“I’ve got to rescue my friends and save the Earth!”
That’s from a Flash Gordon movie. It flashed through my mind when I read a Wall Street Journal blog post titled “What Keeps You Inspired on the Job?” Here’s the quote that triggered the memory.
“Employers are increasingly trying to inject a greater sense of purpose into their workplaces, crafting inspiring slogans and office mission statements to motivate younger workers who crave greater meaning and connection during their humdrum days.”
Well, dear employers, you can cut back on the inspiring slogans and office mission statements, and not because they all sound the same. The research I’ve read and my experience tell me that most people, most of the time, will work harder for their team members than for a higher purpose, no matter how grand. It’s people, not purpose.
I know, I know, Dan Pink said that purpose was one of the big three factors in self-motivation. I think purpose is important. It’s just not as important as relatedness, the connection to others on the team.
Deci and Ryan say it’s “Relatedness”
Drs. Edward Deci and Richard Ryan are considered the founders of Self-Determination Theory. In her book, Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work . . . and What Does, Susan Fowler describes them as “the most prominent motivation researchers in the world.” Their research points to Autonomy, Competence, and Relatedness as the three pillars of self-motivation.
When the bullets fly
Combat veterans tell a common tale. When the bullets start to fly they’re not fighting for democracy or the United States of America, they’re fighting for each other. When the chips are down, team members will work for each other.
Create strong teams
Forget the plaques and the slogans. Do the things that build strong teams. Select and support good bosses. Reward team performance. Consider team-based incentives. Purpose is important but the most powerful purpose is local, not global.
Boss’s Bottom Line
The team’s the thing. Do the big things to make your team cohesive and productive. Do little things too, like using the words “we,” “us,” and “together” a lot.