A key role of the leader today lies in motivating their employees by helping them find a sense of meaning.
In their book The Why of Work Dave and Wendy Ulrich propose four categories of motivation ('Perception', 'Realization', 'Connection' and 'Delegation of Power') distributed in two dimensions (focus on the achievement and focus on relations).
The individual who is more aligned with Perception isn't overly interested in external achievements nor in relationships with others. They direct themselves more towards the world of ideas and personal experience. In the right environment these individuals are reflective and creative. In the wrong environment they become employees with little passion for their work, doing the bear minimum and just wanting to be left in peace, separated from those around them.
People whose motivation is linked to Realization find their sense of purpose in action and executing tasks. In the right environment we'll find an employee committed to executing a strategy and to the growth of the company as a whole. In a negative context these people can be cruel and only intrested in making themselves look good.
Employees located in the Connection category place high value on relationships with people. A positive environment will encourage a professional who excels in communication or who appreciates working in teams or with networks. These people create meaning through interaction with colleagues or customers. But without meaning, a we find an individual who depends excessively on the attention of others.
Those people found in the Delegation of Power category feel a great need to link their professional fulfillment with helping others. In a positive context, people in this category will make good teachers, religious leaders or social workers. However a lack of meaning will give rise to authoritarians and despots who impose their will instead of sharing power.
How can you as a leader identify and direct these profiles to create a positive environment? The Ulrichs suggest the following:
1. Know yourself and find out what motivation profile you are
2. Know your employees and identify their profiles
3. Know your organization and ask yourself if it is closer to perception, realization, connection or delegation of power
4. Involve your business in a social responsibility initiative
The authors propose the following seven exercises to help leaders identify motivation profiles:
1. Take 20 minutes to write down what your life would be like five years from now if all your dreams were realized
2. Take another 20 minutes and do the same for your business, what would it be like in five years time if everything goes well
3. Analyze what you have written and classify with the letter P (for Perception) the words or expressions that you used to refer to creativity, imagination, balance and consideration for others
4. Do the same with the letter R (Realization) for words referring to setting objectives, learning, improvement, the development of skills, adaptation in the face of difficulty and recognition of achievements.
5. Do the same with the letter C (Connection) for words that indicate good relations with others and concern for spending time with people, strengthening links and establishing reciprocal support
6. With the letter D (Delegation of Power) classify the words that are associated with problem solving, making a difference, supporting and training people, helping others to achieve success, offering services to others and earning recognition for a socially responsible attitude.
7. Count how many letters in each category you have. Give more weight to items that have high value or into which you have gone into more depth. The result will indicate your profile and that of your company
Once a leader has become conscious of what motivates both their employees and their organization, they should articulate and harmonize corporate goals with these motivations, in order to develop satisifed employees, shareholders and customers, whilst ensuring the fulfilment of the company's key goals.