How Do You Go About Getting People at Work to Do What You Want Them to Do? Part 4 – Day 119

Saturday 09:30am, Hyatt 48 Lex, Lexington Avenue, New York

The fourth and final part of this mini-series on control looks at self-regulation. This is a pretty huge topic and the theories and discussions surrounding self-regulation are plentiful. I’ll try to keep this entry short and sweet, so here are a few of my thoughts and insights concerning self-regulation, performance-related incentives and motivation.

First of all, from a manager’s point of view, self-regulation is really the elixir of control management. When it is in place and works well your team’s self-regulation allows you to focus more on bigger picture stuff and less on micro-management. Secondly, a central assumption of self-regulation is the notion that an individual is highly professional, excels at working and thinking independently and is motivated. And really, it’s the motivation part that I find fascinating.

One of the key takeaways from the unit on human resources management that I completed last month was that I actually don’t know what motivates my team. Nor do I know what would leave them feeling dissatisfied. Sure, most of them have financial incentives and the like, but I also know that other factors apart from money are important motivators. So, I’ve decided to find out, and I’m getting some very interesting and surprising answers.

At Primal Pictures (pre-acquisition) we had no financial incentives. Zero. However, post-acquisition we nearly drowned in incentives; it could not have been more different. If you closed a deal during the week, you could dress down on Fridays. If you closed a deal, you could enter into the weekly draw to win dinner for two or a spa break. If you closed a deal, you could earn your right at the temporary Speakeasy where you could play video games and have cocktails. While it seemed to motivate some people, I never really connected with this type of incentive.

I recently watch a TED talk on motivation that turned my view on motivation and incentives upside-down. It’s well worth the 17 min, but the summary is that scientific research has shown that financial incentives work well for jobs that involve mechanistic tasks that require focus, but that they have the opposite effect when applied to jobs that require complex bigger picture stuff.

We’ve been doing it wrong folks.

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