What Motivates Employees, from the book Great Managers Are Always Nice

Chapter 6

What Motivates Employees

Motivation, perhaps the most important concept in management, is also the least understood. We know we want motivated employees, we know they accomplish more, and we know our organizations operate more smoothly with them. What we don’t know is how to create motivation.

Despite hundreds of years of research to understand motivation and thousands of tomes to explain it, we still have no clear instructions for creating it.

Motivated people don’t just get the work done; they find ways to do it faster and better.

Unmotivated people don’t just do a little less; they never get started.

—Mike Mitchell

Rather than trying to make sense of complex academic theories of what motivates employees, let’s consider a simple analogy.

Think of a recreational sports team—adult basketball, for example. The players run and jump as long and as hard as their lungs and legs allow, fight for rebounds and loose balls, drench themselves in sweat, and exert themselves to the point of exhaustion. They yell, cheer, and exchange high fives, celebrate their wins, and mourn their losses.

Why?! They’re paid nothing—often they pay to play. For their efforts, they get only sore muscles and dirty clothes. Yet they replay the games in their minds, relive their good and bad plays, practice to do better next time, and eagerly look forward to the next game.

Where does this extraordinary motivation come from?

The coach doesn’t create it. He does little more than put the players in the game.

It comes from inside the players themselves—from the human instincts and social needs inside us all. The situation simply allows the players to express their natural inclinations.

The game lets the players…

  • belong to a Team;
  • share Objectives;
  • Participate in achieving them;
  • see the Score;
  • be Respected for their contributions & skills;
  • Improve themselves and their abilities.

The game is motivating because it meets these six powerful, innate, human needs. TOPSRI.

 That’s the kind of motivation we want in our employees and organizations. Why can’t we get it?

We can! We can create a similar environment—an environment that lets our people express the same six needs.

It’s what great managers do. Whether or not they recognize the acronym TOPSRI, they understand what motivates employees—the six underlying needs—and they incorporate them into an environment that allows their people to express their innate motivation.

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Next: A Motivational Environment


What Motivates Employees
Great Managers Are Always Nice is available at Amazon.com in print ($8.95) and Kindle ($2.99)