Personally and professionally, we often hope for moments of peak performance, periods of time when we’re incredibly productive, effective, and produce the best possible work.According to Susie Cranston and Scott Keller at the McKinsey Quarterly, there are a few tweaks managers and individuals can make to increase these peaks and reduce less productive troughs.
The most important thing to do is inject meaning into work, to raise what they call “the meaning quotient.” It’s hard to get excited and invested in something you don’t care all that much about. When something’s just a job to somebody, they almost never reach peak performance.
Their research revealed three key strategies that can help individuals and groups find meaning, self-motivate, and overcome obstacles.
Tell better stories
organisations and people generally use two basic types of stories for motivation and inspiration. The first is a turnaround story, the tale of an underdog who needs to make dramatic changes and exert heroic effort to come back. The second is “good-to-great.”
Those are all work- and company-based stories, which aren’t the right motivational tools for every person. There are four other sources of inspiration and motivation that are just as important:
- Making a better society.
- Providing a superior customer experience.
- The sense of belonging to, or accomplishing something as, a team.
- Personal development, reward, and empowerment.
Finding a way to put all of these elements in to one story is a powerful and universal way to increase motivation.
Ask questions, and allow for choice
When we’re told to do something very specific, or cast something as an order in our minds, it’s easy to do it like an automaton, to do the bare minimum.
There’s a fundamental truth about human nature, research has found, “when we choose for ourselves, we are far more committed to the outcome — by a factor of at least five to one.”
Externally, managers should ask for input whenever possible, making people a part of the strategy and initiative. Internally, preparing for a task by asking questions like, “How can I do it” has been found to be much more effective than making statements like, “I’m the best and I’m going to do it.”
Questions and choices make people think about their personal strategies and create their own personal choices.
Give small, unexpected rewards
In a world of yearly bonuses, long-term performance objectives, and countless metrics, it’s easy to lose sight of the significance of individual tasks. That acts to spread out people’s drive and motivation over too long of a term.
One way to enhance that is periodic rewards, even if they’re small, which give stakes to every project, rather than treating everything as a long grind towards the end of a period or quarter.
It can be as simple as sending handwritten notes to reports, or treating yourself and your spouse to a dinner if you meet a goal. Either way, it’s a way of compartmentalising tasks that makes each more achievable.
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