Thinking : Motivation, discussion

The following transcription is a record of a discussion that took place as part of the ADAPT project. The four representatives from industry and education were asked to discuss different aspects of motivation. Chairing the meeting was John L. Gordon, director of the North West Artificial Intelligence Applications Group (Now The Applied Knowledge & Innovation).

Use the links below to jump to sections within the discussion :

  1. Definition
  2. Individuals
  3. Staff
  4. Recognition
  5. Initiators
  6. Infection
  7. Attitudes
  8. Management
  9. Environment
  10. Leading
  11. Self Motivation
  12. Improvement
  14. Percentage
  15. Personal


John: The first thing then we want to know is, ’what do we think, as a panel, motivation actually is?’

Brian: If you’re looking at fairly general terms I suppose motivation is something that makes people move in a kind of a general sense, it makes them want to do something and follow something or change something, but once you actually try to kind of look at it as one thing I think you can start becoming too general. Its probably better looking at it in three areas. What actually initiates motivation, what starts motivation; second area, what channels that motivation; and the third area, how do you actually retain or maintain that motivation. I think when we’re looking at motivation we should possibly consider those three areas rather than saying motivation is this and this is how you deal with it.

John: Any comments?

Wayne: When I was looking at it I was faithful that you might ask me the same first question. I did not really know where to start and I like the three ways Brian said it. I looked in the English dictionary before I came at motive, motivate and it said ’what impels a person into action -example - fear, ambition, love’. Its interesting to see how that would maintain and would start to direct and maintain those kind of three emotions; fear, ambition, love. Its almost as if motivation is a state of mind.

Mike Lawton: I think that’s very helpful to Brian’s introduction because for my sins I did Latin many years ago and I suspect the Latin word to move is something like that word and it occurs to me there’s a useful distinction between the idea of movement and the idea of just reaction, habit. When the alarm clock goes of in the morning you get up. That’s hardly an act of motivation, its an act of habit isn’t it, you know that you have to begin the day. But the difference between whether you jump out of bed with a sense of urgency because you’re excited about something or whether you get up because the clocks gone off seems to me to be be a useful distinction between habitual action and positive motivation.

Nigel Worswick: There might be some element of also wanting to try hard or do better, because if you consider a highly motivated person, if they were to work slightly harder or do something slightly less, that might still be highly motivated by other peoples standards, but their motivation has actually gone or less than it was. So from a personnel view motivation for one person might be doing a little bit more, a little bit faster or a little bit better, but there level might be totally different to somebody else’s, even if there motivation went or they did slightly less they might be highly motivated to power somebody else who did nothing. Motivation itself might also be considered to be a slight increase in your own personal level or at least maintenance of it.


John Gordon: That rather brings us onto the idea of ’how motivation actually effects individuals’ and part of the same question, ’what does it do to people, motivation’.

Brian: Can I just clarify, go back a little bit and pick up what Mike said. You said, you are looking at someone who is motivated as someone who is bursting with energy in getting out there and chopping down trees. To some people, getting out of bed means that they are motivated and there are different levels, so motivation is not necessarily 100%. They are from 1% motivated to 100% motivated and therefore, when we look at some of the other areas about how different people respond to it I think we have to say can we move someone from 40% to 50% or 50% to 60%. That is still motivating that person, rather than saying, they are not at 100%.

Nigel: I think Mikes point is still valid. Perhaps what we are saying is, lets say someone was ill and they were led in bed, they would need a lot of motivation to get out of bed. In that case, it would be a motivation thing but when you’re tired and the alarm goes off its a matter of habit and every single morning you get up. For general people it does not require much motivation, it does not fall within the motivation group. I wouldn’t get up in the morning when I have to for work for instance and feel fantastically motivated unless I can look forward to something I was going to do or try and do better or something, just that act. Or like you say, maybe somebody ill in bed might be really motivated and say ’I’m going to get out of this bed’, that might be 100% motivation for them, so it depends. Perhaps it falls back to what I was saying for different people, motivation is a different thing. Mike: And I think also Nigel, coming back to your earlier point about one persons extreme motivation might be somebody else’s casual skill. If you take an example like someone who has got telephone skills, it may be that a really experienced telephone receptionist can convey a warm reaction on the phone without trying very hard and therefore is not per say being highly motivated themselves. However, maybe very adequate and good enough for the purposes of the organisation so it clearly is very content ional isn’t it?

John: Yes, those are very similar aren’t they? This business about trying very hard or comes natural; individuals are perhaps achieving the same things but one of them is highly motivated to achieve it and one of them is achieving it anyway. It maybe different to know when you are watching the result which ones doing what.

Nigel: Does the phrase wanting to do it come into motivation where as one person might just do it, not really wants to and wouldn’t call it motivated; somebody else really wants to do it better, or just wants to do it period. Whereas the other person, it might just be there job and they think ’I don’t particularly want to do this but I’ve got to do it’. When somebody else is really trying hard to do a job that is really difficult and they are trying hard to improve themselves.


John: I think I would like to try to move on now. This is kind of a philosophical question really; ’what is motivation’? But the question that might concern businesses more, or organisations more in general, is ’does staff motivation make a difference to an organisation’? If it does, and perhaps assuming that it does and I’d like to hear your answers, ’in what ways does it make a difference’? So, ’does staff motivation make a difference to an organisation’?

Wayne: I think it is sometimes hard to measure what the affect of good motivation is. I suspect you could very easily find out the state of a company if the majority of workers had very poor motivation. I think that is sometimes easier to measure. We are particularly good at measuring when it is wrong or when it is very poor. How organisations try to measure moral or motivation…I do not know.

John: Is moral the same as motivation?

Wayne: Its part of it I think, I think there’s a direct link between high motivation and high moral. It is open to debate.

Nigel: I agree. If for instance a company has very low moral then generally speaking there is nearly always low motivation. People may work hard but if they are not usually motivated, they generally are dragged down with the bad feeling. It makes a fantastic difference to business to have people who do things better, maybe quicker, or maybe happier. You go to a place where there is high motivation and you hear people singing to the radio. Where there is low moral, people drudge around looking at the floor. Theres a big difference I think and they are very closely linked. I am not saying they are the same but they seem to go hand in glove.

Brian: There is not an actual link between job satisfaction or moral and motivation. You can get people who are very happy at their job but are not very motivated. Someone who manages to find a nice little niche where they do not have to do very much might be delighted at going into work and not having to do anything, they are not motivated. Therefore, it does not necessarily mean that someone who is happy at work is going to be motivated. There does seem to be a relationship with people who are not happy at work and poor motivation because them being not happy at works means, they put spanners in the work, they don’t work very hard, but trying to make someone happy at work doesn’t mean that they will be motivated.

John: Can I get that straight; you are saying that where people are not happy at work that does relate to poor motivation but where people are happy at work doesn’t necessarily relate to motivation

Brian: Being happy at work does not necessarily mean they are going to be motivated.

Nigel: Yes that is possible.

John: So we have two issues here and we will come on to the second one later. The second one being ’what do you do to change motivation’, but the issue we are dealing with now is ’does staff motivation make a difference’? Now you started off by saying Nigel that staff motivation does make a difference in an organisation. Would anybody like to go further with that, maybe quote an example with out giving anything away. Is that possible?

Mike: I think before we go further John can we perhaps go backward a bit and say that depending on the complexity of the organisation I think it’s a foolish manager who designs an organisation that depends on high motivation all the time. We’re all comfortable talking about motivation and clearly seeing it as some sort of important variable and in that sense it obviously can make a difference to the performance of any organisation, but I guess were talking within a framework of understanding that an organisation can tick over without people being highly motivated. From Brian’s point, if I think of craftsmen doing jobs; I’ve observed many lately, and in many cases they are doing the job they want to do which is working with their hands with materials, the normal overt Saatchi and Saatchi definition of motivation doesn’t come into it. The guys are doing wall building, plastering or woodwork and you cannot readily buy into a motivation like that. I’m not suggesting that they don’t care but they’re doing their jobs and some of the people we’ve been speaking about are clearly happy being Craftsmen in the north of England, earning considerably less than they would be working on a building site in London. But they want to be were they are and at that level the motivation variable isn’t quite such a big lever that you would think of pulling. Where as, if you get into customer service, customer care, customer contact, then it clearly becomes a variable that management are thinking about all the time. So not only is it a contextual thing but also talking to a manager about the dependence of success on motivation is a very subtle thing. I come back to the point that your taking a high risk if you design your organisation to need high motivation all the time and that’s perpently consistent with believing that you can improve the organisation by achieving high levels of motivation but it’s a very subtle variable isn’t it.

John: I think I understand your point. It is an important point as well. I think if I can summarise it correctly, you are saying that a dependence on high motivation is a very risky business but if a manager or a company tries to improve motivation that is an asset to that company. Therefore, improving motivation is an asset but dependence on motivation is a great risk.

Nigel: And that throws in slightly I think with what we’re saying that if there is high moral, there can be all spectrums, but if for instance two conditions are one that the worker is fairly satisfied in that he comes to work and enjoys his work, he’s not particularly highly motivated to do better, which is what you’re saying, but there’s also people with high moral who are very motivated to push harder, do better. They can both have high moral, they can both do a good job. One’s just satisfied with doing the same job everyday with no particular motivation to do better, go faster or get promoted, where the other person sat next to them could.


John: I suppose this question is not in our scheme but I will have to ask it now after what has been said. As a person, all of you are in charge of, or look after staff. ’Can you tell intuitively or otherwise which people are highly motivated and which aren’t’?

Brian: We possibly think we can, but at the end of the day, what are you buying, you are buying performance and that is what you need to measure. A person’s performance and if you feel that they can perform better that’s where you think, right we need to motivate them more. However, at the end of the day, that is the bottom line, performance.

Mike: I also think John that, and I do not want this to sound coy, but I feel a bit humble sitting next to Wayne in a sense that he represents an organisation where it is often operating under conditions of stress, which do not have an analogue in my sort of working life. I would of thought that sometimes a measure of motivation is people hanging on, which do not require the high profile, the jazzy part of motivation, but require the deep reserves of commitment and courage, and isn’t that a form of motivation.

Wayne: You could say that many of our officers are paid for doing nothing, in that they could go out and not do anything. Especially when the pressures on from something they have dealt with recently; it’s a very easy job for some time of the day, not to do anything at all. It takes a highly motivated member of staff to remain motivated and want to get involved and sort problems out. It does take a great deal of mental courage I suppose.

Mike: What I was trying to explore and you are helping, is the commitment side of motivation as against perhaps the more superficial achievements side. I imagine one of your officers counselling somebody, or helping people after six hours of a bad motorway crash. The form of behaviour that is called for there is opposite to the ad mans motivation because you have to be extremely sensitive. Presumably you yourself are exhausted and shocked at what you see and your commitment is being tested and I would of thought - let me put it as a question Wayne - ’are people who are highly motivated, people who show extreme levels of commitment and fortitude’? I know its not quite the same thing but are they the same sorts of behaviour?

Wayne: It is a difficult one isn’t it? Yes, I wouldn’t disagree with you at all there. Just struggling exploring it in the way you are taking that.

Mike: I think what I’m trying to say is, you probably see in your working life a lot more examples of people operating for sustained periods under real strain than I do, and arguably Brian than you do, with respect. College is a very tough situation but it is not like cleaning up after a traffic accident. I would suppose a sort of amateur hypothesis, that if you are looking at a bunch of officers and there’s someone who is brilliant at a very testing situation in which compassion, fatigue, personal strength and all that is needed, it would be possible to make some comments about the motivation dimension in that sort of context; as well as the more obvious ring the bell when you’ve got an order and let everybody else know you are a success which is I guess the other end of the scale to me.

Wayne: It is a kind of complete commitment that they are doing the right thing and they are a public servant. Taking back what has compelled someone into action; it could be just that they think they are doing the right thing.

Brian: This is where the individuality of motivation comes in isn’t it, because to a large extent the vast majority hopefully of the officers are motivated to do that, to do a good job. But you will have other officers who are motivated to seek promotion in the quickest possible way and sometimes they will back away from that and do something else, because they know what’s motivating them is to get there by the quickest way. That is not the police; they are people’s own values. They are motivated by another set of values. People are saying I am motivated to do a good job as apposed to I am motivated to get there. So its individuality again that comes into it.

Nigel: The question you asked was, ’whether or not you can find a way of finding people who are motivated, how do you find these people as a director’. It’s a bit amateurish but the sort of person I find motivated is the one who comes up to me and says, ’I’ve had an idea, do you want to come and have a look at this’, and depending on how you handle that, that motivation right at that point can either increase or it can be killed dead. A typical answer is like ’no I’m busy or we’re not interested’, which won’t do a lot for it, where as the other answer is ’yeah lets go and have a look at what you’ve got’. You go and have a look and you listen to it. If its got some sense you pursue it and their motivation increases because if it’s a good idea and you give it some backing, maybe give them the job of seeing it through and supporting them, not only do you get the motivation you started with but you end up finding some more. Because the next time they have a good idea they tend to come to you knowing that if it’s a good idea it’s going to get some support. Now how do you realise people who are not very well motivated? I think its when you go to somebody and maybe you suggest an idea, a different way of doing something, and all you get is negatives back like ’ that can’t be done’ or ’its too hard work’ and that sort of thing. Now it is not that black and white. You’re asking, ’can you find out if people are motivated; how do you do it?’ Generally, it is by reacting with them and getting feedback from them. It tends to come out fairly clear and you can actually pick out those who are motivated. They tend to make it pretty clear.


John: I may be guilty of over summarising what you’ve said here but do I detect what you’re saying is that you can tell people are motivated because they are the ones who initiate actions.

Nigel: Generally. I would not say it is that black and white but there’s some evidence there.

John: People who initiate actions are usually more motivated than people who just go with the flow.

Wayne: It could be that they initiate action because of that relationship they have with you Nigel. They initiate action because they realise they are going to be recognised, praised, they may or may not be paid more but the fact is they feel recognised for doing a good job. There is no fear there. They are prepared to come out and suggest something. You might say ’that is no good’ but the fact is that they trust you because they have come up with the idea.

Nigel: I am not sure pay actually is a very high motivator and that is an unusual view. Most people say, ’oh yeah money bottom line’, but its probably very low down on a list of motivation. People do like to feel that they’ve done a good job and its been recognised and they actually enjoy doing a good job. The worst thing is if they come up with an idea and they are very very keen, but it is not a good idea. Now the problem is where, and we have just discussed this, that it is my opinion so whether or not it is a good idea unfortunately is biased by my opinion. But at that point there’s still a job to do, because if somebody’s come to you with an idea and its not a good idea you’ve got to explain to them why you think it doesn’t work, or why we can’t do it. You either say it is a great idea but we have no money to support it, sorry, maybe in six months we can do it; they can understand that. Or, yeah it is a good idea, we tried it six months ago and this went wrong. If they understand that then they still feel free to come forward and not feel knocked back. So there is a real critical point, right at that moment when they come to you with the idea. You can stand or fall on your motivation at that very moment.


John: What we are drifting onto actually, and I would like to come back to this, is talking about the ways of improving motivation. Like, acknowledging examples of high motivation, but we will come back to that. There’s one issue that I’d like to address just before we get there, because I think its important and we’ve seen it before at the meeting anyway. This idea of ’how infectious motivation is’. Will one highly motivated individual infect others and make them more motivated? Will one really negative, poorly motivated person infect others and make them less motivated? What do you feel about the infectious nature of motivation?

Nigel: I think it is both, you are absolutely right. It is a bit like they are striped in good and evil isn’t it. If you have a load of negative people, you can get an attitude in the company where everybody is moaning, nothings right. Even one person can do that if they are left to it. By the same token, somebody who is really, enthusiastic about the job, what we are doing, or anything, can spread it. They really can spread it. I hate to say it but unfortunately, the negative one is an easier job than the positive one. I think it is a lot easier to go around spreading discontent than it is to go around getting everybody up. You would probably need five up people to counteract one down person. Both are infectious. I think its important to guard against the negative because it takes a lot of over coming.

John: Any other views?

Mike: I think it exists at so many levels doesn’t it. We can all dig into our experiences and think of dramatic cases and I am not sure that the analysis of the dramatic case is the complete story. You will move us on I’m sure eventually John to the issue of the management of the process and then again you’ll get this variable of what you are trying to achieve as a steady state and what are you trying to achieve in the way of progressive improvement. Listening to what Nigel was saying, if you think of McDonalds off hand, I would of thought that McDonalds as an organisation probably cannot depend on high motivation at all times because so much of the work is repetitive. The back office work does not have contact with the customers so must be even more challenging but their slogan, unless I’m out of touch, is ’there’s a difference at McDonalds you’ll enjoy’. Which is a ludicrous comment to make about hamburgers and clearly the slogan with which they are wishing to present themselves to the public is something about; you will enjoy our hamburgers more than other hamburgers without the assumption necessarily being that they are better hamburgers. You will enjoy the whole experience, which plays back into the pleasure when you come into contact with our staff. I think there is a very significant difference for the purpose of discussion between designing an organisation which can feed god knows how many million hamburgers to the world every single day to a consistent level of quality control, without poisoning them; and the front office, I go to McDonalds rather than Burger King because I enjoy it more. Therefore, we need to be careful about whether we are talking about the extreme case or the daily grind. You can talk about motivation in both contexts and again I am sure you must have to face both Wayne. A lot of the work of the police, you have said, is sometimes quiet and maintenance of background motivation becomes a challenge, but has enormous extremes, where you may have to train people to cope with dramatic tests. So, I feel the need John to define the spectrum of activities somehow before we get onto motivation as some sort of leverage pole.

Wayne: Yes, I take on board that and it is interesting to know that Nigel used the word attitude as we’re doing quite a bit of work in our force on attitude; we’re running positive attitude courses. Does everyone agree that attitude is linked? I always remember a little bit of a saying ’attitude is contagious - is yours worth catching?’ It sounds very glib but I love it, especially if you are working in teams and you have someone with an attitude about the organisation or about the work they are doing. It will very quickly spread like a virus.


John: It is highly interesting. I was going to ask Brian about what has cropped up in the last three comments. Is it a dichotomy or is it the same thing we are talking about; attitude and motivation? Are we talking about the same thing here or two separate things?

Brian: I think they are separate but they are very very closely linked. If someone has a positive attitude they are likely to be motivated and if someone has a negative attitude, they are probably going to be poorly motivated. Therefore, they are not exactly the same but they certainly are very closely correlated.

Wayne: Almost like different lanes in a running track. Very close together and they may take us to the end in the same direction.

Brian: I think if you are trying to motivate someone, one way forward would be to certainly work on their attitude, get a more positive attitude towards something and to pickup on what Nigel was saying, things are infectious. If someone smiles, and this is the McDonalds thing, if someone is smiling at you, you tend to smile back at them. If people are motivated, quite often others will pick up on that motivation and I think in a way its up to good management. If a section leader or manager is motivated then that infection does spread farther than just a co-worker. So I think, if the manager is showing motivation it can be infectious.

Wayne: Absolutely critical.

John: I think that’s a brilliant lead on to what probably is our most important question but it turns out that we may be asking a parallel question about attitude and motivation. I know other business’s I have worked with, deal with the word attitude rather than motivation and I’d be interested to hear that probably we are talking about the same thing, we’re possibly using the wrong term for it. The question then is, ’can motivation be improved by good management and if we accept that it can, what are good ways of doing this?’ I think we’ve already accepted from our earlier discussion that improving motivation is beneficial for business, so now we’re naturally moving onto the question ’How can managers improve motivation?’ ’Can they?’


Wayne: You cannot impose motivation but you give the environment to which it can flourish. I was listening to Dick Bird last week, the Olympic coach for the British GB Team; he was on about coaching and motivation. He said, ’you can get raw talent in kids, you can get motivation in kids, but if you combine raw talent with motivation, they are really going to fly’. You cannot impose motivation, but what he said is ’you give them the roots to grow and the wings to fly’ which I liked a lot. You just give them the environment in which it is just a natural thing to do and if you are highly motivated as well it is difficult to resist.


John: Do we all agree what we are really talking about then, or are there other comments, that what we are talking about managers doing is creating an environment for that motivation and not actually trying to motivate.

Mike: No, I’m not sure we do agree, I think there are a whole series of situations in life, including working life in which the two things you posed as alternatives each applies. Managers will be trying to set the background conditions in which there is high motivation. In certain conditions, managers will be managers; leaders will be trying to lead by example and trying to create a very special situation. Think of war, think of defensive situations as well as offensive situations. Think of the situation where you have just had to impose cut backs on your organisation and you are relying on people to hang on in there despite the fact that there are external conditions which are extremely difficult. I think that in that spectrum of activity you get both background conditions of honesty, courage and frankness which depend for survival and you get spectacular opportunities when an individual at any level can do a bit of leadership, a bit of excellence which pulls everyone else up. I feel that the concept of motivation applies right across that whole spectrum of activity.

John: That’s an interesting observation. I think that we may like to, if we were trying to give advise to other companies or organisations, from our humble experiences about improving motivation in business, we’ve maybe now identified, unless anybody would like to disagree, that there are two things here. One of them is setting the conditions for motivation and the other is leading by example. Are we happy with those two things or would we like to explore that any further? Setting the right conditions or the environment for motivation and leading by example.

Wayne: If the conditions include that interaction between yourselves and the other person then I would go along with that.


John: Is leading by example for instance, Brian you brought this up before, simply maybe at one level just smiling when you see people, rather than frowning. Is that sensible or is it a silly thing to say?

Brian: I don’t think it’s that, I think if you are obviously very much involved with your work in terms of you show enthusiasm for new initiatives in the way forward, in the work you are doing and you show that you are keen, keens the wrong word, but if you are showing that you are enthusiastic about something then quite often people will follow that enthusiasm. That is only one little thing, that is one-thing mangers could do. What Nigel said, the actual reinforcement; someone comes to you to talk and the fact that you spend time with them is reinforcement. You have not said ’on no that’s no good’, you’ve spent time with them to say ’we’ve tried this and this is why it won’t work but great idea, keep them coming’. That kind of thing is beneficial, and then you have other things that you need to tie a persons own particular needs. It is the company needs because we all have needs to motivate us.

Mike: Let me just build on that a minute if I can John. Listening to what Brian was just saying; if you are recruiting, including advertising for people, you will very often look for a quality which people label enthusiasm. Is such and such a candidate a very enthusiastic person? I don’t ever recall seeing an ad that says we want someone who is motivated and I think the reason for that if I may, is because motivation is so context pacific. So you can’t say I want to recruit motivated people; motivation will come out of a process of being a part of the organisation, but you can say I want to try and recruit someone who is enthusiastic can’t you.

John: You do see sales adverts though that say highly motivated individual required. I quite understand, what do they mean by that, but its common.

Nigel: I think you can get a motivated enthusiastic person and they go for a job, and lets say they get the job, then, how they carry on depends on whether the organisation quashes that or encourages it. If they quash it, and they are naturally a motivated person, they would probably get disillusioned and leave, or disillusioned and stay. So I think, some people are naturally motivated, some people are not and they go to organisations, and that can be tempered up or down somewhat by the organisation. One of the things I’m saying is, because we install machines in all parts of the world, we actually go into peoples business’s and we spend quite a few weeks there installing things. We get to interact quite a lot with all of the staff and we almost get a ’stand back look’ at all of these business’s. What amazes me is that all of the businesses seem to have continuity through them at all levels. I went to one place where everybody had old union mentality, hate everybody, nothings going to work, I cannot do it, you know. I asked one person ’could you just do that’? ’No I can’t’, was the reply, even though it was just down there on the floor. So I ended up picking it up in my suit, picking up a dirty thing like a spanner and he looked stunned as though to say, you can’t do that in a suit. I have seen the other side to; extremely motivated companies where it goes right through from the receptionist on the desk to the people you meet. It does seem to go up or down to a level and it does seem to me that the level is set by the people, not exactly in charge, but at the higher levels. I think this motivation goes down the hierarchy a lot easier than it comes up. If you have a load of motivated people at the bottom you generally find that unless the people at the top match that it will gradually just get quashed and they will leave and you’ll end up with just a numb, dead business with nobody motivated. People are attracted to motivated business’s I think and that’s why I think this comment that it comes from the top is true. I have even come to a situation where I have heard that all the people almost sound the same. They all have this corporate mentality of ’we’re really good’ and when they answer the phone, I sometimes cannot tell who is answering because they even answer the phone in the same way; they are all thinking the same way. Again, there is the other side, you ring up and think ’oh god we have one here’. Those sorts of organisations do not do well. I must have been in best part of 30 companies during my time; you see good things, places that are better than ours but you see an awful lot where the mentality is dreadful and you can see where it comes from as well.

John: I have to say Nigel while we are on record, I have commented before on your telephonist when you phone up, how bubbly she is the way she answers the phone, its brilliant.

Nigel: We cannot take any responsibility there, she is just naturally brilliant, but that is a great front door when you ring our company. Straight away, customers think this is a switched on place and its up to us to try to match that. Sometimes it is a tall order.

Self Motivation

John: Before we move onto the second part of that, which is really the environment or the conditions, were talking about leading by example and so on at the moment. This other thing cropped up about the adverts which you raised Mike and what occurs to me is, when you brought this thing up about advertising for motivated people; maybe I was a little bit wrong when I said you see adverts for motivated people because the phrase is usually self-motivated people isn’t it? What does that mean? Self-motivation.

Mike: I think there are jobs for which it is intuitively obvious, they are lonely jobs; selling out there is quite a lonely job and you have to have a high level of self motivation because you are not part of the comfort of the organisation most of the time; you’re out there on your own.

Wayne: It applies to the police as well. I struggle to come to terms with what else could motivation be other than self-motivation. I cannot think of another explanation of motivation other than self-motivation.

Brian: I do not know; what Nigel was talking about, the actual company. People want to belong to a successful company. They actually feel successful themselves if that company is successful and if you have an ethos of success and motivation then other people can be drawn along within that. They do not all have to be self-motivated; many people can have that motivation embedded into them by the company.

Mike: Lets just ask Wayne ’why do people want to belong to the police’?

Wayne: Well when you interview them they say they want to serve the public and when they have been in a year or so you hear them say they want promotion, but that is never mentioned when they join. Personally, I felt that it was just something I wanted to do, the idea just excited me.

Mike: I was listening to what Brian was saying, not in any way seeking to be particularly contentious, but someone who wants to join the police ’do they want to join a successful organisation’? I am not sure that applies. In my growing up days when IBM were the giants of the computer industry you wanted to join IBM because they were the success story.

Brian: No, I was not saying that, I was not saying that people will look round and say ’where’s there a successful company I want to join it’. But when you’re actually in a company, you’ve decided what kind of line of occupation or profession you want to be in; when you’re actually in a company, how that company operates, the feeling within the company can affect you. So if you join one particular police force and everybody is pulling together, very supportive, they know where they want to go, what they want to do then other people will pick up that motivation.

Wayne: I do agree with you that there is that contagiousness about it but I was referring to the fact that motivation is a state of mind so it has to start with the person. They either chose to accept this feeling of wanting to work for a great company, wanting the company to do really well by their work. That is the sate of each individual; they can chose to accept it or not. If they do not accept it, they probably leave.

Mike: Some people want to be long distance lorry drivers John.

Nigel: Two things there actually; some people might go for the interviews believing the police is a successful organisation. Being successful in doing what they might believe in, like sorting out this mess as they perceive it. They think they can do their bit to help the police who are doing good job of doing it. The other thing is self-motivation; I am being a little bit pedantic here, you could have a self-motivated person who is exactly that. Goes to a company he does not care anything about and hes self-motivated to make loads on bonus’s; he could not care less about anybody else there and he is self-motivated. So there could be a difference between a self-motivated person for himself and a self-motivated person who will go out selling for the company and believe in the company. So there might be a fine dividing line. I am not sure how relevant it is.


John: It is an interesting point. Before we move onto the last topic I’d just like your opinions on what managers or people in charge of staff could actually do to set environmental conditions that would improve motivation. We’ve discussed the other issues around the management of motivation but just looking specifically at the motivational environment ’what could managers actually do to improve that would you think?’

Mike: Short term or long term John.

John: I would like to hear why you think there is a difference between short and long term.

Mike: Well I think if you’ve got a situation which is short term because it’s a phase, if you like, of the organisation; you’re launching a product, you’re running a campaign, you’re going into a new country, I think there is experience that manages can deploy. Tactics they can use up to and including in effect, short term bribery that will get you short-term results. You would not use the same set of thoughts or tactics for the maintenance of long-term commitment over the years.

John: Good description. Well then, you have raised one of the things for short-term motivation and that is bribery. What would you say then to increase the long-term motivation in a company, to do with the thing you were talking about Brian, to make the organisation one that wants to drag people forward and be motivated because the organisation is motivated? How do you create that sort of organisation?

Brian: The ideal way is to know the people because the best way to motivate them is to motivate that individual. To go back to sport etc., if you’re trying to motivate a team then each member of that team needs slightly different methods of motivation. In an organisation you try to fit their needs into the company needs. Now that is the ideal but a lot of people cannot actually get down to the individual basis although if you’ve got a good line management you could. So it’s to make people realise that by the company succeeding they succeed and to try to tie the needs of the individual into the company.

John: Interestingly enough, one of the things that was mentioned right back at the beginning, or nearer the beginning, was this business of matching people to jobs; making people happy in the job that they are doing rather than miserable in the job that they are doing. Is that something that managers should be aware of; making sure people are doing the jobs that they are best suited for and they are happy in doing?

Mike: Absolutely, and I think if you make the assumption that competitive pressures will mean leaner organisations, fewer managers, people having to work harder, then I think Wayne used the phrase ’an open management style’ the ability for everybody in the organisation to have an idea of what its about, where its going, will become proportionally more important through time.


John: So we have actually drawn a distinction between short and long term motivation. Short term motivation being the need to motivate for a particular launch of a product, or a particular project and long-term motivation being this business of making the company a highly motivated one that new individuals who join the company feel that they want to be dragged along into; a highly motivated environment, and so on. Does anybody have any further comments to make about how these sorts of environments are created when they are needed?

Nigel: I think you need to involve people in the business, product or whatever and perhaps inform them about what is going on. I can only unfortunately site an example within our company, its difficult to do from the outside. We are lucky, we get a full list of machines; design them in house, make them in house; test them in house. The only bit that does not happen is, we ship them to the other end of the world and not everybody gets the chance to see them. But if you let them know that you’ve just for instance first of all got an order and then somebody starts designing it, they get involved in building the whole thing right the way through, generally speaking when the whole machines on test we unofficially declare a sort of afternoon off where everybody comes out to see it. A lot of the office staff otherwise never go out to see the factory; the secretaries and the rest of it. To let them see what they are involved in, why they are answering the phone all day long; what is it that we make, what does it do, why is it good. It might only be half a day but every body just comes out. You could stand there and count the cost and think that’s just cost us thousands of pounds for people just to be stood about watching but its worth it, worth every penny. I think every person within the organisation needs to be aware how they fit into it all, what their contribution is and how they do actually contribute to it. I think we can all sympathise with the new boy at school syndrome, where you come into a new organisation for instance, you are sat down and given a desk. Because its your first day you’ve never done any work, you’re sat their with a blank desk thinking what am I supposed to do. That is a terrible feeling and not very motivating; you are thinking, I’m not doing anything, give me a job. When people know what their position is, what they are supposed to do, how they contribute; that can be very motivating. To know you are contributing, to see how it all fits together. The shipping guy who knows it is important to ship it safely; finance guy gets the money in; right the way through. They are not just in a little cubbyhole doing their bit; they all contribute to the whole thing. Education, spread it round a bit, let them know what is going on.

John: Any other comments on that before we move on to the final thing.


John: Right, I would like to move on now. I think that we have covered a number of issues reinforcing again that motivation is important to an organisation, it does make a difference and we have addressed ways of improving the motivation in an organisation. In my travels, I have listened to different people who said things like they want people to be motivated 100% and all of the time. I am sceptical about this and certainly when I talk to people in the likes of the sports environment they have said that this is not possible. Yet other people in say the sales environment would say that it is possible. What is true? Is it possible to be motivated 100% for 100% of the time? What do you think?

Brian: I think Mike referred to that earlier on, that any company that depends on 100% motivation is very vulnerable. Quite often, the companies who demand 100% motivation get rid of people after a year and pick somebody else up; they just burn them out. That is not really a long-term plan, not a long term way of doing it is it.

John: So it is a short-term thing.

Nigel: It is a weird one this because 80% of business’s I would say, or even 90% do have an average level of motivation with a few people pushing hard. It is nearly possible to have top motivation but its usually very unusual circumstances, and the best example I can give is formula one racing, the formula one team. Every two weeks they have a race. The motivation is always top level; they are pushing every single day, testing, developing new bits, then on Sunday, it breaks and they have lost the race. They try all over again, they win, and there is a magnificent motivation there. That’s probably the nearest I can think of to top level motivation all the time, but even that doesn’t always work because when they win the championship they sit back a couple of steps. Top teams, they win a championship and usually a champion fails the next year; he has just lost his motivation because he has won it. Same with athletics and all the rest of it, fantastic motivation until you win it then you just do 95% and somebody else wins it whose more hungry. So I think in a very very narrow level; in a very very narrow type of business usually the highest technology business turnover profit. Huge companies like McClaren whose turn over is equivalent to some third world countries, just racing two cars, but generally I think its virtually impossible to maintain that level of motivation.

John: Are there any other different opinions or the same opinions?

Wayne: I am looking at it from a much softer kind of side I suppose. I would like to thing that I remain generally highly motivated towards everything I do in life. There may be instantaneous setbacks, knock backs that make me think this isn’t fair, I shouldn’t be doing this, but basically I’d like to think that I remain highly motivated all the time, but I know its not possible. John: Interestingly enough you have both said the same thing although it sounds opposite. You said that there is an average level of motivation in the organisation but of course, some individuals are higher than that. So what we’re probably talking about if you’re right as well is that the same people are the ones who are highly motivated or more highly motivated all of the time and the average is there because there are other people who are always less motivated. Is that the case or does people’s motivation go up and down?

Nigel: Have you ever read that calendar thing where it says ’if you want something doing go to a busy man’? Its always that guy who has time to do it; the same thing with motivation to a degree. Highly motivated people always have time to do something extra because they push push push.


John: I would like to finish off with this one last question. We can perhaps all answer it and I will start. The question would be ’How do you consider your own motivation level in general. Your own average motivational level on a percentage scale?’ I will answer it by saying I think I am an above averagely motivated person, even though I have ups and downs. So on average I will take my motivation to around 66%. Who’s going first? Would you like to answer that hard question Mike?

Mike: No

John: Wayne, I think you have already answered it.

Wayne: I think mines really high.

John: Higher than 66%.

Wayne: Yes, because it is just a state of mind. I do not know what the right answer is but I think its good to think I am highly motivated because if I think that way, the chances are I will act that way.

John: Brian would you like to answer it.

Brian: Yes but I think in using terms rather than percentages I think mines high but its going back to what we’ve been talking about before. You cannot be 100% because you will burn out. Formula 1 teams need a rest. I would say I vary between 70-100%, probably most of the time over 80% but theres times I am absolutely 100% for short bursts.

John: Would you like to finish off with that Nigel?

Nigel: Yes. I think mine varies. Probably not quite right with motivation. The rest of the people in the company, except in the management; we almost shield them from the problems of money, orders and god knows what and sometimes it takes a bit of a knock and motivations low then sometimes its really high, so its varies does mine. I do not know.

Mike: Let me come back in John otherwise, I shall feel ashamed of myself. I wanted to avoid sounding glib. I will scantilise you slightly by saying my motivation gets higher every day and that’s because I feel I’m so dammed lucky to live in a civilised country with good people around. There are so many examples around of people who are starving, refugees, don’t know where their next meal is coming from and as I get older I find it makes me more grateful and more positive that I can have a satisfactory life; have some pleasure; make a difference. However, that is not a statement about jobs, its more a statement about life.

John: It is an interesting statement to make to whoever might listen to this at the end. Thank you very much.