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How To Motivate Someone For Action?

By Author: Prof. Chandra Kant
Total Articles: 16

During my classes at one of the top b-schools of India, I often pose this question to my students - Why do people resort to violence? For that matter, why do people do anything?
De Becker talks about 4 things.
1. Justification: we make a judgment that we have been wronged, hence we need to retaliate. If we think about it, we have justified each of our actions (or inaction). Sometimes we say it was necessary or unavoidable. Sometimes, we assume an impact which may or may not really happen.
2. Alternatives: typically, violence seems to be the only alternative. This comes out of a lack of emotional control, where we are so much into the emotion that we cannot perceive any other option.
3. Consequences: whether we can live with the consequences of the act. In fact, if we are afraid of further retaliation, we may not act.
4. Ability: do we have the confidence to use our body or a substitute (knife, gun or another person) to achieve the results.
When we talk about motivating others, the justification is the end result (either we want to avoid the pain or go towards pleasure) or what we want to get the person to do.
How we achieve the end result, are our alternatives. As a manager, we need to understand the other person’s justification and then come up with alternatives. We may then choose the right alternative. However, in general, we choose the first or the emotionally satisfying one.
Typically people stop at this level of analysis and start to act. But a good manager would think of the following also:
Will the action guarantee the consequence? What about other unintended consequences? This requires a certain experience.
Are we capable of doing this action? Intention and the selection of the most ideal alternative do not guarantee execution, if we do not have the skills and the experience.
Most motivational tactics fail, because without execution capability, they is only wishful thinking.
Suppose we wish to make people in the team work.
1. The justification is the result of the team work. Whether team members buy into the result will determine if they will contribute. The result may not be important if it is not important to a person. Finding what a person wants and linking the result of the team effort to this ‘want’ requires certain creativity.
2. What can we tell a person so that he is convinced that he should do the work allotted to him. Maybe it is not the right work, because he perceives it demeaning. Maybe he thinks that you have given someone else the work that he wants to do, and that you are playing favorites.
3. Does the person believe that the work he is supposed to do will have the right consequences? If you promise him that it will, but he does not have confidence in you, then he will not do it, even if he has the capability.
4. And lastly, are you sure he can do this work?
Suppose we wish to change our job.
1. We justify the change of job – the boss is not good, the company is not good, the work has changed etc.
2. We look for alternative jobs – and here we indulge in a lot of wishful thinking and peer comparison.
3. We check of the short list of jobs will have the right consequences in terms of peer approval, money and prestige.
4. We do not typically, look at our capability in doing that job because we are focused on the job profile, not our capability.

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