In his book “Drive, the surprising truth about what motivates us” Daniel Pink describes a most disturbing fact that most employers, business owners and board members should know, but do not.
The fact that he lays out is that, in 40 years of research from great institutions like MIT and Carnegie, researchers have repeatedly tested the hypotheses of performance bonuses as a means to get better results faster.
In the forty years researchers have been trying to prove this, they have consistently failed, not only to prove the theory, but in contrast what they ended up proving was that when you offer a bonus the result is worse performance and lower quality.
Let me repeat: What they ended up proving, without a shadow of a doubt, is that the higher the bonus the researches offered a subject before they set out to do the job, the worse they ended up doing.
In another experiment, that ended early because of the devastating effect, kindergarten kids were offered a ribbon if they sat down and drew a drawing. After only a few days of this practice, the kids stopped drawing altogether, unless they were offered the bonus. Even though the experiment was ended early, the result lasted for weeks and months, resulting in kids who stopped drawing altogether!
The simple act of offering a bonus for doing a job is guaranteed to lead to the loss of motivation, slower results, less creativity, and a culture of “you against the company”.
Purpose, Autonomy and Mastery
The solution that Daniel Pink outlines in his book is “Purpose, Mastery and Autonomy”.
These three words cover what every top performer is looking for in a job, and what drives everybody that is internally motivated.
Purpose is the understanding and sense of what everything is leading to, where the business is heading, and what the dreams are, that we are trying to accomplish.
If you think of a business as a ship, the purpose is not only the current heading of the ship, but also its mission, its cargo, and its speed.
If you are a team leader, founder, CEO, or in any other way leading people, you should start every Monday meeting talking about the purpose of the team. What are we trying to accomplish this week/month? What are our “must win battles”, and where did we change course, speed, cargo since our last meeting?
Purpose is all about aligning the core of the business with the inner understanding of why we go to work, with the employees.
This is not something you can just do once a year on the company retreat. This is something that you have to do every time you communicate with your team. Every sentence you say must be aligned with the purpose, and when you ask your team members to do something that is outside the normal purpose, you have to explain why, and how this is okay because it aligns with some greater purpose.
Autonomy is the second word Daniel Pink uses to sum up how you get highly motivated team members.
Autonomy is defined as the right to self-government, and is the opposite of micro-management.
If you are a manager, the easiest way to show you the difference is through the example of a team leader who has a task that needs to be done before a specific date, and how this task is handed over to a team or a team member.
The micromanaging way to do this is: “Team, this task has to be done by Friday, so Joe, I want you to do the work Tuesday and Wednesday, and you must have a demo ready Wednesday morning for me to approve.”
Not an especially humane, warming, or friendly way to communicate.
The autonomous leader will do it this way: “Team, on Thursday I have to show this task for our CEO – how can we get it done so that I get a demo to test Wednesday, and “the task” done for Thursday morning?”
Then the team lead must do the hardest thing, namely shut up. When the team lead does not offer any solution, but just offers the task, the team will quickly and motivated think of a solution, a plan, and start executing, feeling like they had a lot to say about HOW to do the task, even though the WHEN was unmovable.
Autonomy is the opportunity for the team members to define what step a task consists of and when these steps will be executed, meeting the specifications and deadlines set by the team leaders and the customers of the company.
Autonomy is not “holocracy”, where there is no leader, and it is not non-communication!
Autonomy requires a high level of communication between team leaders and team members, but leads to happier, more creative teams with a higher performance.
Mastery is defined as the opportunity to practice and master a skill.
When a maker is missing the opportunity to practice on their skillset in the day to day working life, they have to either use their private time to improve, or see their skillset become weaker.
If you are a manager, you must understand that Mastery is the core driving factor for a highly specialized maker; it is the air they breathe and the food they eat!
For all highly skilled and self-motivated team members, it is imperative that they have the time and energy to hone their skills, adding new layers of complexity and abilities to their current skillset.
Whenever we let the team member research a new framework, document their code or take a course, we let them practice mastery.
An easy way to make sure that the team members have time to practice mastery is to either set aside a period of time every week to do this, or alternatively, to make a schedule for the task that needs to be done during the week at the weekly Monday meeting, and letting the makers use any time left over as they see fit.
The TimeBlock framework.
When a team is running by the TimeBlock framework, they automatically get all three needs fulfilled.
They get purpose during the weekly meeting where the team lead talks about must win battles and last week’s performance.
The get autonomy from defining the TimeBlocks needed for a task, and from the fact that they plan their week themselves.
Mastery is achieved because any time left over after completing a TimeBlock is not used for another task from the to-do list, but to improve the solution or to learn new stuff.