How to Build and Sustain Motivation

My father was a self-employed sheet metal worker for about 30 years between the 1950s and 80s.  He used to tell a story about something that happened to him, probably during the 70s.

A business contact invited him to fasten two pullies to their cellar head and use them to lower a massive boiler into the cellar.  He did his calculations and quoted them £300 for job.  They clearly weren’t expecting it to cost so much.  Do he said he’d tell them how to save some money.  “Look” he said, “why don’t you tell half a dozen of your men that they’ll get £10 extra in their pay packet if the boiler’s in the cellar by tomorrow morning.  If it isn’t give me a ring and I’ll go ahead, you’ll be no worse off.”

The next morning, my father received a phone call from his contact.  “You’re a miracle worker!  The boiler is in the cellar!  How did you know they could do it?”  This actually did my father’s business a lot of good because his contact told lots of his friends how brilliant my father was!

It seems there was a window opposite the cellar head and they put a beam across and used it to lower the boiler into the cellar.  This was a solution thought of by neither my father nor his contact.

Perhaps the extra £10 in the pay packet was an extrinsic incentive (I’m assuming you’ve watched the video) but I think this story does line up with Daniel Pink’s lecture.  The 6 men had autonomy.  No-one told them what to do.  (I suspect health and safety concerns would be an issue these days.)  Clearly they were practical men who enjoyed a challenge and the task was clear.  Even though £10 was worth more in those days I suspect the men enjoyed working out the solution to their problem.

At a recent training session, “How to build and sustain motivation in your career”, the leader, Lisa Read, a local coach, recommended the Daniel Pink video.  Lisa shared Daniel Pink’s three characteristics of intrinsic motivation; common experiences of many self-employed people and third sector volunteers.

  • Autonomy is the freedom to work where, when and how you choose.  It is the great attraction of being self-employed.
  • Mastery is knowing you have developed or created something valued by others.
  • Purpose having a clear sense of where your business or voluntary activity is going.

These three are valuable attributes anyone who is working creatively needs to meet.  They apply equally for online and in-person work.  The problem many people find working online is the technical aspects of the work tend to overpower the creative dimension.  Looking after your website becomes a chore and this is often because it is actually working against your organisation’s aims.

Coaching and non-directive consultancy are pretty much the same activity; they are branches of the same tree.  My consultancy service can help you get your organisation or business and your online presence working together to increase the effectiveness of your organisation and your personal satisfaction as maintaining your site ceases to be a chore.  Once you have mastered your site and have a clear purpose, you will have the autonomy to choose how you use it.

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About the Author

I've been a community development worker since the early 1980s in Tyneside, Teesside and South Yorkshire. I've also worked nationally for the Methodist Church for eight years supporting community projects through the church's grants programme. These days I am developing an online community development practice combining non-directive consultancy, strategic management, participatory methods and development work online and offline. If you're interested contact me for a free consultation.

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