The Theory of Motivation
I am a lifelong student of leadership, both in theory and in practice. Over the past forty years, I’ve worked in five career fields managing complexity, creating cultures and leading change. As a self-directed learner familiar with the research and literature on leadership and followership there is one question for which the answer eludes my grasp: Why does one person own their life and work to achieve their highest personal standard to imprint a lasting legacy while another is content to trade time for money, consume resources and depart this earth nameless and wholly forgettable?
Researcher Robert E. Kelley refers to those who go through life unengaged and lacking critical thinking skills as Passive Followers while those who are highly engaged and critical thinkers are Exemplary. Psychologist Frederick Herzberg purports there are two factors to human response: hygiene, which means that you have to make a certain wage and get certain benefits in order to not be dissatisfied, and motivators, which include recognition for one’s achievement, responsibility, and the opportunity to do something meaningful which serves to enhance satisfaction. One is extrinsic and one is intrinsic. These factors operate individually so, what or where is the switch that turns people from cogs to gods?
As employers we spend millions of dollars on the next great thing and countless hours scratching our human resource heads trying to figure out what makes people tick in such a manner that they aren’t just mindlessly killing time, but productively filling time. As my father used to say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” He’d follow up with, “But you can put salt in his oats and make him thirsty.” Is there a divine seed within each of us that keeps us searching for higher ground or is it imbedded in the blueprint of our DNA, the result of millions of years of evolution? Both theologians and scientists alike all agree that we have an innate need for attachment and an imperative to mankind to step up to the plate in the prime of our lives to be productive members of society. So, how come some do and some don’t?
We all know we can’t teach anyone anything. We can only help them find it within themselves. But is there a construct, a framework, an experience, an epiphany, something we can do to encourage self-efficacy and personal responsibility all blended with the most altruistic of motives? I think so, and for the sake of humankind there better be. It’ll be tough, but I do think there is much we can do to encourage others to unlock the keys to their inner kingdom. I can invite you to a sit at the table but only you can determine whether to pick up the fork and feast or push the plate away and engage in famine. Until we show employees that they are the single most important factor to their own success and put motivation where it squarely belongs we are doing them a tremendous disservice.
It is and always has been about motivation. Without a willingness to go “all in” to life, we may as well hang it up. Stay tuned for more research on this latent motivational theory as I try to discover a new paradigm to help others unlock the secret to their success!
Interview with Tracey Jones
You have worked in vastly different fields, so what are some of the things you learned at the different positions you’ve had throughout your career?
That people are people and that your interpersonal skills are the greatest pathway to connecting and collaborating on new ways of thinking. I have worked in different industries, in different countries, with different products and services. The common thread is still the universal truths that bind us together as a collective humanity and bring a tremendous richness and productivity to the workplace. I also try to dial in on the topics and passions that resonate most with the people who will be in the audience. That way, we can rally together around issues that matter to them and positively direct our shared energy towards the most preferred future.
How do you prepare for speaking engagements?
I research the company or organization’s point of view. I want to know the big “why” that drives them. I’ll also speak with key personnel and decision makers about a particular theme, opportunity, or challenge they are in the midst of so I can craft my comments to be of most use during our time together. Often times leaders will either have a company survey they’d like me to integrate or I’ll work with them to draw some insights into what’s most important to the attendees. It makes our learning time together much more effective.
Why do clients typically hire you to speak?
They hire me to speak because I will bring a blend of research, real world experience, pragmatism and humor to the stage. I combine the best of vintage wisdom from the great mind of leadership development with the most current, trending leadership theories and applications of today. I find developmental opportunities everywhere and help others shift their action logic so they can too. I also blend in learning tasks so each attendee can put the content to use immediately in their personal and professional lives.
Who or what inspires you most?
Learning new things inspires me. Meeting new people and learning about their experiences inspires me. Sharing with others in a way that creates a more tremendous world inspires me. I love seeing people moved to action by what they hear and watching them raise the bar on life. People who meet a challenge and find the adaptive capacity to let it make them a stronger version of themselves also totally inspires me.
Which charitable causes has The Tremendous Trust donated to?
The Tremendous Trust is funding the Kosovo Leadership Academy in Mitrovica which is a K-12 school dedicated to teaching and growing future leaders. We also support scholarships at several local colleges including Central Penn College, Lancaster Bible College, and Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) Lebanon. The Tremendous Trust also supports several local homeless and substance recovery centers: Bethesda Mission, Water Street Mission, Life Path Mission, and Paxton Ministries. The Trust also supports Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region, several local K-12 schools and three State Correctional Institution Book Clubs.
What types of unique experiences have you had as a result of your profession?
Having the opportunity to continually interact with so many different people from so many different industries and walks of life keeps my learning curve strong. It’s also a tremendous way for me to apply everything I am learning in my leadership studies. I work with everyone from C-Suite executives to entry-level recruits to entrepreneurs and everyone in-between. It’s fascinating to see how each organization crafts its own leadership persona and cultural identity.