‘I need motivation’ is a request I’ve heard from time to time by employees in this industry and previous industries I have worked in. The immediate come-back from the manager or the owner has always been, ‘if you need me to motivate you, you are in the wrong industry’. You might think this is fair enough, particularly if, like me, you have heard this said or you’ve even said it yourself. However, what is really going on here? Is this a call…a cry for what everyone should really take personal responsibility for? Or, is it a cry for help that’s really saying, ‘I don’t find this place motivating at the moment…I am not inspired to do my best work here…to align with your strategy (is there one?)…I don’t know what I need to do to be successful’?

In today’s world, I hope people are beginning to realise that staff are motivated by their environment and the style of leadership that exists within an organisation. They are motivated by leadership that supports, encourages and provides stimulating challenges to staff who rise to the occasion because their manager has confidence in their ability to accomplish more than they thought possible.

This becomes all the more obvious when an employee who has not been successful within an organisation was particularly successful in another. Sometimes you might wonder if this can be the same individual. Remember that previous patterns of behaviour are still the strongest predictor of future behaviour. Why then, when someone is not successful in one environment, have they been successful in another? In my experience, this almost always comes down to environmental factors.

Recent research that we’ve conducted at Carroll Consulting focuses on culture and its role in engaging and creating more effective employees. I’ll share more on the findings in the coming weeks and I am sure they will not surprise you. They certainly reinforce the value behind our process of cultural alignment in recruiting. We look for repeating patterns of behaviour that match the behaviours identified as underpinning success in the new organisation and role. Bringing that past/future perspective provides a far greater foundation of clarity, transparency and understanding for the new employee and their manager and starts to build that base for motivation.

A workplace’s culture is clearly a major influence on whether people are ‘motivated’ or not. Three practical strategies to ensure the right basis for sustainable motivation are from sound leadership that provides:

• A defined vision
• Values the person’s contribution to that vision
• Gives them the opportunity to undertake challenging work and ‘self-mastery’ (to quote Daniel Pink)

So, the next time you hear someone say, ‘I need some motivation’, have a look at the environment, leadership and vision before assuming it is the fault of the employee. Staff most commonly simply seek to be heard, want to be part of something greater and value the opportunity to deliver challenging and engaging work, with some autonomy.