Progress is what motivates

I recently read new research on employee motivation that points to a simple formula. It said that what really motivates people at work is progress: knowing that they are contributing to something that is moving forward (ahead). In other words, people don’t want to spend all day feeling like a hamster on a wheel. Especially today when the workday is busy and it can feel like run, run, run.

I just downloaded a great BlackBerry App called RoadRunner GPS. Carrying it on the BB while running, it gathers and records data on my run. At the end I upload to a website where my progress  shows. I see how long I ran, how fast and even the route I took. Talk about motivating. Over time I can decide to add kilometres on by adding another street. I even can see how many calories I’ve burned. And now I have the app set to chime every km. Progress – ah, it is motivating!

So leaders should take every opportunity to point to progress. Be the chime! If  you can post movement toward goals visually – on-line or on an old-fashioned bulletin board – do so. When someone comes to you with a problem to be solved remind them of how far they’ve already come. Ask regularly, “Do you see how much progress you’ve made?”  Even when people are discouraged you can remind them that they are learning something in the journey.

The other way leaders help is by removing barriers to progress. That might mean talking to a stubborn department head, or working with a difficult customer. It might mean finding extra resources when resources are tight. It could mean offering assistance to write a business case or make a presentation.

It seems so intuitive and so close to our experience, but we often forget this simple rule. Progress is what motivates.

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