Meaningful motivation doesn’t happen by offering simple treats

Grace knows what the word ‘come’ means. When I ask her to come, she’ll obey more often than not. Of course, it’s always a bit more reliable if I have a treat in my hand and there isn’t a squirrel in sight. Yet as I stood in the freezing cold morning air, my second request to ‘come’ was being ignored. Grace likes to please me and she gets very nervous when she thinks I’m upset with her. Which made me think—what is it about that tiny, dormant twig on the ground that draws more interest than my voice?

Sometimes people take detours in their daily work, too. If you recognize inconsistencies in behaviors or outcomes—for yourself or someone else—it’s quite likely that it has something to do with the level of motivation. In order for a person to successfully complete any task, they must be able (through knowledge, experience, tools), motivated, and confident. If any one of those three conditions are lacking, something is about to go amiss.

Think of a situation in your workplace where a person was able and confident for the task in front of them, yet the performance didn’t meet your expectation. Once you learn why the distractions were more attractive than the alternative, you’ll be able to resolve the issue.

For consistent behavior, you need long-term, meaningful motivators (not just treats). People need to be interested in the objective, engaged in the decision-making, and appreciated when outcomes exceed expectations. What ideas do you have that would create an environment where long-term motivators exist?

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  1. CorporateShake on March 2, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    In terms of the Care and Grow model ( for more detail read http://www.schuitema.co.za) the motivation you talk about is defined as accountability. You will not be motivated to fish if I give you one from my freezer if you come home empty handed. The root of it all is that we have to lead unconditionally. You cannot expect unconditional loyalty if you have conditional motives. It is all about your intent. Love your blog and your dog!

    • PeopleSense Consulting LLC on March 2, 2011 at 5:51 pm

      I like the idea of being aware of your intent. People quickly realize when we’re not looking out for their best interests. Thanks for offering your comments!

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