Motivation, not perfection - Ginette Gagnon

Motivation, not perfection

Did you ever watch the Indiana Jones movies? They starred Harrison Ford as Indiana, an archeologist who went on some pretty fantastic adventures. As the hero, Indiana Jones was always thinking up clever ways to escape a trap, save someone, or fight villains.

However, Indiana was not perfect. Turns out he was afraid of snakes, a fact that brought some comical moments in the movies. But it also made Indiana human and relatable… simply because there’s not a person on this planet who’s perfect

Nonetheless, Indiana was always highly motivated to attain his goals. Truthfully, the stakes were high: to save the world from the bad guys who wanted to acquire supernatural powers. He also firmly believed in his talents and counted on his friends to help him.

In fact, Indiana, The Karate Kid, Rocky and the like share a common ingredient that all made them super heroes. Something that we see in real life as well as in movies. That is, it is not perfection that is the secret of success. It is motivation. The kind of fuel that inspire us to invest our eagerness and our energy to attain our goals.

I bet you wish sometimes you knew how to foster such a level of motivation among your employees. You would love to understand the triggers that will get them engaged and committed, would you not?

Well, actually, motivating others is really quite simple. It boils down to only two ingredients.

The triggers of motivation

A word of caution, however. Motivation is essentially a personal thing. It comes from within. So part of the responsibility lay with each employee.

However, there are external factors that will stimulate or deplete motivation, and that’s the part you may control. As a leader, you better understand these levers if you want to foster – and not hinder – the motivation of your team.

Research informs us that motivation is essentially a function of two elements:

  • The importance of doing something, and
  • The confidence that one is able to do that thing

The importance of doing something

The level of energy your team will invest to make a change or attain a particular result depends on the importance the outcome has for them.

Is the result important for the organization? Is it also important from your employee standpoint? Is it more important than other commitments your team may already hold?

That is, your role as a leader is to understand and communicate clearly why it is important to attain a particular goal – not only for the organization, but also from your employee’s perspective. The tighter the fit between organizational goals and your employee’s values and personal aspirations, the more eager he will be to invest his best resources. It doesn’t have to be perfect match, but make sure it is relevant to him.

It is thus essential that you understand as much as possible your employees’ values and objectives. It is best way for you to find the fit and help connect the dots between organization goals and personal aspirations.

But this is only one part of the equation. Importance alone does not suffice for someone to be highly motivated.

The kind of confidence that make people successful

The other key ingredient is that your employee must trust that he can be successful, and that his efforts will indeed yield results.

Consequently, your role is also to understand what is required for your team to attain the goals, what conditions will make them feel optimistic – even if the context is not perfect.

Is there enough time to perform the tasks? Are there conflicting priorities? Do they have the appropriate skills and competences? Are there enough people involved? Is the scope clear, the processes efficient, the tools sufficient? Is there trust between your team members? Do they collaborate well? What’s missing? Your team does not need perfect conditions, but these must be good enough to foster optimism.

You may also want to reflect on the level of cynicism of your team. Sometimes, it is not that a team does not trust they can attain the set goals. It is instead that they don’t believe that this will make a difference for the organization…

Remember, Indiana did not focus on his imperfections. He was instead highly motivated by saving the world, and confident he had the resources to overcome obstacles. And that made him successful.

The same hold true in real life.

Remember to foster motivation. Not look for perfection.

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