Why you should stop motivating your learners

by John Hilton27 Jan 2016
L&D professionals should stop motivating people and instead create an environment where workers choose to motivate themselves, according to Gavin Freeman, psychologist and author of the new book Just Stop Motivating Me.

In simple terms, having workers motivate themselves is quicker and creates an environment in which people are more likely to use their discretionary effort to benefit the organisation, added Freeman.

“Individuals with the right mindset, in the right position with the right culture will produce extraordinary results,” he told L&D Professional.

The idea revolves around allowing individuals to be self-motivated which then frees up a significant amount of time which the leaders had been using to drive people to achieve the levels of output they want.

“Instead, they can then use this time to be more productive themselves,” Freeman said.

“Interestingly, most leaders I speak to complain they don’t have enough time for themselves to be productive as they are always pushing their staff – there is a better way.”

In terms of what actually motivates people to perform at work, Freeman said that the biggest finding was that there was no finding.

“In fact, people are so different that it would be impossible to identify trends. Suffice to say the only major trend is that people are different and they know what they need – so just ask them,” he said.

The second point is that companies are asking the wrong questions, said Freeman.

He explained to L&D Professional that looking for the average response of what motivates people is like trying to ask what type of peanut butter most people like.

“The answer is some like it smooth, some like it crunchy and some even like it mixed with jelly,” Freeman said.

“Motivation is the same, some people like to be micro-managed, some like working with friends close by, and some even like having a say in the type of coffee which is stored in the kitchen.”

Interestingly, every single executive which Freeman interviewed had a different perspective on motivation and a different approach.

However, the key element was the level of self-awareness they possessed in understanding this and how their own style impacted the business.

“The best comment I heard was a description by one who suggested that the majority of consultants had three common characteristics: They were all highly intelligent, highly ambitious but also highly insecure,” he added.