October 11, 2018

ACVC 2018: Mastering Team Motivation

Inspiring your team to be their best is harder than it might seem.
By American Veterinarian Editorial Staff
Wendy HauserHow do you motivate your employees? Answering this seemingly simple question is not quite as easy as you might think, cautioned Wendy Hauser, DVM, assistant vice president of veterinary relations for Crum & Forster Pet Insurance Group, during her Wednesday session at the 2018 Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference®. Dr. Hauser’s lecture was sponsored by Crum & Forster Pet Insurance Group, provider of ASPCA Pet Health Insurance.

To help practice leaders better define and improve motivation among team members, Dr. Hauser discussed multiple psychological definitions and theories of motivation. Motivation involves “internal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy in people to be continually interested in and committed to a job, role, or subject or to make an effort to attain a goal.”

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“Don’t ask is he or she motivated, ask why is he or she motivated,” Dr. Hauser advised. She explained the importance of learning whether the motivators are intrinsic or extrinsic motivators.

She said that extrinsic motivators can “lose their cache,” because managers who rely on them too often end up being forced to continually “raise the game,” on what those motivators are. “That’s not to say that things like handwritten thank-you cards aren’t important,” she added. “It’s just important to recognize that they should be the exception and not the norm.”

Motivational Attitudes
Susan Fowler, trainer, coach, and author of Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging, defined what she termed a “spectrum of motivation,” or 6 motivational attitudes that constantly fluctuate in almost every project a person encounters: (1) disinterested, (2) external motivational outlook, (3) imposed motivational outlook, (4) aligned motivational outlook, (5) integrated motivational outlook, and (6) inherent motivational outlook “Disinterested is at the bottom,” Dr. Hauser explained, citing Fowler. “That’s when you’re just showing up. On the external motivational outlook, that is doing something for the promise of a reward or gain of some type…it’s the proverbial carrot and stick. Imposed is just below the optimal line. This is actually the least healthy, and the reason for that is it takes a ton of energy for a person to stay in that imposed state. You are doing something someone expects you to do. You are doing it because you feel guilty or afraid not to do it.”

Dr. Hauser continued defining the outlooks, noting that “aligned is where you go beyond the goals because it does align with your purpose in life. Integrated is when you are acting with a noble purpose, this goes above and beyond. It’s easy to do this, because it is something you just have a passion about. An inherent motivational outlook is an unexplained enjoyment of what you’re doing. Most likely you are up and down on this spectrum.”

Applying Motivation to the Workplace
Dr. Hauser noted several similarities between the levels of motivation and motivational attitudes, asserting that “the question of how you motivate your employees becomes much simpler to answer” once you understand these relationships.

From Fowler’s motivational attitudes, we understand that people are always motivated but that the quality of the motivation can fluctuate throughout the day. She noted that motivation can be taught.

“To help others understand their unique answers to what motivates them, leaders must be willing to engage in conversations with each team member,” Dr. Hauser said. She laid out a few steps that can be useful in breaking old habits and learning new ones and recommended asking your employees 3 questions:
  • Where are you now on the spectrum of motivation?
  • Where do you want to be?
  • How will you get there?

A manager’s goal with these questions should be to facilitate an employee’s “optimal motivation state,” Dr. Hauser explained, adding that “these are conversations where the employee has to find the answer themselves.

As the employer, you need to sit down to talk to an employee. You are not imposing answers; you are asking curious questions, and then you’re quiet.

Dr. Hauser noted that it is important that managers engage in these discussions with employees as at time when they can be “really present.” Consider an offsite location, she said, like a coffee shop.

Self-awareness is critical in learning to stay motivated consistently, Dr. Hauser said. As a leader, it should be your goal to help facilitate a move to a better motivational state for all employees. Having this conversation about what motivates an individual is how to get to that optimal position on the spectrum.

She cited The Oz Principle, which focuses on creating a culture of accountability by first recognizing a problem, acknowledging the reality of a situation, owning individual responsibility in that situation, and then shifting a perspective from a “victim” mindset to an accountable one.

“You can begin to…change reality by finding and implementing new solutions to problems while staying above the line,” she said, referring to taking actions that change problems in a positive, proactive way.

 
Fowler S. Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc; 2014.
 

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