Goals, Motivation and Satisfaction

Goals, Motivation and Satisfaction

People with high motivation create a higher degree of customer satisfaction and customer loyalty, greater profits, higher productivity and lower employee turnover.[1]

If that is not reason enough to minimize stress, take a look at the following effects from what less stress and higher wellbeing gives[2]:

  • Better health habits
  • Lower blood pressure
  • More effective immune system
  • Longer life
  • Higher productivity
  • Higher income
  • Better evaluations from superiors
  • Better opinions from clients
  • Change of jobs more seldom
  • Fewer sick-days
  • Better relationships with colleagues
  • Better leader
  • Better negotiator
  • More creativity
  • More social
  • More altruism

We often mix up the concept of motivation with other types of satisfaction. How many times have I heard different leaders say, “I would like to be better at motivating my employees?” A rather wise and empathic statement, right? But what does it really mean? Can I motivate another person? How do I motivate myself?

Motivation is always about the future. Something I see in the future that I want to own, or acquire, experience or achieve.

Since a big part of our lives is about creating a future that does not yet exist, and the motivation is the fuel for people to get there, minimizing stress and motivation are two interacting entities, with the same focus: Take the Future!

But what is it we want the future to bring? From an evolutionary standpoint we find two powerful forces:

  • Survival
  • Reproduction

Most companies want the products and services that they offer the market to be attractive for a long time. Few companies develop new products just out of pure joy of development, but because those who do not develop may well not survive.  The industry that may have succeeded best to get products to survive is the food industry. The tastes we like the best are probably those we came in contact with and learnt to appreciate already as kids. Some foods have probably tasted the same for more than 100 years.

Those who survive would often like to see new generations. Since reproduction, as much as survival, is fundamental in each living being, we often have problems understanding those who refrain from reproduction. This goes for both those who refrain from having children due to one’s career, or who in other areas chooses a non-reproductive lifestyle. Many see not being able to reproduce as if getting cheated on by life itself. The desire to reproduce is naturally instilled in every person.

A few years ago I sat down and talked with a man who had built up a worldwide business empire that had a turnover of many, many billions. He had a daughter, but he was not sure if she wanted to take over what he had built from nothing, to a then worldwide operation, and lead it. Afraid to ask directly, and risk a “No”, he bought a company for half a billion within an area he knew she liked. He did not want to see his life work taken apart and sold, simply to be made into a fortune. If it was this act that made her interested in the business nobody knows, but she is the one who is in charge today. She has sold some businesses and bought new ones, developed others and continues to build the empire.

In order to influence his or her survival, and preferably reproduction, every human being strives for a sense of personal control. Personal control gives positive emotions and a feeling of well-being. This means that we try to shape our surroundings and environment, to achieve long-term personal control. Stress management is about self-control.

Oftentimes, we strive for that which we cannot reach, because something has a high appeal. Being a celebrity offers a lot of advantages, invitations to events, expensive gifts, going first in line etc. Therefore, many want to be a celebrity, without any need to create something you could become famous for. Being a CEO of a large company presents, besides a high salary, a multitude of benefits.

But fighting to achieve unrealistic goals makes motivation turn into discouragement and despair. A quest for the unattainable reduces our sense of personal control. One of the most common wishes of those who do not need to struggle for their daily survival, is to become financially independent. Not being dependent on a fickle insurance fund, or their employers’ ability to get the company to survive in a tough market. They save for their retirement, for a time when they cannot or do not want to support themselves through work. And no one wants to decrease his or her standard of living too much, just because they get older.

The feeling of personal control can be developed through:

  • Focusing on reachable goals
  • Developing new ways for control
  • Accept that which cannot be changed

As I develop my personal control, I train my ability to judge my possibilities to achieve the desired results and to avoid undesirable ones.

A lot of our motivation is focused on increasing our personal control in the future. The first step to achieve a higher degree of personal control is to set goals for the areas where I want the control to increase. The same applies to companies. Most goals are set to help the company increase its own opportunity to influence its situation. These goals can be about the external work, such as increased sales among existing customers, or by finding new markets, as well as the internal, often described as increased efficiency.

A strong perceived personal control:

  • Activates problem solving and focus on possibilities
  • Provides space to prepare for a negative situation to prevent it from becoming impossible

A large part of life is about solving problems. Situations without yet established routines for how to handle them. If I am part of the daily delivery to the customer, I am part of the problem, and have difficulty finding long-term solutions. Solutions that mean compensating for non-delivery entails over-compensation, and the solution is much more expensive than normal delivery. Long-term solutions are often to be found outside the problem; solutions that can be turned into structure, routine and rules; so that one can be prepared if the same situation is to arise again. Stress management is focused on good habits and routines.

[1] Harter & Schmidt, 2000; Harter, Schmidt & Keyes, 2006; Keyes, Hysom & Lupo, 2000.

[2] According to Seligman (Seligman, 2002) and Lyobomirsky (Lyubomirsky, 2008) are these qualities connected with persons with a high well-being.

Mats Holmér has written 15 leadership and management training programs ,including Ledarskapets Dimensioner. Ledarskapets dimensiner is translated to several languages, and used in more than 10 countries on 5 continents. The programs has been used by more than 7000 individuals.

He has been a leadership consultant for 1300 decision makers, and spent more than 20.000 hours in individual sessions.

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