Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Motivation suffers in unstable workplaces
Stress for Success
September 28, 2010

On-going workplace instability is negatively impacting American employees and taking its toll. Those who still have jobs are dealing with the stress of:
* Doing the additional work of those who’ve been laid off;
* Living with the dark cloud hanging over them that their job, too, may be eliminated;
* Dealing with both internal and external customers who are stressed to the max, which brings out defensive behaviors in most;
* Possibly their spouses having lost their jobs making it even more important to keep their own;
* Realizing that they’re lucky to have a job but tired of being reminded of it;

One of the casualties of all of this stress is employee motivation, which if suffered too long leads to burnout. And you don’t want your staff to get burned out since it usually requires drastic change to remedy, such as leaving for a better job once one shows up.

So how can employers increase motivation during these challenging times? What works and what doesn’t?

The research is in and it shows that rewards don’t really motivate, at least not for long. Rewards such as gifts, money, and benefits may be appreciated in the short run but according to much research these external motivators:
* Can be perceived by the receiver as having strings attached - a controlling intention - which won’t motivate at all;
* Refocus employees’ attention onto the reward to the point where the task can suffer;
* Rewards are difficult to end once started;
* External attempts to motivate decrease a sense of causation on the part of the recipient, the true motivator that actually works;

Depending upon the intention of the person giving the reward (is it to recognize someone’s good efforts or is to get him to work even harder?) will determine whether the reward motivates at all and if so for how long. Rewards tend to work better for recognizing people’s efforts if given with no strings or manipulative intentions attached.

The true motivators are intrinsic ones; things that increase a person’s sense of control – of causation.

Humans need to believe that their own actions cause outcomes. That’s why bosses who include subordinates in decision-making and problem-solving in areas that affect their work can become better managers with more productive employees. Bosses can also allow their employees to decide how work gets done as long as it meets the required outcome, rather than dictating how staff is to accomplish their work.

Intrinsic motivators lead people to greater persistence, creativity and success. They’re so important that psychological researcher, Dr. Martin Seligman of the University of PA, says that developed nations’ workforces are moving from assuming that money is the primary motivator - you can only buy so many things, which are extrinsic (external) motivators that don’t work well - to understanding that being the authors of their own actions is what truly motivates. The challenge is for managers to help their employees be more in the driver’s seat of their own jobs.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Intrinsic motivators feed your success
Stress for Success
September 21, 2010

Losing weight, getting out of bed some days, not screaming at a customer; the list of responsibilities and tasks that require motivation to accomplish is a long one.

But what is motivation? Where can we get some?

The thesaurus says that it’s incentive, inspiration, drive, enthusiasm, impetus, stimulus and impulse.

You may lack these for something you don’t want to do but you’re full of them for what you love to do. Think about:
* Something you dread doing;
* Something you love to do;
What motivates you to do each?

For what you dread it may be an external force that’s pressuring you to complete it. Like the threat of losing your house if you mess up on your job or the perceived or actual disapproval of family members if you somehow fail to tow the line.

Consider the vast difference in what motivates you to do what you love. Maybe it’s caring for your grandkids on a weekend. You love those kids so much that there’s no real motivation that you have to work up; it’s just there. Or perhaps it’s your favorite hobby that you dive into after the work day that exhausts you. Your energy miraculously returns because your hobby captivates and challenges you.

An important difference is that you’re probably intrinsically motivated by what you love to do and have to depend upon extrinsic motivation (threats, pressure, guilt, money, etc.) to force you to do what doesn’t excite you.

The trick to creating motivation for tasks that you don’t feel like doing is to look for and create intrinsic rewards for finishing them.

Intrinsic motivators represent who you are at your core. They’re associated with better mental health and lead you to greater persistence, creativity and life success. They include:
* Your positive values, which are natural motivators;
* Making a contribution;
* Pride in your work;
* Personal and professional growth;
* Meaningful relationships;

Extrinsic motivators and rewards come from outside the self and are associated with poorer mental health, even depression, and create a fa├žade that you must then invest energy into to carrying on. These include:
* Wealth and the stuff it can buy;
* Beauty;
* Fame and adulation;

Self-esteem works in the same manner as motivation: if your perceived value is dependent upon external things like a hot car or a big house, your self-worth will be fleeting. What happens to your confidence if you lose these things? Intrinsic self-esteem based on positive values like love, connection, growth, giving, etc., gives you meaning. These values don’t leave you in hard times like your income and your looks can.

So, what is something you procrastinate doing? Or dread? Or a task that bores you? Which intrinsic motivators could help you accomplish these? Sometimes your only motivator will be a threat, money or other external rewards or punishments. Just know that mental health and success are nourished when intrinsic motivators significantly outnumber your extrinsic ones - more on this next week.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

You can control your instinct to be controlling
Stress for Success
September 7, 2010

Are you a control freak? If so, what do you think drives your behavior?
* Fear of loss of control so you compensate by exerting excessive control? Like micromanaging employees (next week’s topic).
* See your spouse and kids as a reflection on you so you demand perfection from them by telling them how to act and look?
* Or you’re convinced that you’re the best person to be in charge because you know the most (which can include the first two, also)?

You may be quick to let others know how to better handle their emotions or their life in general. You find fault in others and you’re convinced their lives would improve if they’d just take your well-informed advice. After all, you wouldn’t give advice about things you’re uniformed about now would you?

Can you tell when someone doesn’t appreciate your superior knowledge and competence? Do you dish out your advice anyway? Can you just not help yourself?

To add insult to injury you’re probably frustratingly right so often! Darn!

Instead of attempting to completely stop advising others you might have greater success by mitigating your usual approach. Rather than blurting out your counsel, preface it by saying, “I have some information that can help you, if you’re interested.” This gives the other person the control to say yes or no.

You could also light-heartedly admit to those who are typically on the receiving end of your unsolicited guidance that you know you have this tendency and your intent is truly to help. Develop an agreed upon word or better yet a nonverbal signal that the other person gives you that says “stop,” to which you agree to stop immediately.

Here are some other ways you can temper your controlling tendency:
* Consider: if someone were to give you unsolicited and excessive advice how would you react? Defensively? If so, what makes you think others enjoy yours? Try saying nothing for a couple of weeks and notice if some don’t come to you asking for your opinion! They want to be in control, too.
* Before criticizing or giving advice deep breathe a couple of times while asking yourself, “Is my advice important enough to risk any potential relationship fall-out?”
* Identify your area of expertise and who would benefit from it. Perhaps a volunteer program needs your know-how. Share your knowledge with them.

If you’re on the receiving end of a control freak you can also diminish the negative impact. Instead of reacting with automatic hostility and resistance channel your control freak’s energy. If he sticks his nose into something you’re working on invite him to help with part of it. Or head him off at the pass. Invite his input before he offers it. At least it gives you some control.

Whatever the control freak’s motivation, consider giving her a break. She can’t bother you if you don’t allow her to. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Nor can a control freak stress you without your consent.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach. Order her book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, at http://www.letyourbodywin.com/bookstore.html. Email her to request she speak to your organization at jferg8@aol.com.