What Motivates: Gold, Glory, or God?

Motivation comes in many forms, and knowing what motivates the people you work with can make all the difference from “has done” to “has been.”

Pay, or as the HR people like to say, compensation, has turned out not to be the end-all-be-all for motivational purposes. As Dan Pink has ably exposed in his latest book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (and TED presentation here) research demonstrates that money in certain situations degrades, not improves, performance. In short, Dan demolishes the business practice of using a reward and punishment approach for many tasks. It simply does not work.

It is not, as I coached a client this past week, simply a matter of giving someone a bonus for doing their job. It’s figuring out what tool best motivates them, and using that tool repeatedly to promote greater performance.

Former Citigroup CEO John Reed, whose candor and management smarts were appreciated before, during, and even after his tenure, once suggested that all you need to remember is the “3 Gs” of employee motivation and much of your work in figuring out your motivational strategy is solved. It’s not a bad idea.

The 3 Gs?

Gold: The person is motivated to perform at a higher level through the use of a bonus or prize. Sales type people are notorious for being motivated by “spiffs” – cash or prize incentives. For people who are motivated by money it’s Jerry McGuite – “show me the money” time all the time.

Glory: The person is motivated by recognition – the call out at the all-hands meeting, the reserved parking spot up front for the employee of the month, or lunch with the CEO – all examples of different ways to recognize someone. For those who revel in recognition, you can never have too much.

God: Some people exist to fulfill a different purpose, and motivation for them is the achievement of something noble, socially or spiritually important. Given a choice between the piece of cake job (think selling Ding Dongs) or the harder job that provides social good, social good wins every time.

Rather than thinking you’re one and done with the motivational tools, the reality is that for just about anyone they can never get too much of what motivates them. So rather than being stingy, reward people when they really deserve in the currency (compensation for some people, recognition for others, and socially fulfilling projects and work for balance of your crew) that motivates them.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

3 thoughts on “What Motivates: Gold, Glory, or God?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention What Motivates Your Employees: Gold, Glory, or God? | Life Back West -- Topsy.com

  2. Great post! I like your blog and have become a subscriber, probably because we seem to think the same way. :) I love how you summarized these points but the bottom line is that to get the most from your people, you have to know them first.
    I wrote about the same thing here http://www.careercurve.com/blog/?p=106 but I had more than three! I also wrote something else regarding motivation versus inspiration that you may find interesting http://www.careercurve.com/blog/?p=172. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for the post!

    • Jen,
      Thanks for the kind words and glad that you’ve enjoyed the blog, and thanks for the referral. At my best I try to channel that Albert Einstein thought – “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t know enough about it.”
      J. Mike

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