I started and finished reading the book Payoff by Dan Ariely yesterday. This 100 page book is sub-titled The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations. In the book Dan outlines a number of studies about how motivation works for people.

In their research Dan and his colleges found that what was least motivating for people is to offer some sort of financial bonus or incentive. A most effective way of motivating people is with a personalized gift (in their example it was a pizza for hitting a certain performance target.) The pizza showed that the manager in a personal way, and it didn’t demotivate the employees by putting a price-tag on work that wasn’t eligible for a bonus. What is most interesting is that almost as effective as giving the peronalized incentive of the pizza, was acknowledgement. Dan shared a number of stories and studies about the way that just acknowledging someone’s work was an effective way to keep them motivated to continue.

This seems like a simple and easy way to help people stay motivated. It might not be the whole answer to the equation, but it seems that it could go a lot further than us as managers ever expect.

Dan Ariely also points out that one of the greatest motivators for people is that their job has meaning. People want to know that their work is making a different and moving the needle forward. Dan gives stories about how workers lose their motivation when work is seen as being ineffective, or workers are required to do work that doesn’t have a purpose at all. Dan points out ‘You haven’t been working just for a paycheck or evenen a vision for the company: you have been working for yourself by building something that you care about . . .'(pg34.)

We have to remember that people are internally motivated, it is my job to make sure that I connect and feed that motivation. I must acknowledge people, and make sure that what they are building is first for them. When people are motivated, they are a much stronger force and very little will stand in our way.