What drives and motivates agents to work hard, do the right thing, and overcome adversity?

And the top 5 motivators that drive individual productivity.  

Incentives drive human behavior, and understanding the incentive structure will give you the power to predict the future.  

“Never, ever, think about something else when you should be thinking about the power of incentives.” Charlie Munger

Incentives are critical for peak performance because they drive behavior. When a salesperson isn’t performing to their potential, revisit incentives and ensure they are aligned to their goals.  There are unintended consequences of bonus programs in sales.   

A bonus contest as an incentive seems obvious to spur motivation and activities that lead to sales.  Daniel Pink wrote “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, and his major idea in the book outlines that monetary incentives create an incentive motivational spike followed by a dip equal to the spike.

For businesses, this spike may be exactly what they need to increase their revenues and cash flow in the short run. However, leadership better be prepared for the dip and disengagement followed by the contest.

Companies that are built to last use incentives that motivate human beings for the longest period.  

Human beings have an inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, have connections and relationships, be creative, and contribute to something bigger than themselves. Top performers solve problems, make sales, and work hard because to do anything less would lead to unhappiness, depression, and self-pity.  

I’ve never met a top performer I had to motivate. They are self-driven beings ready to work and take on responsibilities.  

Never try to motivate the unmotivated. It is much easier to find self-driven people than it is to try to change someone.  

“If you want to be happy in marriage, try to improve yourself as a spouse, not change your spouse.” Charlie Munger

In business, it is much easier to grow your business by improving yourself as a leader, recruiter, system designer, marketer, writer, and trainer than trying to change someone else.  

If you want to be a better trainer, hire people that want to learn. 

If you want to make more sales, hire people that want to make sales

If you want more people to take on leadership, hire people that like responsibility and leadership

If you want problem-solving, hardworking, gritty people, hire people that are driven to prove people wrong and who have had to overcome challenges in their lives that resulted in a positive outcome because of the actions they made.

Here are my top 5 motivators

    1. Responsibilities – Give responsibilities to your people that they own the process and outcome.
    2. Hard work – Put your people in challenging situations that require hard work and dedication. You will lose top performers if you don’t challenge them.  
    3. Contribution – Align individual actions to the flywheel that moves the needle forward to the company’s common goals. How do their day-to-day efforts contribute to the mission and vision of the company?
    4. Autonomous Work – Give your people a task, project, or mission and define what you want to see happen. Don’t tell them how to do it.  Ask them to figure out the how and report back what they decided. Trust them to pick the best course of action to accomplish the goal.  
    5. Acknowledgment – Catch your people working hard and doing the right things and acknowledge them personally, privately, and publicly. Reward people with praise and a job well done. Character is when you do what you know you must do when nobody is around. Leaders need to inspect what they expect so they can catch people doing a great job. Most managers inspect to find faults. That demotivates top performers. Catch them doing a great job.

Nick McLean