As long as I can remember, doing a good job has been a powerful motivator for me. It is rather the definition of what a good job is, that has changed over time. Another thing has changed, too. At what price? When I was younger my response would have been “at any price”. If someone had given me a task, I would fulfill it, at any price. It was more important for me to do what was expected, or preferably better than that, than other values I had. I would also then, without blinking, have signed up for that the end justifies the means. And I shall not complain. To work, act and live in that way gave me good speed forward. Furthermore, an interesting life and acknowledgement and joy at work!
People like people that say what they mean, stand for what they say and finish what they have promised in time. Now, with a few more decades in my rucksack, I can also see that it made me into a bit of a machine. A happy machine that got to tick off lots of stuff on her lists. But nevertheless a bit of a machine. What did I do when I had ticked something off of my list? Continued with the next item. Without pausing, celebrating, or reflecting. An expression I heard as a young adult that impressed me much was “Consider it done!”. I loved it and what it stood for; if you give me a task, you can rest assured I will get it done.
Raising the bar as a Motivator
Somewhere along the way I changed jobs and got a manager, Kristina, who also had an expression she loved: All the way! At first, I didn’t understand what she was talking about. I had always been very careful to fulfill all expectations and get the job done – why wasn’t she satisfied? This was a new experience for me and of course a bit difficult to face, but also stimulating. She definitely raised the bar. My role at the time was as a Change Leader. And she explained to me that it wasn’t enough having thought through how something should work. She said i should create an attractive and pedagogical power point presentation describing it. What?! What did she mean? All managers before her had been perfectly satisfied with that. They gave me bonuses and stuff. But not Kristina. It didn’t suffice at all.
The change also had to be implemented and institutionalized. Which meant being the new normal way of doing it, before we had achieved any change for real. I can tell you that this way of seeing it was a game changer for me! It was like someone switched on a light and lit up dark corners where piles of old, fancy power point presentations lay to no use. It gave me a strong feeling of having a larger responsibility. Definitely more than ticking of items on a list. That was truly a big motivator.
Admitting the Challenges
From Consider it done! and All the way! which both of them end with an exclamation mark, my next motivator ended with a question mark. The situation at hand was that a sister organization to ours in the large company where I worked that had started to think and work according to Agile ways of working. We, in our part of the organization, still worked with traditional project management. We were therefore trying to fly under the radar with our delay as long as possible.
When we finally had to speak up and “admit” our challenges. The representative from the other organization simply said How can we help you? I was stupefied. Would they risk their own progress to help us? Wow! I also wanted to feel, think and do like that! “Agile – here I come” I thought. And it has been me and Agile ever since. Cooperation, co-creation, helpfulness and collaboration are fantastic motivators and they lead to better results, too.
What is it that wants to happen here?
It was in an Agile network that I heard the expression that helped me take my next step when it comes to motivators. I was a participant in an exercise that was quickly going south. My heart went out to the facilitator, Martin. I remember it so well. Feeling sorry for him and at that same time as being grateful it wasn’t me facilitating. Furthermore, being embarrassed about feeling that way. So, I kept myself quite busy with all of these thoughts and feelings.
Then I saw Martin take a step back where he stood. Thoughtfully scratch his chin. Then he said; What is it that wants to happen here? I mean, WOW! No panic or fear of failure. Just a curiosity about what was happening. I was amazed at his reaction and also… how can something want to happen?? I can tell you that made my head spin, and it took years for it to land. But I could sense immediately that it was important and became a motivator.
It is now some 8-10 years since I heard Martin wonder what wanted to happen in the room. Since then, I’ve come to know Care & Growth. Furthermore, I’ve worked quite a bit with Care & Growth of myself, you could say. At Schuitema we call it Personal Excellence and an important key there is Inward Gatheredness.
To gather yourself inside yourself and get some distance to what happens gives you more of an overview and better maneuver space. You can see and observe what happens. Rather than being in the middle of it. In this way of being, I have found a new motivator that has neither an exclamation mark nor a question mark. My best description of it would be Hmm, interesting. I don’t have as great a need to have an opinion about everything any longer, which is really relaxing. Actually, not as great a need to solve things either. Many things solve themselves with my main contribution being to observe and reflect upon it. Thankfully, it seems to be enough that I handle the situation immediately in front of me appropriately.
If I were to summarise my motivator journey in my life so far it would be:
Consider it done! -> All the way! -> How can we help you? -> What wants to happen here? -> Hmm, interesting.
No that is not true! It is rather:
Consider it done! + All the way! + How can we help you? + What wants to happen here? + Hmm, interesting.
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