What really motivates us – a personal experience

This video, by and based on Daniel Pink’s excellent book, Drive, provided me with confirmation about what I had always believed about motivation and gave me some insights about an issue I faced early in my career.

Have a watch.

One of the reasons I accepted one of my first jobs was because of the monetary benefits it could potentially bring me. A relatively good salary (based on my background), but more intriguing an excellent bonus system that could potentially make me very rich. I was young and money was a huge motivator for me.

All I had to do was to perform at the highest level.

Let me say this, the research addressed in the movie is absolutely correct. The first months in the job, the performance criteria was low because I had to train and develop during the first months to gain better knowledge of the product I was selling and the industry I was working in.  In this training period I did excellent. Even though I wasn’t measured as my fellow employees I had goals. I reached and even exceeded this goals. I did very well. After 3 months I had become a better salesperson, I had good knowledge of the product I was selling and I was familiar with the industry. I was a better employee. Therefore my performance criteria increased. I had higher sales targets, which again provided me with the opportunity to earn higher bonuses. Just want I wanted! I was ready to perform and earn that money! My motivation was sky-high.

I failed. The first month went ok, the next month worse and then after 6 months I performed really bad. The pressure to perform got to me and I did not understand what had gone wrong. I just did not perform as well as I did when under training.

In this period I had some feedback sessions with my manager who convinced me that I could do it, I just had to focus on the monetary gifts high performance would give me. Sadly he was also clueless to what really motivated me.

I reset my priorities and continued to work hard. At the end it paid of, but I was never as good as I was the 3 first months in the job. It has always puzzled me until I saw this clip and read the book, Drive. It made sense.

With the money in sight my focus was not on being a good performer, as it was at the beginning, but the money was the goal. It was when the goal was to become a better employee that I performed well, and when that was over it all changed. I stopped wanting to develop and be better at my job.

This episode is one of the reasons why I today study and work with HR. Many organizations today still believe that high salaries and big bonuses is the key motivator to high performance. A change of course is what those organizations need because this approach leads to, among many other issues, high turnover and lower productivity.

For more on this subject I also recommend the books by Dan Ariely on humans irrational behavior.

Visit my new website Digital Nomad Solutions

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