“A desire when chosen becomes a motive.
There are more than eighteen thousand results when you search for “work motivation” on the internet.
Motivation is a particularly important topic for individuals because motivated employees are more likely to achieve personal goals and a sense of well-being, and also for organisations, because by nurturing the motivation of their resources they retain them in the company to contribute to business development.
A training or development programme focused on motivation is sometimes hard to design, due to the different expectations of the parties involved.
Stakeholders expect a rapid return on investment when they approve a programme on motivation for their people. By contrast, managers and others expect to get answers to crucial questions such as: How can I motivate my people if I don’t have anyone who motivates me? What should I do if a collaborator does not want to be motivated? Where do I get the motivation if I have inadequate budget and resources?
Let’s try to define motivation and describe the approach we have developed to work with organisations on this issue.
Looking at the origins of the term motivation, it comes from the Latin verb movere (motus ad actionem), meaning a force that triggers individuals by turning on their active energy. Motivation helps to explain why certain behaviours occur and why individuals commit to achieving goals. Exploring the psychological literature, Pilati (1995) uses the term motivation to describe the reasons that push people to achieve their objectives and pursue their interests, guided by both cognitive and emotional processes. This definition is very similar to our approach when we deliver a training or a coaching session.
This leads us to a crucial factor for individual motivation: the expectation of results. Expecting results stems from our mind’s ability to anticipate, self-regulate and unequivocally determine our behaviours. In times of challenge or when faced with critical tasks, imagine we felt boredom, disappointment or wasted effort – how would we behave? The human mind has the ability to make things happen, as demonstrated by the self-fulfilling prophecy effect (Merton 1948, Watzlawick, 1971).
So if we change our expectation of results, we can change our behaviours. The greater the value we attach to our actions, the greater our sense of satisfaction and feeling that we are building something useful for ourselves and others.
Is motivation a question of thoughts, of mental approach? It probably is.
Victor H. Vroom (1964) developed the “Expectancy Theory” through his study of the motivations behind decision making, and created this formula
Motivation= Valence x Expectancy x Value
Valence is a measure of the commitment to obtain a result, expectancy is the probability of achieving it from the individual’s point of view, and value refers to the relationship between reaching objectives and obtaining a reward.
Motivation is therefore largely determined by the subject’s approach to the task and not only by a supportive environment.
Starting from the concept of positive expectation, we can then consider the concepts of human agency (Bandura 1991) and personal responsibility. Bandura (2000) writes “Those who can take advantage of the various opportunities in life are more able to successfully interact with their environment, fuelling their potential and improving their level of personal gratification”.
If being motivated at work also depends on people’s mindset, how can we feed and consolidate their positive energy? Research tells us that when people stop making plans they lose their sense of being. Just like people, organisational/social/political systems without a plan lose their vision of the future and tend to fall back on a frustrating wait-and-see method. Personal responsibility grows when an individual is able to plan a chain of objectives that guide him or her to a final success and their own well-being.
How do we implement our approach?
Based on this methodology, at Commitment we work in our training sessions to trigger a mindset change in the delegates, from “My company must engage me” to “I have the chance to add value with the actions I do, and “I have to set objectives so that I can feel motivated at work”. We also use the goal setting technique (Locke & Latham, 1990) to help participants to build their chain of objectives. Having motivating objectives is fundamental to personal development – it requires careful thought, and it helps us to align resources, intensify efforts and be resilient. It is also important to help training participants reflect on the fact that an objective is not a task, because a task is about ‘doing’ rather than ‘thinking’. Motivation is determined by the final goal and not by the activities (the tasks) needed to reach the final destination.
In conclusion, motivation is an essential ingredient for personal growth. It comes from our own will to deliver the end result and take responsibility for the process of getting there. In our training sessions, participants are guided through this awareness process, reflecting on the concepts of change and personal responsibility, and we help them to get rid of excuses that get in the way of their desire to change.
To feel motivated we need to concentrate on the present, not on what we did in the past or did not have the courage to do. What is really relevant is how we can act right now to change the things we do not like (D. Agostini, 2006).