Posts Tagged ‘Motivation’

Are we rewarding our teams the wrong way?

January 17, 2011 3 comments

Almost every Q4, I end up in discussions involving comp plans for line management and consulting staff.  And, in every case, I find myself either saying “Leave it be, it works fine right now” or fending off efforts to finely tune tactical behavior via bonuses.  And, every Q4, I usually find myself on the opposite side of the table from everyone since the standard management mindset logically assumes that if you pay people to do something, they do it.  The problem is I never believed that assumption is valid:  I work hard to please clients, not because I get paid on client satisfaction (which actually is a component of my plan), but because I get intrinsic benefit from doing so (put simply, I like solving problems and being engaged with clients).  And, in my experience, the best consultants (most knowledge, most effective with clients, most revenue) are not trying to maximize billed hours, they are just doing what they think is really cool and they love doing it.  So, the most difficult part of these conversations is never being able to properly, or with adequate support, articulate why I think these “logical” changes don’t make sense.

Well, finally, I have someone else in my corner.

In “Drive:The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, Daniel Pink outlines his theory of high performance and satisfaction (in life, work, family, etc).  In short, his theory is  1) that we are operating in a paradigm of extrinsic (external, carrot and stick) motivations for performance – he calls this the Type X management and behaviors – and 2) these rewards, which most business spend thousands of hours developing, tuning and managing actually are harmful to the intended effect because they destroy our sense of purpose.  He instead suggests modeling Type I (for intrinsic) management behaviors to allow your team the ability to exercise a sense of autonomy over task, allow them to better develop mastery in their role and, thereby develop a better sense of purpose in what they do.  His theory and book are based on seemingly significant research conducted by various psychologists and behaviorists over the last 80 years.

How would this look in our industry?

First, we’d stop paying on revenue billed or hours billed.   Instead, we’d pay a slightly above  market salary with good benefits.

Second, we’d retool ourselves to set learning goals rather than performance goals.  So, rather than saying “Pass the SQL Admin test” we’d focus our goal on “Develop expertise in SQL Server, inclusive of SSIS, SSAS and SSRS.”  Passing the test may be part of this, but not the end goal.

Third, we’d develop a culture that supports mastery of knowledge and application thereof, including public respect and acclaim, rather than just picking out for reward the highest billers.

Fourth, we’d find time, each month, to let everyone take one day to explore something of interest to them.  Work related, of course, but not directed to a specific project, customer, billing code, etc.  Basically, we’d let them play with cool ideas to whatever extent they wanted for that day (by the way, Google and several other very successful companies already do this).

Finally, we’d focus ourselves as consulting leaders on attention to the people on our team rather than just focusing exclusively on billed revenue or hours.

Read the book for more details – if you just look at this post, you won’t get the full impact of Pink’s book.  For the rest of this first half of the year, I’m going to talk to consulting staff about this and see what their take is on it.

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