10 Attributes of Highly Self-Motivated People

14869079_sIn this environment of economic downturn, tightened belts, and constrained resources, managers are experiencing the need to get creative about motivating their employees, without dangling the dollar in front of them. It is a fact that tightened belts mean fewer dollars available for dangling. Even in these rough times, not much has really changed about motivating people. Most HR professionals and OD specialists agree that money never really motivated anybody. Soon after your employees receive a salary increase and calculate the increase in taxes, the excitement of the increase dissipates.

Renowned behavioral scientist, Frederick Herzberg, documented his study of employee motivation during the 1950s and 60s, and published what he called the Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene Theory (sometimes known as Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory). Essentially, he affirms that there are six distinctive things about a job that enhance job satisfaction, and seven things that seem to be related directly to job dissatisfaction. He further postulates that employees are likely to become dissatisfied in the absence of such basic things as desirable working conditions, appropriate salary, or good supervision. Herzberg called these basic conditions “hygiene factors.” However, he states that the presence of these factors does not necessarily imply automatic job satisfaction. Conversely, factors such as the work itself, achievement, recognition, and advancement tended to inspire greater job satisfaction. (MindTools.com, October, 2010)

The second model that has stood the test of time in terms of employee motivation is Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. He states that individuals are on an ongoing quest to satisfy a set of pre-ordained needs. Needs are met one level at a time; each level sought in succession after the fulfillment of the preceding need. Simply stated, people don’t seek to fulfill their need for safety and security until their physiological needs are met. They are less likely to respond to stimuli that appeal to safety, security or self-esteem if they are struggling to meet their basic needs.

There has been very little change down through the years in regards to the idea that people motivate themselves. The concept is that no one can motivate another individual. So, whether we deploy expensive compensation plans, radical recognition programs, elaborate education and training programs, or extravagant work settings, motivation is an internal trait that walks through the door with the employee. The best we can do is to provide an environment that stimulates self-motivated people to motivate themselves.

Who are these highly self-motivated individuals and how do you recognize them? Understanding these motivational theories is step one.

For many organizations, constrained budgets and resources mean leaders NEED to find other ways of motivating their staff. Gail Cohen, lecturer, consultant, and author, compiled a list of attributes that typify self-motivated individuals.

Self-motivated people:

1. Understand their purpose in life and live it.

2. Live outside their area of comfort (do something every day that is a little bit risky).

3. Get involved with every facet of life (leave no stone unturned).

4. Energize (jump in with both feet).

5. Exemplify humility. They are able to laugh at themselves, admit vulnerabilities, and take criticism.

6. Learn something new every day (not by accident, but by design).

7. Believe in themselves and others.

8. Are persistent — able to explore options (never give up – never say die).

9. Strive for health in all aspects of their lives (physically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and socially).

10.  Rise above problems, adversity, loss, and momentary failure.

As managers and leaders, it is our job to recognize and replicate these types of attributes throughout our organizations. The first signal is that the individual is a good fit for the job. They possess the ability to handle the mental demands of the job; their work style is consistent with the styles of those who are generally successful in the assignment and they genuinely enjoy the kind of work they’re being asked to perform. We term employees that meet these requirements a “good job match.” But, beyond that, we look for individuals that possess strong emotional intelligence (EI) and can manage their feelings and emotions in such a way that they are able to bring forth the best performance from themselves and those around them. They demonstrate job maturity and the ability to respond favorably to change and stress as it occurs.

So, how do you know what motivates your employees? Listen to them. Listen to how they encourage each other. Listen for what they feel is important. Watch for signals of peer-to-peer recognition. Ask them what makes them feel good about their work or their company. Here are a few suggestions that my former employees have made when asked what was important to them:

  1. Change in job title
  2. Increased responsibility or accountability
  3. Cubicle or office change
  4. Office with amenity (window)
  5. Special parking
  6. Time off (flex hours)
  7. Training
  8. A write-up in company newsletter or in-house TV monitor
  9. Concierge’s service
  10. Suggestion awards (ask for and listen to their ideas)
  11. Personal letter from the company president
  12. Telegram from a celebrity
  13. Massage (in-house or at a spa)
  14. Dinner and a movie for two
  15. Peer recognition (peers can recognize each other with a Movie pass or giftcard)
  16. Boss for a day
  17. Shadow the CEO for a day
  18. Participation in a company cause (Habitat for Humanity, Race for the Cure -Susan G. Komen walk, etc)…
  19. Ad in the local newspaper highlighting a special employee
  20. Bonus points that can be traded for gifts or prizes

If all else fails, just say thank you for a job well done.  If offered with sincerity, and at the right time, it can go a loooooooooong way toward increasing job satisfaction and a sense of appreciation.

In the end, have a healthy respect for individuals and treat them as such. Don’t assume that one technique works for all people. Take the time to get to know your employees, as professionals and as people. Understand what “makes them tick” and what brings out their very best. Money is the easy way out and it rarely achieves the desired results. Those results, when positive, can be short-lived. How do you motivate employees, without dangling the dollar? Hire self-motivated employees and create an environment that makes them feel valued, respected, appreciated, and brings out their best work.

Advanced Business Coaching works with a teams to add the right people and bring them into the company culture.    If you’d like to know how this can work for you,  and your business, call us at 262.293.3166.