Dan Ariely went out to find out why motivation fails in business.
These two experiments can gently coach your leaders to motivate your staff, instead of stealing their joy.
Experiment 1-The Lego experiment (Motivation)
Two groups of students at the University of Duke’s were asked to build Lego Bionicle’s at a price. These Lego men were around 40 pieces each.
Group one was building their first piece, and continued with as many as they pleased, knowing that their fee of 3 dollar a piece was decreasing with every piece. The finished Bionicles were then placed underneath the table. Once the student stopped the experiment, they would fetch all the Bionicles from the table, pay the student, and break the Bionicles into lego pieces for the next participant.
With Group two it was slightly different. They were also given these pieces of Lego, and once a Bionicle was completed, and they wanted to continue, the same Bionicle would be broken up in pieces front of their eyes. They would be recycling the same Lego pieces for every Bionicle that they were building.
Which group built more Bionicles? Team 1 or 2?
Team 1! Saw how it had progressed, and wanted to continue, ending up with 11 Bionicles.
Team 2 was demotivated when its Bionicle was destroyed in front of its eyes, and proceeded to build only seven Bionicles.
Lessons for Leaders
- How often do you cancel an entire project after your team has invested months or late evenings into it? Do you completely disregard a report that someone in your team has put a lot of effort into? Can you stop destroying someone’s hard work, or start reviewing their work earlier, so that time and effort is not wasted on a project that won’t happen.
- Have a visual representation of the steps towards the end goal: Can there be a way of allowing your team to see what progression they are making towards an end goal? Teams need to know that the work that they are doing is meaningful, and they will be willing to put many hours and energy into the work. Potentially create a leader board of tasks completed towards the end of the project, so the entire team can see how far they are towards achieving the bigger goal. This will keep them motivated, and seeing how they contribute to the bigger picture.
The reverse, however, is true. if your team doesn’t understand the meaning behind the work, their motivation levels will decline rapidly.
Experiment 2 – Identify two letters
Students were asked to identify two letters identical to each other on paper, and then submit it.
The three conditions were:
- They wrote their name on the paper: the interviewer acknowledged them with an “Aha”.
- They didn’t need to write their name. The Interviewer took the paper-without looking at them, and put it on a pile.
- They also didn’t need to write their name. The interviewer took their paper, and shred it.
Through the experiment students were willing to work for less money, if they were simply acknowledged with an “Aha”, versus being ignored, or their work destroyed-which was nearly equal.
What are the take-away’s for your Leadership Coaching team:
- Acknowledge your staff, their contributions and how that has benefited a project.
- Don’t ignore them or destroy their work, it will demotivate them and make them feel worthless.
- Ask yourself the question-how would that make me feel, before you behave in a certain way to your team-and you will get greater results, motivation and productivity.
Yoke Van Dam is a leadership coach, trainer and professional speaker.