motivators such as autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Autonomy is the ‘ability to be self-directed” and engaged. Pink’s example is of an Australian software company which offers a 24-hour period of what is essentially innovative creativity time. I think this is a great answer the problem of a stale, motivation-less work environment.
I believe this type of autonomy can easily become a practice at my current company. My company has a subsidiary that is developing an IT system for timekeeping and other functions needed by Federal contractors. There are many opportunities for corporate-level staff to be involved in various projects outside of their typical prevue and find solutions to problems or become incorporated into solutions by their own doing. I believe this is two-fold; to involve a level of contextual thinking among the many duties in our office, but mostly as part of an effort to intrinsically motivate employees to become invested in the company. Being provided opportunities to perform duties other than what is required for their daily job will offer employees the ability to apply a value to the tasks they are undertaking. This value is at the individual’s discretion, which contributes to autonomy as a motivator.
An article written on Daniel Pink’s book states, “a sense of mastery over what you are doing is a big motivator for people (‘A sense of mastery serves as a big motivator for people, says best-selling author Daniel Pink’, 2018). Many companies provide the concept of Mastery through training and tuition reimbursement as a general employee benefit. An issue I believe companies may face is a somewhat ‘forced’ mastery, where rather than existing as a catalyst for mastery they force it. What companies should do is provide employees an opportunity to see their professional growth at monthly or annual reviews. I believe my company should include an annual review process with sections where employees will be required to list their accomplishments of the year.
Not only does this provide leaders insight into what their employees do throughout the year, but it will show employees where they have grown and what they have accomplished. Leaders can then celebrate these accomplishments and motivate their employees further. Lastly, the purpose motive is said to be the “third leg of the motivation tripod’ and is a multiplier in terms of the things an individual can achieve. Pink believes that successful companies are “animated by a Purpose Motive”, which means the employees of those companies are motivated by more than profit; they are driven by a purpose.
It is not difficult to find the ‘purpose’ in supporting the Warfighter and serving the needs of the DOD, but what is difficult for many Federal contractors is displaying how their employees work directly supports the Warfighter. Our largest customers are agencies and programs within the Department of Defense (DOD), and by aligning our purpose with theirs, company leadership is providing a motivation separate from financial or profit driven motives. A Budget Analyst I (oftentimes a job supplied by an entry-level employee) supporting the Missile Defense Agency will have a hard time seeing where their work makes a difference. With purpose arguably being the strongest motivator, providing one to the lowest-level of employees should be a goal of leadership.
I think that my company should look for ways to display what the average employee’s work does to support the Warfighter or greater goals of the DOD. Providing this purpose to motivate employees will further push them to work harder and may even push them to look for ways to further support the Warfighter and DOD. RSA’s video on Dan Pink’s book provides a unique, graphical way to look at the three important, genuine motivational factors; autonomy, mastery, and purpose. To lead an organization to it’s fullest potential, these factors should be set as goals in themselves. I believe all organizations should continuously look for ways to provide opportunities for autonomy, avenues for joining in the successes of their employees, and communicating a purpose to all work done within an organization.