The Right People Need No Motivation
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Jim Collins, the world famous management guru, has said that “if you have the right people on your bus, you don’t need to worry about motivating them”. As a friend of mine said, “Does this mean that employee motivation programs are useless?” It would seem so – if only we could get our recruitment right, then we would employ a whole bunch of self-starters who would not need to be motivated by management. Wow, would that save costs? Yes. So this sounds like a good – no, great – idea, but is it?
My own view is that there is a truth in what Jim Collins says, but that he isn't exactly right either.
In the first instance we need to take the problem back a frame. Most people hire on the basis of qualifications and experience, often forgetting that high energy, which is effectively high motivation, is the number one factor for outperformance. So attracting and recruiting these people in the first place makes sense - but how are we to do that? It is not easy to establish in the first instance who are the genuinely motivated types of people; one thing we do know is that most people at interviews appear motivated, and furthermore that being superb at interviews usually means that one is great at interviews rather than being great for the role that one is being interviewed for!
But then having got these people, the notion that they continue to remain motivated if you do nothing about them is lamentable - sure, like the Duracell bunny, they'll run longer and more effectively than the non-motivated people you initially recruited, BUT they still need input - less input than the non-motivated people, but input nevertheless. Furthermore, although it could be argued that that such very effective people are self-starters, the benefit of inputs is also aligned with reading their minds - if you don't input you are not likely to really find out what is going on inside their head - and bingo, the self-starter up and leaves because there is no engagement with him or her.
Thus it is imperative to provide the most motivated with even more reasons to be motivated; and that leads on to the reason of reasons - namely, the best people always have it in them to want to be better - so helping them really gets them and you up to the very highest levels of performance, and at the same time gets more buy-in, more staying power in the relationship - thereby reducing turnover costs.
The truth is – the obvious truth is – things change, and that includes especially motivation. We all know of high performing, highly motivated men and women who once were outperformers but have now fallen by the wayside, as it were, and become, in some instances, positive liabilities. What happened to them? Many things can happen to them – simple burnout for one thing; neglect for another; and yet for another just lack of meaning or core purpose – why am I doing this when I never see my family from one month’s end to another?
So, yes, recruit the highly motivated – that’s good advice from Jim Collins. But don’t imagine job done! Motivation is like physical fitness: wherever you are on the scale of it, you need constant and persistent inputs stay fit, to stay motivated. True, the self-motivated can provide a lot of this for themselves, but let’s be sure: management has a lot to offer to keep performance really high.