what i think is one of the worst preconceptions about business and management is that workers need to be motivated. this notion that the workforce is this entity that needs to be incentivized into doing something.

i believe that everyone is motivated by something. i’d say that most accountants have a natural love of working with numbers. i’m sure that stock brokers get a special kind of high out of making the deal that nets their clients big returns. and i’m sure that if you spent even just a little time with three of my colleagues as they talked about solving linear programs and differential equations you’d be amazed at how much they can geek out over it. but when was the last time, as a manager or leader, that you had a discussion with your employees to find out what drives them?

some of you might answer–if you’re being honest with yourself –“the job interview”. how long ago was that? people change over time, and so you must be willing to spend the time to really watch and track how your people are changing and the kinds of people they’re changing into. you might have someone with a modeling and simulation background whom either suddenly or even gradually falls in love with data visualization. you might have a history teacher whom has a new-found love of english literature. but you’ll never know any of this unless you take the time to know your people.

do you have carrots (bonus structures, awards systems) or sticks (hard deadlines, performance reviews) in place because they actually work? or is it just because it makes your job simpler?

everyone is motivated to do something.

find out what that is. then have them do that.