“The power of progress is fundamental to human nature, but few managers understand it or know how to use it to boost motivation.”
In an article in this month’s Harvard Business Review, from which the quote above comes, Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer share research that proves performance at both individual and team level is highly affected by small wins. It is the number-one reason people report having had a good day at work, ranking ahead of recognition, incentives, clear goals or support. Equally, minor setbacks have a deleterious effect on motivation and effectiveness.
The authors argue that we tend to ignore the importance of achieving minor milestones and concentrate too much on the long-term goal or major breakthrough that realistically may be unattainable.
Tom Stewart, chief marketing and knowledge officer at Booz & Company, the consulting firm, asks in his blog this month: “Are you motivated – or are you driven?” The distinction is an important one. Being driven, he suggests, is a response to negative pressure (stick) while being motivated is a response to positive energy (carrot). He believes people perform poorly when they feel hassled and pressurised rather than inspired and excited, and points out that managers are particular adept at exerting pressure on themselves that results in them being more driven than motivated.
So what has this to do with women at the top? Two lessons, for me, emerge. The first is that in our desire to see equal numbers of women and men participating in corporate leadership, we should not lose sight of the power of small wins. They help energise the organisation at every level.
The second is that while quotas and legal obligation have their place in catalysing change, they result in companies being forced – or driven – to action. Much more potent are factors that motivate change – increasing the number of talented women proving their worth.