Motivating Those Who Have It All

In his Business of Management blog, Workforce Management magazine editor John Hollon recently discussed management lessons from the US Olympics basketball team. One topic in particular resonated with me. Hollon recalled a seminar he once attended led by Pat Riley, then coach of the Los Angeles Lakers team in the late 1980s. An audience member asked Riley, “How do you motivate those who can’t be motivated by money?”

Since multiple research studies and our own experiences the Global 2000 organizations have shown that cash is not king when it comes to motivation and recognition, I was intrigued with Riley’s answer: “You motivate superstars by appealing to their pride, to a greater purpose. A champion needs a motivation above and beyond winning.”

This is equally true in the workforce. So why do many companies who are advanced in so many other ways still insist on throwing more money at employees to encourage them to perform better or reward them for exceptional performance? Not only has research shown that a “thank you” has more impact in driving results, but the promise of a bigger bonus in eight of nine tasks actually significantly decreased performance.

What does work? Recognition that not only thanks the employee for his or her efforts, but also explains why that exceptional effort was of importance to the company achieving a strategic goal. We call this linking recognition to the company values. Sure direct rewards are important, too, but give them a choice of reward that cannot be easily spent on the forgettable necessities like groceries, rent or gas.

What motivation techniques work best for you or your organization? Share your expertise in comments.

0 comment(s):