The topic of motivation came up this week and I’ve been ruminating in a really good way on how a fast-moving company can impart the secret sauce of motivation in micro learning moments. Can a really good development expert impart the magic of motivation in a lunch and learn? In short, no.

Let’s break this apart using the picture I’ve posted with this article of two of my daughters taking a break while climbing a 14er in Colorado. At this point we have about 500 more feet to climb. One is contemplative, committed to her climb, gathering strength by taking in the 13,500 foot view. The other one is asking if there is free ice cream at the top or any other really good reason to keep moving.

Organizations that operate with a developmental lens realize you can motivate your people only so far with free ice cream. You really are limited even if you offer money. The DDO, as my new faves Kegan and Lahey describe in An Everyone Culture, follows a seamless set of practices, which they call a “groove.” It includes:

  • How meetings are structured.
  • How performance is monitored.
  • How people talk to each other about their work.
  • And the challenges people are facing personally.

When we were on that mountain, we had our rest stop timed with a clear goal. We asked about feet, blisters and other personal challenges with a “how do we overcome this” attitude. We used our knowledge of those personal challenges to check in with our kids in the final 500 feet and we kept the conversation focused on the summit. On the descent, we talked about ways we’re going to do this differently next time. Never was there a discussion about leaving anyone behind.

What if all organizations could take a time out and understand their people, their talents, their motivation and their ultimate contribution BEFORE they talk about company goals? Leading is all about listening. Motivation is part of an intentional plan to unlock the velocity inside each one of our human assets and let them soar.

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