Dan Pink on Motivation

Career analyst Dan Pink argues that traditional rewards aren’t as effective as we think and that businesses need to change their thinking for high performance, creativity and engagement.

Dan Pink says the carrot and stick approaches are great for task management, they work well where there is a simple set of rules, straightforward and expected outcomes, using left brain thinking or rudimentary cognitive skill. But these motivators don’t work as effectively for right brain thinking – conceptual outcomes or the search for solutions that are creative.

He says a new approach is needed for high performance using intrinsic motivators that nurture a desire to do something because it matters, because we like it, because it’s interesting and because it is part of something important.

He suggests a new operating system based on autonomy, mastery and purpose:

  • Autonomy – the urge to direct our own lives
  • Mastery – the desire to get better at something important
  • Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than us.

He argues that traditional management is great for compliance but if we seek real engagement, then enabling self-direction is much more effective. Dan presents examples for cutting edge software companies where employees get time to work on anything they want, anything at all. All they were required to do in return is to present their idea to their colleagues. These techniques have birthed an array of exciting concepts.

In conclusion, Dan says, people should be paid adequately and fairly to get the money issue off the table then initiatives and programmes should be about self-directing.

Key Points

  1. 20th Century rewards do work, but only in a narrow band of circumstances
  2. If/then rewards can destroy creativity
  3. The secret to high performance is intrinsic motivators
  4. Update notions of motivation and incentives to change the results.

Summarised from Dan Pink’s TED speech in Oxford dated July 2009.

Coaching Lessons from London 2012

What’s behind Team GB’s phenomenal success at London 2012?

There’s the immense strategic planning programme and substantial funding that’s boosted British sport since winning the bid. Then there’s the adoring home crowd cheering the athletes on. Mostly, though, it’s down to the determination and sheer hard work of the talented athletes themselves. But how is this harnessed to win Olympic medals? That’s down to the guidance of the athletes’ coaches who help them achieve their goals.

After his victory, two times gold medal winner, Mo Farah, paid tribute to his coach, Alberto Salazar, for his “brilliant tactical nous” and, according to the Sunday Times, Salazar is widely credited with helping Farah make the step-change from a European champion to a world-class athlete. Boxer, Nicola Adams, thanked her coach of 12 years, Alwyn Belcher, who, on the day, simply encouraged Nicola to go out there and enjoy herself. She did, and she became the first female boxing Olympic gold medalist. Many more athletes praised their coaches and credited them with their successes.

Coaching is about helping people achieve their full potential. The coach challenges the athlete, enables him to improve his skills, helps him plan strategically, and inspires him to strengthen his mindset. As a manager, your role includes coaching your team to improve their performance at work and to achieve their goals. You can help them “win gold” by using a straightforward coaching technique known as GROW: Goal – Reality – Options – Will.

  • Goal – athletes set a clear goal; they know what they want to achieve and how to measure their success. Help your employee do the same by challenging the clarity of the goal. Is it specific? Is it measurable? Is it realistic?
  • Reality – athletes critically analyse their performance to help them improve. Help your employee examine their own reality. What is the current situation? What are the barriers? What are their fears? What are their limitations?
  • Options – athletes explore what is possible and prepare a detailed plan to achieve their goal. Inspire your employee to explore their own possibilities. Encourage their ideas. Discuss their options. Test their fears and challenge their limitations.
  • Will – athletes spend a lot of time preparing mentally. They maintain their motivation and self-discipline by knowing why they are doing it and keeping their eye on their goal. Help your employee explore their own motivation and will to achieve. Reminding them why they are doing it will focus their pursuit of their goal.

What’s this about Talent?

Talent is a word that is bandied about in the workplace, but unless you’re in a big corporate with sophisticated talent management programmes and all the management guidance and training to support it, talent and talent management can mean many different things.

The Oxford English dictionary definition of talent is simply having a natural aptitude or skill. Prior to the 1990s, talent was mostly a label for stars in the entertainment and sports arenas, but it became increasingly used in the workplace during the 1990s, when management consultancy firm McKinsey conducted research into talent management practices and it became clear that, in a knowledge-based environment, the calibre of an organisation’s talent was critical to its business success. The McKinsey studies went on to coin the phrase “The War for Talent”, which described the challenge organisations face in attracting and retaining high calibre people as demand outstripped supply.

So, in a workplace context, talent is about the stars in your organisation, that is, those individuals with the right natural aptitude or skill – or in organisational language, the right style and competencies – to bring about business success. An organisation needs to have a clear view of the style and competencies it needs to bring about success in its own environment and it needs to ask itself important questions in this context about how to identify, develop and retain talent.

Talent management is simply a collective noun or an overarching strategy or programme that encapsulates all the people management processes related to the hiring, performance, development and retention of the most talented people available. It is about aligning these processes to identify talent, develop and reward it so that it may be utilised effectively and retained for the long-term. Talent management is best linked succession planning, which is the strategic identification of potential business and knowledge/technical leaders for future.

Talent potential looks at the individual’s own motivations – their own career aspirations and intentions to develop. In addition to capability, it considers the individual’s self-managing competencies, such as drive and resilience, as well as their personal strategies to achieve their potential.

In summary, talent simply refers to the “star quality” for your organisation. Identifying and defining that effectively can help attract the right people and help you make the right investment decisions to realise talent potential and retain talent in your organisation for the long-term.

Managing Performance: is managing enough?

Do we wish to simply manage performance? Wouldn’t we rather develop it?

Performance management is the process of setting individual goals and reviewing performance. Used effectively, setting goals and having an annual performance review will certainly improve the individual’s chances of meeting expectations and feeling good about the positive feedback they get as a result. But the process is capable of so much more. Why seek to simply manage performance, when, with a few simple steps, it could be significantly developed?

Setting goals and giving feedback answers the questions, what’s expected of me? And how am I doing? But to develop performance, employees will also want to know the answer to, how do I grow? By taking the process one step further and building a development plan is planning ahead with direction – just like running a business; having a one-year business plan and a three-year strategic plan.

The process is even more effective when employees’ goals are aligned to business strategy and goals. That way, individuals can clearly see how their own performance contributes to the bigger picture and it gives them a greater sense of being part of something important.

The model below illustrates how the three-step process can be aligned to the business strategy and plan, underpinning it with core values and key competencies. Aligning goals in this way enhances performance by setting goals in the context of the business plan. It helps to give relevant feedback and work together to develop careers for the future. It fosters a collaborative culture – everyone works together to achieve the business goals, now and in the longer term.

Aligned goals


Uncomplicating competencies

What gets measured, gets done. That’s great, but can you measure the “how” as well as the “what”?

How we work is as important as what we achieve. Whilst it is difficult to measure how we work in the traditional sense, we can use competencies to measure the behaviours that bring about individual and organisational success. Using competencies in support of an organisation’s vision and core values can help achieve strategic objectives by bringing them off the page and into our daily conversations, building a picture of how we work; that is, the “how” as well as the “what”.

What is a competency?

A competency is a measurable characteristic that is related to effective job performance. It is a collection of related skills, behaviours and attitudes and other personal characteristics working in concert to produce effective job performance. Defining competencies creates a common language about what effective job performance looks like. Using them in a competency framework provides line managers and employees with a structured guide to identify, feedback, measure and develop the competencies that will work towards individual and organisational success.

What is a competency framework?

A competency framework provides explicit definitions of what skills, behaviours and attitudes will be expected, valued and rewarded in an organisation. Using these definitions and considering the frequency at the same time builds a full picture of effective performance and provides objectivity to recruitment decisions, performance management discussions, training and development investments, pay review and promotion decisions and succession planning. On a daily basis, a competency framework helps line managers and employees give feedback about individual and team performance using a common language.

Building on the axiom, what gets measured gets done, what gets measured and fed back gets done well, and, what gets rewarded gets repeated (John E Jones). Repeated effective performance facilitates individual and organisational success. Competencies help you measure effective performance, feedback on it and make the reward decisions that will make sure it is repeated.

London 2012: the Olympic Torch arrives on 18 May

Are you ready to let the Games begin?

London 2012 is finally here! With over 14,000 athletes from 200 countries competing in more than 26 sports across 37 competition venues, it will be the greatest show the UK has ever staged. A remarkable occasion, but how will it affect your business?

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games takes place from 27 July to 12 August and 29 August to 9 September, respectively. The Games will inevitably cause disruption to businesses across the UK, particularly in London itself. Businesses involved in the Games or close to competition venues will have already considered business continuity plans, but it is not only these businesses that will be affected. Your employees will be caught up in travel congestion, security alerts and diversions; many will book annual leave to attend or watch and some may request additional leave for volunteering. Most will want to keep up with developments on TV, Radio, over the Internet, and using Twitter and other social media. With a little bit of planning, employee engagement and early communication, you can manage the impact of the Games and use the occasion to foster your own team spirit. 

  1. Know what’s going on, when 
    www.london2012.com has a wealth of information. Use it to find out what events take place when and where and for up-to-date advice for businesses. Go to www.tfl.gov.uk for public transport information, and go to www.homeoffice.gov.uk or local police websites for security information.

  2. Consider how you will be affected
    If you haven’t developed a comprehensive business continuity plan, at least set up a task team to discuss how your business and employees will be affected. The team should consider staffing levels, travel disruption, technology problems, reduced productivity, health and safety, and supply chain disruption. It may be useful to check business insurances for any additional considerations.

  3. Engage employees
    Embrace the Games. If you don’t, your employees will do so without you using their own devices. Productivity will be down and you will miss a great opportunity to foster team spirit. Get employees working with you to manage the disruption. Get them to take responsibility about attendance and get them to work together to ensure resources are in place. Let employees take the lead in planning team events or viewing popular events to harness the positive momentum.
  4. Put plans in place
    Talk to employees early about their plans for annual leave during the Games period. Make temporary changes to working time, flexible working arrangements, company policy or established practice and procedure. Consider home working (but bear in mind your responsibilities for your employees’ wellbeing, health and safety, so you will need to consider risk assessments). Increased Internet use may put a strain on services; so test technology and put back up plans in place. Check your communication mechanisms and consider alternatives to fall back on in the event of an emergency.

  5. Communicate, communicate, communicate…
    Communicate early about how you expect the business might be affected, about what plans are being put in place, about how the Games will be celebrated in your business, and about what you expect from your employees during the Games. Of course, not everyone will be interested in watching the Games, but if you plan early, involve employees in that planning and communicate clearly, your business and your employees will be ready to let the Games begin.

Recession, what recession?

Why am I still losing employees? 

Even in difficult times, good people are mobile. If they aren’t getting what they need, they will leave. How can you retain your employees?

  1. Make effective selection decisions
    Get it right at the outset to make sure you have the right fit. Profile the role and the type of person you need so that everyone involved in the selection is looking for the same things. Carefully assess skills, competence and experience of the candidate. Check for cultural fit. Be clear about the role and don’t oversell. Be sure to keep promises made.

  2. Pay attention to induction
    A proper welcome gets things off to a good start. Make sure the new hire has a desk and is connected. Recap on the role, introduce the team and explain how they work and connect. Explain the competencies and behaviours you are expecting. Explain company policy, systems, processes and facilities. Agree goals and expectations for the first 90 days. Allocate a “buddy” to help them settle in quickly.

  3. Use a probation period effectively
    Review the role and short-term goals set before the end of any probation period. Openly discuss achievements, improvements and development areas. If it isn’t working, don’t put off a difficult conversation: tolerating poor performance alienates good performers.

  4. Develop performance
    Use a performance management cycle effectively, that is, set goals, review them regularly, have formal sessions for two-way discussion and feedback, and plan for future development. Learn to recognise potential talent and discuss ways of harnessing it.

  5. Reward fairly
    If reward budgets are tight, employees will cope if they know decisions are being made using a framework that is fair, reasonable and transparent. Make sure your rewards are aligned to your business plan and longer-term strategy and communicate this. Use simple and cost effective ways to recognise extra-ordinary performance.

  6. Communicate, communicate, communicate…
    Informally, formally, individually and in teams. Over and over. Communicate the company’s vision and strategy: make it relevant and keep them posted on company performance. Connect them to like-minded colleagues. Share knowledge. Tell them about developments in the business and share company and market news.

  7. Check your style
    Demonstrate your values consistently. Be open and fair. Give honest feedback. Acknowledge successes and remember to say thank you.


To retire or not to retire, that is the question

Seven things to think about to help you manage retirement effectively 

With the end of the Default Retirement Age last year, how are employers managing retirement?

The DRA was a reliable prompt for discussions about retirement. Keen to retire employees had the date etched on their minds and were vocal about it, and others, not so keen, understood their employer was within their rights to retire them. When the DRA was removed it became unlawful for employers to retire an employee unless the reason for doing so can be objectively justified. Employees can retire whenever they wish and are required to provide their contractual notice to do so.

Having just turned 65, Tottenham Hotspur manager, Harry Redknapp, says he has no plans to retire and, like Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, who is 70, plans to keep on working in football. According to the Daily Telegraph, Redknapp says that he would not know what to do with his time as he has no hobbies.

Many of your employees will share this view. Having forged their careers for the past 40 or so years, on reaching 65, they will still feel young enough to work another 5 or 10 years. How can you manage this?

  1. Prepare for an older workforce. This includes making the most of the experience to hand as much as it does about managing cost and risk
  2. Keep employees informed and have open discussions about retirement
  3. Make sure your performance management process includes discussions about retirement intentions as part of the wider discussion about short and long-term goals
  4. Set out clear goals and performance objectives
  5. Help your employees prepare for retirement through retirement planning
  6. Protect yourself from potential claims on the grounds of age by having a fair reason to dismiss and using a fair procedure
  7. Remember that a mutually agreed date that is well planned for helps both you and your employee feel good about the retirement and the years of loyal service beforehand.