Motivation - Get Your Team Going!

Published August 22, 2022
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Sometimes I imagine the cartoon of holding a treat on a stick that is forever in front of an animal keeping them moving forward. So let’s talk about the “dangling carrot.”

Motivation is such an interesting concept to me, and occasionally throughout these anecdotes I may bring in personal insights because outside of my time as an educator, business owner and team manager I am a mom. Let me tell you, that’s the hardest of the jobs. My husband came with twins, they had just turned 4 when I entered their lives…and at this point we’re entering the teen years. Twins have provided me the opportunity for a long term observational social experiment in my living room. I hope that doesn’t sound cold, but if I step away from the frustration and the fatigue…and the warm fuzzies…there is something fascinating about 2 humans that have shared their life long experiences, and have been raised with a consistent belief system. However, the two couldn’t be more different if we tried. I start with this because I believe nature plays a pretty significant role in identification of self. One’s inner self is where all the secrets and treasures about personality, motivators and more are hidden. As we’ve worked to raise quality humans we’ve had to work really hard to manage equity as well as finding the right carrot. Our Ben was never motivated by what would be removed from him, or really what he could earn unless it was straight up cash. He’s going to be a great leader someday (says every parent with a strong willed child). You see, Ben is driven by cash because he believes it gives him some power to make choices and if it's HIS money we can not put parameters on that (he is mistaken, but that’s a story for another day). While Ethan is really easy going and just along for a good time. He loves social time, treats and video games…if he loses any of those things, he’s going to do his best to pay attention to details next time. So, why the context, the point is if I take video games away from Ben or offer more time it does nothing for his inner drive. He could take it or leave it. While Ethan will melt and die. So just switch things up you say….I wish it was that easy. As soon as we differentiate the “carrot” the children see inequity. But if we don’t differentiate then we are unable to provide growth opportunities to the different children. Now look at this in terms of an organization. You have a team of 10 or 30 or maybe 100s…and you’re attempting to build in a carrot system, I mean incentive program.

Personally, I’ve found myself struggle to continue to cheerlead those that don’t want to move with the times. I work hard in my approach to leading to be clear about where we are innovators and where we are working within specific parameters in order to avoid people feeling like they voted and were ignored. In my time working as a faculty member in several college settings I found there was a simplicity and truth to the saying “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” So, it must be my responsibility as a leader to provide the water, and the directions to the trough…but then someone else must also be responsible for their own hydration.

Motivating people, as noted above, is something of an illusion. In my experience my role as a leader is to discover how to celebrate a person, discover where their strengths and passions lie and capitalize on those things rather than consistently find a new carrot. Because the reality is, that every carrot will get old if people feel no connections or passion to their work.

Kristine Medyanik

Dr. Kristine Medyanik has been teaching business and psychology classes, for many years. She started Shattered Glass Leadship to offer boutique-style workshops that provide expert content to “level up” your daily leadership practice. She has an amazing husband and 3 growing boys and works hard to support local women-owned small businesses.
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