• Welcome to the FUTURE!

    The PublicFutures BLOG keeps you current on the latest research and thinking on major trends, policy shifts, 'hot topics', and evolving perspectives about the Future. Be sure to subscribe to the RSS or get email updates so you are kept up-to-date on all the latest posts.
  • Email Updates

  • Share the FUTURE with the world!

  • Learn more at our Company Site

Leadership and Motivation

Having had the pleasure of presenting a leadership program to participants of the Northwest Community Development Institute this week, I was reminded again how much is known but forgotten about motivation. My ‘enlightened frustration’ did not come from Institute participants, who are a motivated and aware group, but from reading an article on motivation in the April 12 edition of Fortune Magazine.

Written by Telis Demos, the article cited work by the Boston-based company Globoforce, which consults on employee motivation, among other things. The article implies that the firm’s experts have discovered that the secret to motivating employees lies not in compensation but in small, unannounced, and frequent rewards that recognize contribution and involvement. The article praises this approach, implying that these ‘theories’ are new and innovative. I am both amazed and troubled by this.

Historic contributors to leadership and motivation science include Maslow, McGregor, Lewin, Herzberg, Senge, and, more recently, Daniel Goleman, who gave us Emotional Intelligence (EQ). We have known for over 60 years what motivates, what satisfies, and what diminishes workforce performance. As far back as the 1920s there were studies that revealed the value of inclusion, involvement, and appreciation. The Hawthorne Effect was founded on such principles over 80 years ago. So why is Demos lauding Globoforce ‘theories’ when they are merely restatements of well-known and accepted workplace social science? There is no doubt that this company’s key element for motivation is the element of surprise, but this too is well proven and for decades has been cited in various academic studies.

Unexpected praise is a good thing. Recent studies by professor Hayagreeva Rao at Stanford seem to indicate that the element of surprise is more important for the recipient than the size or nature of the reward. Keep this in mind as you develop your workforce…the most compelling and critical element of every public agency or government. However, be aware of the wealth of information that underpins the rationale and premise for employee motivation. Having this knowledge provides insight and a mirror that reflects not only your style but your inclination to reward. This is critical because many senior managers choose to not recognize or reward employees for work they consider part of normal job duties. This is a mistake. Showing appreciation pays huge dividends and creates a culture that cherishes accomplishment.

I suppose the message for public leaders is that motivation still relies on established factors that include frequent praise, small rewards (often non-monetary), showing appreciation, inclusion, and establishing a sense of team. Virtually none of this is new to seasoned public managers; the key question pertains to whether we are properly executing accepted social psychology principles in a manner that, especially for these challenging times, builds dedicated teams that are resilient, collaborative and productive.

With over three decades working in and with federal, state and local government, John Luthy understands public agencies.  Known for his real world, straight talking style, he is a leading futurist specializing in city, county, state, and federal long-range thinking and planning. John is the author of Operations Planning: A Guide for Public Officials and Managers in Troubled Times, and The Strategic Planning Guide, both published by the International City/ County Management Association (ICMA). His new book, Planning the Future – A Guide to Strategic Thinking and Planning for Elected Officials, Community Leaders and Public Administrators, will be available in fall 2010. An innovative and dynamic presenter, John is frequently asked to speak and consult on how to prepare public organizations and communities for emerging challenges (public futures at http://www.futurescorp.com).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: