I am beginning to think that the book, The Progress Principle may become my go-to book for management.
The research that the team did in the book jibes very well with my own observations working on teams. The essential finding is that your inner work life (essentially your day to day emotions about your work) is the most important aspect of motivation. It is more powerful than salary or bonuses or receiving praise from a manager (although those are important as well).
There are a number of factors that have an impact on your inner work life. As the book is titled, progress is the most important factors, with nourishment coming in second.
Progress describes simply the act of making progress. That the effort you are putting in to your work is resulting in an output that represents movement forward. Progress can be a difficult thing to actively manage, but managers can work to prevent progress from being impeded. Needless meetings, distractions, etc. can impede someone’s progress and that can be managed. If progress is not coming as quickly as desired, then I think management can step in and try to alleviate the frustration.
Nourishment describes the interactions that an individual has with his or her team. The findings suggest that having teammates that are dismissive of or apathetic to your ideas or your time, disrespectful toward your decisions, etc. can be very damaging to an individuals motivation and their willingness to contribute.
Most managers I think focus almost entirely on providing coordination and direction, celebrating those that are succeeding and reprimanding those that are not. I think if managers focused more on improving the day to day lives everyone they manage, which does include some coordination and clear direction, then the results would be much more substantial. Instead of focusing on evaluation, managers should be trying to foster a great environment.
Now you may say that a manager should celebrate those who are motivated and producing and knock down those that are not, but I can’t see how that is more valuable than a team where every member is motivated and producing to the best of their ability.
You may argue about how to achieve an environment where people produce to the best of their ability, but this book, which is based on a significant amount of research would argue that there is nothing more important than someone’s inner work life. I for one, completely agree.