How to Bring Purpose, Passion, & Productivity to Any Project
I’ve had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects in several different industries during my ten-years at DISHER. Some of them have been very rewarding while others have been a bit of a bear to get through. To better understand myself and gain more insight on effective leadership, I embarked on a journey to identify what made some projects enjoyable and other’s… not-so-much. To my surprise, I discovered three things that were consistently present on the projects that were satisfying: a compelling mission, an efficient processes, and genuine recognition. The combination of all three things is what I call: Authentic Motivation. It’s a three-legged stool that brings purpose, passion, and productivity to any project.
The compelling mission piece is the ever-present force driving us towards an improved future state. In order to be truly compelling, the mission needs to be relatable to an individual’s personal bent in life. Simon Sinek discusses this extensively in his book, Start With Why. In the chapter titled, “This Is Not Opinion, This is Biology,” he states, “Companies that fail to communicate a sense of WHY force us to make decisions with only empirical evidence.” His position is from the viewpoint of external marketing and psychology, but the sentiment can also be applied to the general encouragement of behaviors. In the absence of the “Why” (compelling mission), we tend to be motivated by less sustainable empirical items such as salary, positional power, or other short-sighted reward mechanisms.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the desire for fair pay and a position of authority. However, for the most part, these metrics alone will not be enough to justify getting out of bed day after day with a passion to make an impact with any given task. A fat salary or a promotion is not a sustainable motivator; it doesn’t promote loyalty. The next opportunity that comes along with more pay or a larger-than-life title (empirical evidence) could result in turnover because decisions are made for short-term gain and not one’s bent in life. In contrast, consider President John F. Kennedy casting the vision, “We choose to go to the moon,” on September 12, 1962. This mission was much bigger than any one person could accomplish. Yet it was compelling enough to outlive the President in a remarkable feat of motivation (and some incredible engineering)!
Efficient processes are the means of making the compelling mission accessible. If we give someone a fascinating reason to do something, but then force them through antiquated or ambiguous processes, the result can be exasperation. Even worse than a poor process is a complete lack of a process. I experienced this while working on a recent project where I was asked to process-engineer activities through a series of actions. During my first few weeks on the assignment, I was getting familiar with the product and tools. I realized I was spending days and sometimes weeks to make even the smallest contribution.
I literally had “before” and “after” documentation on my desk which was nearly indistinguishable except for the dates. This was particularly frustrating because I’m passionate about DISHER’s mission to Make a Positive Difference. I was also fully aligned with the mission of the client I was supporting. I didn’t feel very effective in supporting either mission because the effort was disproportionally large compared to the impact being made. In this instance, the team was very open to suggestions and we were able to spend some time evaluating the processes, making adjustments, and increasing the impact each team-member had on the mission. I was motivated by the efficiency in which I could support the mission of DISHER and the team members at the client were motivated with more meaningful processes for fulfilling their mission.
Genuine recognition might be the easiest part of the three-legged stool of authentic motivation, but it’s possibly the most overlooked. In essence, we need to affirm the effective impact someone is making on the compelling mission. It can be difficult for someone to understand how their daily activities contribute to the success of an organization especially as the organization gets large. To truly motivate, we need to specifically show the connection between someone’s daily activities and how they are supporting the mission.
It’s important that we recognize and reward the efforts separately from the outcome. Someone can have all the right behaviors, but at times there are external factors that can negatively affect the outcome. If the behaviors are correct, we want them to be repeated while effort is made to understand and ideally address the external variables. I like to do this in one-on-one conversations. It gives me the opportunity to look a person in the eye and verbally acknowledge they’re doing the right things and making an impact on the mission. Being a visual person and an engineer, I also use data and graphs which depict someone’s personal contributions overlaid on corporate metrics. This is a no-nonsense tool which correlates to great discussion, affirmation, and the occasional correction.
What Happens When One Leg Is Missing?
When one of the legs is missing, things become quite wobbly. Without recognition, a team member might experience thankless efficiency. Without a clear mission, a worker has an ambiguous J-O-B and apathetic performance. Without efficient processes, an employee can feel like they are spinning their wheels and become frustrated with the lack of progress. This rapidly tips the scales of motivation in the wrong direction resulting in sub-par performance, discontentment, and occasionally turnover. It has a negative impact on the person, the rest of the team, and the bottom-line of the business!
Authentic Motivation Impacts Performance
When someone is authentically motivated they will invest significant effort towards the cause. They will do so with joy and pride because their coaches and team managers have connected with their internal desires, given them tools to “move the needle”, and have applauded their efforts. It takes intentional leadership, and it’s worth it to be surrounded by an amazing team all moving in the same direction with great passion, purpose, and productivity. A high-performing team is a natural result. Now that’s motivating for me. Wouldn’t it be for you?
If you are interested in learning more about leadership and organizational transformation, let us know. DISHER offers a variety of tools to equip, empower, and energize leaders and inspire organizations. We would love to help your team operate at the next level.
Written By: Ryan Noble, Team Lead – Product and Machine Design | CAE
Ryan is a seasoned mechanical engineer with substantial experience in machine and product development. He’s a continual learner and teacher/coach, welcoming constructive criticism to satisfy an insatiable desire for excellence.