Second Crack — The Leadership Podcast

How to Motivate People: A Practical Guide for Leaders

December 22, 2023 Gerrit Pelzer, Martin Aldergard Episode 29
Second Crack — The Leadership Podcast
How to Motivate People: A Practical Guide for Leaders
Show Notes Transcript

Leaders often ask us, “How can I motivate my team?” or “How do I enhance employee engagement?”. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer, as motivation is a highly individual and complex subject.

But the challenge of motivating people is also what makes life interesting as a leader. Wouldn’t it be boring if we were all like robots, needing three pushes of a button, to be motivated?

Nevertheless, there are common motivational “themes”, or guidelines, that every leader can benefit from.

Key moments

[04:37] A common misconception is that people are motivated by money. While it's certainly true that people have jobs in order to earn money, once individuals feel fairly compensated, other aspects take precedence.

[09:36] Daniel H. Pink emphasises three fundamental drivers:

Autonomy is about freedom how to do the work, when to do the work, and, ideally, who with. While there are of course limits to autonomy at work, it is crucial for leaders to act as autonomy supporters.

[17:42] Mastery entails the joy of honing skills and receiving recognition for expertise. Viewing people development as an investment rather than an expense is a testament to organisational wisdom.

[23:26] Purpose extends beyond monetary gains. People yearn to contribute to something meaningful, transcending the singular pursuit of increasing shareholder value.

[25:52] In addition to “finding meaning”, the “Socio-Analytic Model of Values, Interests, and Motives” identifies two additional “master motives”:

Getting along: Humans have always lived in groups. Getting along with others has been critical for our survival as a species. Furthermore, “at a deep and often unconscious level, people need attention and approval.”

Getting ahead: At the same time, every group or social unit always has a hierarchy with an unequal distribution of power. Individual strive for status differs, but from an evolutionary perspective, a higher status allows better choices in many areas of life.

[30:04] Björn Ekenvall said, "You can't motivate people to perform. It's actually the other way around". Helping people to be successful, will generate motivation and ignite a self-reinforcing cycle of performance and motivation.

[31:15] As motivation is so highly individual, leaders need to understand the individuals they are working with: What excites them? What do they like to learn? What are their aspirations?

[34:04] Recognition and feedback signify a leader's care, fostering involvement and a sense of importance among team members.

[38:00] A leader's attitude directly impacts motivation and performance: Leaders who look at their people as heroes increase the chances they become heroes. Leaders who treat people like children might find they behave like children.

[41:30] Reflection Questions.

Reflection Questions

  • Autonomy: How can I give people more freedom regarding how they work, when they work, and who they work with? 
  • Mastery: How can I nurture individuals’ development? 
  • Purpose: Does our company have a compelling purpose and vision that goes beyond profit-making?
  • Personal Motivation: What motivates me as a leader? And how might this differ from others?

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Martin Aldergård
Gerrit Pelzer 

Second Crack – The Leadership Podcast (Episode 29)

This transcript is AI-generated and may contain typos and errors.

[00:11] Gerrit: ​A warm welcome to episode number 29 of Second Crack, The Leadership Podcast. If you are new to this show, this is where we explore everyday leadership dilemmas and paradoxes and where we offer a space for self reflection. I am Gerrit Pelzer, I work as an executive coach and I bring to my coaching a combination of Western science and Asian wisdom.

[00:36] Joining me today, as always, is my dear friend and business partner, Martin Aldergard. Martin specializes in driving change and transformation within organizations. And what we have in common is that we always put people at the center of our work. Hi Martin, it's wonderful to be recording with you once again.

[01:00] Martin: Hi, Gerrit. Yeah, it's great to meet for these conversations once a month. And today the topic is going to be around motivation, the very fundamental part of leadership. How to get our team members along with us.

[01:17] Gerrit: Indeed, and for me as a coach, I would say it's one of the most important subjects. And if I look at my coaching assignments, I think there is always at some point in time a question like, how can I motivate my team or how can we drive employee engagement? So this comes up all the time. And you and me, we were also in leadership roles in corporations, and I have to admit there were times, um, when I, when I struggled myself, right?

[01:47] So with these questions, how, how can I motivate people or maybe more precisely, how can I help people utilize their full potential? And when I transitioned from my corporate role to being self employed as an executive coach and I saw how important the subject is, I thought, you know, let me do some research. I mean, in what's like a hundred years since the Industrial Revolution, I was sure there would be many psychologists who would have All the answers, right?

[02:23] Martin: And what a disappointment, right?

[02:26] Gerrit: Yeah it was a disappointment because while I was looking, so to say, for the Holy Grail on motivation or the Bible, I realized it doesn't exist. There is not the one book or the five steps that you need to take, because it's such a highly complex subject and it's also highly individual, so different people are motivated by different things.

[02:55] But I think also my perspective has changed and I think to a certain extent, um, this what we could perceive as a difficulty is also what makes life interesting, right? I mean, how boring would it be if we were all like robots and then you just push these three buttons and everybody is motivated.

[03:17] Martin: this is also really to make the life interesting as a leader, to get to know people, what drives them and how to help people find their own motivation.

[03:31] Gerrit: Yeah, and Martin, when you say what drives people, it includes the leaders themselves. So sometimes we have to work with ourselves to be clear about what our motivations are. But before we delve any deeper in this topic, just a quick note, if you, as our listener, are enjoying This podcast, you can help us expand our community and it would be really great if you could spread the word by recommending Second Crack to a friend or a colleague.

[04:03] And if you haven't subscribed already, you can do so on your preferred podcast platform. It's completely free. It ensures that you will never miss out on the latest episode. And for us, it's also a fantastic way to show your support for our efforts because Running and sustaining a podcast is a lot of work.

[04:26] Martin: Yeah, indeed. And now, while we said there is no silver bullet to, to motivation, there must still be some principles that we can start working on.

[04:36] Gerrit: Yeah, and maybe I start with a book that I picked up, uh, it's called Drive The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, written by Daniel H. Pink. And Martin, interestingly, Heinz Landau, our common friend, recommended it to me. So this is a shout out to him. Heinz, thank you very much for your recommendation.

[05:00] And, um, One of the first aspects that Pink touches on in this book is that people at work are not motivated by money alone. And on the one hand, this should not be a surprise. However, I still see Many leaders looking at it this way, many organizations operating in this way, right? The more money, the more motivation.

[05:28] But, money sometimes can be even counterproductive. And I recall a situation where I encountered, I'm not sure if I should say really a leader, maybe it was more just a boss. So this, this person came new into an organization and obviously his motivation was his own career advancement. And I had the feeling that he wanted, being new in this position, he wanted to impress his bosses very quickly. And he wanted to drive some, some projects. And so he suggested then that when People could come up with new ideas, new projects that would help the organization. Then he would make sure that either these individuals or the team members would receive as a reward, a certain percentage of the newly generated savings or the the new profit or the additional profit that a company would be making.

[06:36] Now, to a certain extent, I think it's a great idea if we truly share equity with employees so that employees directly benefit, from a company's performance and eventually also feel the pain when it's not performing, but in, in this particular case, I saw this was really completely counter productive.So for instance, I remember one lady saying, wait a moment, my job is exactly this. I'm supposed to come up with new projects. It's my daily work to help the company generate more profit or make more savings. So that's what I'm receiving my salary already for. Are you saying I'm not doing my job or does this this guy mean I only do the job properly if you dangle this additional carrot in front of me, right?

[07:38] So this person, this boss, achieved the complete opposite of what he wanted to achieve. So instead of getting people excited about potentially earning more money, they were demotivated because they perceived this suggestion almost like an insult.

[08:00] Martin: Yeah, in this, era of knowledge work, where more and more of what we do every day is based on knowledge, then it's, this is a great example that there are so many more drivers or potential drivers of motivation.

[08:17] Gerrit: Yeah. And I mean, at the same time, we need to acknowledge that probably most people in the world go to work in order to receive money in exchange for, for their work, right? And it is, yeah, sorry.

[08:33] Martin: but it's, it's more we, as a knowledge worker, typically we, we want more than

[08:38] Gerrit: Yeah. I mean, what I wanted to add, it is immensely important that You, as a leader, as an organization, pay people enough money because if they feel they are not paid enough, that can also be extremely demotivating and, and money, besides Just the monetary aspects of it is also a form of recognition. And I think here we hit already one of these other aspects of motivation. People want to be recognized at work. Um, but once people perceive that they receive a compensation that is at least fair, then these other aspects become more important. Yeah,

[09:25] Martin: should we go into the model of Pink?

[09:28] Gerrit: Yeah so that is, I would say, my personal takeaway. I remember that he highlighted three areas and he refers to them as Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. And we will explain in detail what each of these means. For me I think they are really mission critical for every leader to understand when it comes to motivation.

[09:54] Let's start so with autonomy and this is essentially about giving people as much freedom at work as possible. In other words, most people are highly motivated when they have the freedom to choose how they do their work, when they do their work, with whom they do their work, and ideally also what they work on.

[10:20] So I think this is a very helpful when we say, instead of being too specific or very specific in terms of how people need to get the job done, I think it's very helpful for every leader to agree on certain outcomes. This is what we want to achieve and then giving people the freedom in how they get there.

[10:46] Because if we don't do this, then we enter quickly this area of micromanaging. And I remember a workshop I once did with people where I asked them about behaviors and traits of their best and their worst bosses. And the number one item that their worst bosses did was Micromanaging. Yeah, so every grown up who has at least certain capabilities, they totally hate being micromanaged. So this, this freedom in being able to choose how I do my work is highly motivational. Please.

[11:28] Martin: can I build on this? I think this for me is super essential. the sense of value, the sense of importance, the sense of contribution that I have as an employee linked with my skills and the competency I bring to the organization is so important for motivation. And if somebody then trying to tell me how to do my job, I was brought here because I am the best one to do this job, and then my capability being questioned, of course that is demotivating. But if my competency, my skills, my contribution, what I bring as value to the organization, if that is highlighted, of course I will feel proud. I will feel important, recognized.

[12:17] Gerrit: Yes, yes, absolutely, and yeah, so maybe, moving on to the next element of this. So when do people do their work? And of course, there can be limitations, right? So if you work in customer service. You need to cover certain core working times, or myself coming from manufacturing, there is shift work that needs to be done. So you simply can't give everybody the freedom, to choose when they show up for work. But, in certain areas you can give at least some freedom to it. And I think what is often neglected is, it's actually our individual biology. We refer to it as the so called circadian rhythm. In common language, we may say some people like me are early birds and others are night owls.

[13:11] So for me, you know, it's easy to get up at 6 a. m. in the morning, but then at 6 p. m. my brain starts shutting down, whereas my wife is the opposite, she's a night owl, right? So if you would force somebody like her to start working at 7 a. m. in the morning, that would be really counterproductive, or people may have Individual schedules like bringing their kids to school. So, um, yeah, if you can cater to these needs that, help them, gives them some freedom as to when they work, this helps a lot.

[13:45] And when you said something along those lines, look, I'm, you, you've hired me to do this job, now let me do it, I remember it was William McKnight, the former president and chairman of 3M almost, almost 100 years ago. He already said, hire good people and then leave them alone.

[14:05] And this is another phrase just supporting what you, what you said. But I also want to emphasize it does not mean to literally leave them alone. I think we, as leaders, we need to also be clear that we, we, we give them freedom, but we also offer support when needed. And so, in other words, what Daniel Pink is saying here, the, the former bosses need to turn into to Autonomy Supporters, which may be nicely linked to this approach of leader as a coach, which maybe we want to discuss in another episode. And maybe my last comment on the autonomy is also because we both have been working in Europe and in Asia. And I think it is also very, very important to take cultural aspects into account.

[15:00] And, um, I was once coaching a European director who was working in Thailand. And his natural leadership style was using this coaching approach, um, coaching from the sidelines, right? Not getting involved too much, not telling people what to do. But then there was one of his local direct reports who said like, you know, you don't seem to know, right? As my boss, you are supposed to tell me what to do. And in other words, if you're not telling me what to do, you don't know. So. Again, it remains complex.

[15:38] Martin: In, in my own leadership experience, I think when I understood the difference between actually doing the job or leading the people that doing the job, I changed what I was working with. So instead of figuring out and telling people what to do, providing people with information, making sure that they understand the big picture, helping them to understand the why question. Why is your work important? How does your work fit into the bigger picture? What's happening a few levels above us and to the left and the right of us. That was what I was doing a lot, so I didn't have any time to actually interfering with the job. And of course, coaching and development was also important, but I totally agree with you that different people have different needs there. 

[16:31] Gerrit: Beautiful, beautiful. Yeah. And the last thing in this segment of autonomy that comes to mind is since we like to explore everyday leadership dilemmas, a dilemma can be that if you are the senior person, you are still the one who will be held accountable for getting the results. Right? So, often when I coach people, I sense this strong desire to following up, making sure that the results are really achieved, right? Not getting this bad surprise that people are not on track. And then you need to find this, this balance between making sure that, yeah, you also still hold people accountable, but you don't cross the line to micromanaging.

[17:22] Yeah Yeah 

[17:23] Martin: Absolutely, should move into the second perspective, what Daniel Pink calls mastery.

[17:30] Gerrit: And, again, I would say a very simple term for this is that people simply enjoy and take pride in getting better at what they do. eventually becoming a recognized expert in their field. And I'm just saying a recognized expert. We are back to recognition. As one of the motivational factors, I think also in this context, achievement is another important aspect of motivation, but, but coming back to just getting better at things, Many people invest a lot of time in their hobbies. without getting paid for it. And part of what they're doing is or why their hobby brings them so much joy is, for instance, they get better at what they're doing. Let's say they play an instrument, they do some kind of sports, I think there is this finding fulfillment in the achievement and I think that is something that is often overlooked. I see this a lot when people actually in organizations, they ask for more training. And then people say, Oh, but there's no budget for it.

[18:39] And I think we should be very happy if our staff comes to us and say, Hey, you know, I want to learn more. I want to be better in my job. It's yeah. And then when, when you give people this opportunity, it can be immensely motivating.

[18:56] Martin: yeah, the personal development is such a driver of motivation, it's such a satisfaction, it's such a joy.

[19:04] Gerrit: Hmm.

[19:04] Martin: to, to develop, and feel that you, you reach a next level of ability, And I think it's training is, is really important, but I'm also now thinking about development on the job.

[19:19] So as a leader, if I can make sure that I give the right assignment or the right job, the right role to each person at the right time. To keep them motivated, to keep them developing, that is such a critical part, of perhaps more than finding the next good training program. But the challenge, of course, is how do you know what is the right thing? Because, Gerrit, if I can illustrate this, if I would give you the same assignment every day, and you do the same thing day in, day out, you're getting better at doing it. How might you feel at the end?

[19:56] Gerrit: Yeah, it's, it's depends on, I mean, as you just said, if I'm getting better at it, that's nice, but if it's too much of routine work and then the same every day, yeah, I would probably feel bored.

[20:10] Martin: Right, and, and you're feeling like there is nothing more exciting here to do. And, and opposite, if I would think here I have a great stretch assignment, and I, and I throw you into the swimming pool and think, okay, you can learn to swim in the water. You get a really tough assignment, right? You, you might probably panic and you might stress and you feel totally demotivated. 

[20:33] Gerrit: Yes, I, again, I think it would depend on, the challenge, whether I feel I'm up to it, but if I'm not up to it, so if you throw me in, in the water somewhere in the cold Sweden at close to zero degrees, then I would perhaps feel, overwhelmed.

[20:52] Martin: yes, and I think this for me as a leader is really challenging because I need to know. My team member quite well to understand what is exactly the right level of challenge that you would require right now, and then trying to make sure that you, you get the right. assignment at the right time to keep you developing at the optimal pace for you. So you are kind of zigzagging upwards, your competency, your ability is growing. And with that, you can also take more and more challenging assignment, but I need to keep you in your growth zone, not too boring, not too challenging. 

[21:36] So meeting, being close to my team, having my one on one meetings regularly with all my team members, to talk with them how they would want to develop next, what makes them excited about their assignments, what they might feel is the next assignment,all those questions become so important to keep team members motivated.

[22:00] Gerrit: Martin, while I'm listening to you, two things come up for me. One is I just want to emphasize that this is highly individual. So, the situation that is for one person boring can already be overwhelming for another. And I think that is something, maybe we touch on this later, the highly individual aspects of motivation.

[22:25] And the second is what you described to me reminds me of, the late Csikszentmihalyi's flow model, right? Where people, um, they have so called flow experiences where they forget everything else. And this is maybe related to what you called the, the growth zone. And, uh, yeah, just wanted to get, uh, credit to this, to this great man.

[22:49] Martin: Now you have a lot of fire trucks on your side, Gerrit.

[22:54] Gerrit: Yeah, this is how it is when you are recording in a, in a big city.

[23:00] Martin: Yeah, and, and then the last aspect that Daniel Pink brings up is purpose. The sense of meaning, this is also a foundational pillar of, of motivation.

[23:15] Gerrit: Yeah, absolutely. And I think maybe we don't need to spend too much time on this. I think we've covered this in other episodes. Um, but I think, people spend so much time at work, most of their life actually, if we deduct sleep, and people want to do something meaningful, something fulfilling, something that goes beyond just earning money or just increasing stakeholder value.

[23:45] Martin: And I think here, uh, most organizations today, they have very well established missions and purposes, visions, and they are very clear on why they exist. I think as a leadership challenge then is how can I, as a leader, translate this high level purpose to what does this mean for my team in their everyday work, or even for each individual in my team in their everyday work. 

[24:15] What I see in my work as a consultant is that this translation is sometime lost. There is a very high level statement and purpose, that is very nice. But then that is communicated and served as a one size fits all to all employees and employees might still have a hard time figuring out exactly how does actually my work contribute to that very nice statement. So there, typically leaders have a lot of work to do to make the connection, because if there is no connection, people aren't motivated by that purpose because it's too far away.

[24:54] Gerrit: yeah, yeah. So if I summarize this, if the organization has already this, what should I call it, purpose, something positive, something that goes beyond increasing shareholder value, then you still need to make sure that everybody understands how they're contributing to this purpose. Is that right? Yeah.

[25:13] Martin: Correct. and it got to be felt, to be a strong 

[25:17] Gerrit: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So that was, I think, the summary of, uh, autonomy, mastery, and purpose. 

[25:25] maybe I would like to introduce another, model, which again looks at three categories but emphasizes more the individual aspects. It's, um, it was developed by Blickle and Hogan. It has a complicated name, it's called the Socioanalytic Model of Values, Interests, and Motives. But on a very high level, it's very simple to understand. They said these three categories are getting along, getting ahead, and finding meaning. What do we mean by this? Getting along. As humans, we have always lived in groups, right? When you look at our hunter gatherers, hunter gatherer ancestors, it was critical for survival to live in groups. So there is a natural motivation in all of us to be able to get along because it's critical for survival. But at the same time, every group also has a certain hierarchy, right? That was probably, our ancestors had this, but we still see this today when you look into maybe the church, companies, government, there's always a hierarchy, there is an unequal distribution of power. And oftentimes the higher up you are in the organization, it comes with certain benefits, right? So maybe it comes also from our evolution where when you were higher in the hierarchy, you would be the first who gets access to food, who can choose their mating partners, right? But so, still today, we may have certain privileges when we are higher in the hierarchy. And then there is also this aspect of finding meaning that can be, again, many aspects to it. People may find meaning in helping others, others find meaning in religion. 

[27:32] And I think the key aspect here is, again, that when we look at those, the seeds of that, they are in all of us. But they may be developed differently in different people. So, some people, this theme around getting along is much stronger than getting ahead. So if you work with somebody who is rather altruistic, and then you want to motivate them with the carrot of a higher senior role, they might not find intrigued with this, right?

[28:10] Martin: It's like the example you gave early on in this episode, about your colleague that got really demotivated by the monetary reward.

[28:19] Gerrit: Yeah, yeah. But other people, and we see this often in politics, we don't need to mention names here, but for them, this getting ahead seems almost to be the sole purpose in life. So here we need to see again, we come back to what you said earlier. Yeah, this, as a leader, how, let me rephrase that.

[28:41] Actually, the question I asked in the beginning, we can't really say, or we can't answer the question, how do I motivate my team or how do I motivate people? The correct question needs to be. how can I motivate each individual person?

[28:58] Martin: And, and I'm, I'm just quickly reflecting this study by Hogan has then led to assessment tools like the Hogan assessment, and there are other assessment tools. And of course, that could be used as one way. to better understand and also then have a dialogue with my team member about what motivates him or her and using this as a language. 

[29:22] Gerrit: Yep. 

[29:23] Martin: And I think that is where all these different models serve their purpose as a foundation of a conversation, of a dialogue.

[29:30] I'm thinking of looking at a practical aspect of motivation. I had a consulting mentor a long time ago, his name is Björn Ekenvall. And he, he was always very also intrigued by motivation and what makes people tick, what makes them take certain decisions. And we always talked about this in the context of change because we were both working with change management, right? What would motivate a person to change behavior and being part of change in an organization. And, and he always said, you know, you can't motivate people to perform. It's actually the other way around that when you help people to be successful, when you help people to perform, motivation will come as an outcome. And this becomes a self enforcing, a positive spiral.

[30:26] Gerrit: Mm.

[30:26] Martin: And, and, and in this way, I'm looking at performance as something really positive, people feeling successful, capable. And then there were a few aspects that is acting like a summary, I think, of what we have said.

[30:42] What we have said so many times now, the first aspect is, as a leader, I got to understand the individual. We got to listen and ask the questions: what makes you excited, what do you like to learn, what aspirations do you have? To talk about all these things related to your competency, to your ability, what makes you excited, related to the challenges that you have at work. To make sure that each individual is in the zone and that they get what they want from the time they put into work.

[31:14] Gerrit: Martin, I agree with you and at the same time I have one concern and that is the big question, if you ask these questions as a boss or a leader to the people you work with, how honest will they answer? I think in general it is possible when there is openness in the relationship, when you have also a culture where people are open. But I think sometimes, you know, I just recall one example where a good friend of mine, said, you know, actually is very happy where he's at, he enjoyed his job, but he had this concern also that if he told his boss, you know, I'm happy where I am, I can do this job for another ten years, that he said, well, that could be the end of his career.

[32:03] Martin: Mm.

[32:04] Gerrit: So I think, it's good to ask these questions, but I think also we need to be smart enough to observe people so that we can see. What motivates them? When, when can I see the sparkling in their eyes? When do I see that they do a job with, with joy and excitement? 

[32:26] Martin: I totally agree with you about the dialogue, the conversation, we need to start somewhere. And we might not, we might not get the best answer from the beginning, but I think when employees more and more feel that me as a leader has their best intention as my driver, then trust will be built. And perhaps this takes time, and I might not get very good answers from the beginning, but it's, it's, it's, it's a journey.

[32:57] Gerrit: Very true, Martin. Um, a mistake I see that many organizations make is that they move people in the organization like pieces on a chessboard. And then they are surprised that people may not be happy with where they were moved to. And you're perfectly right. Of course, we need to have this conversations that what we plan for the organization matches the plans of the individuals. 

[33:26] Martin: And I think the second thing that, that Björn talked a lot about is again, recognition, recognition and feedback. Through recognition and feedback is I really show as a leader that I care and that I as a leader have noticed your effort.

[33:43] Gerrit: Yes.

[33:43] Martin: And of course, it's both in terms of when you have successfully achieved a result, but also if you have struggled that I recognize your effort. And he always said, it's not a matter of the height of the target. If we have a really high target, it's a matter of when you will achieve it.

[34:04] Gerrit: Yeah.

[34:04] Martin: The third thing is then step aside, become an autonomy supporter, make sure that your team member has the tools, the processes that they need, make sure that they have the information that they need to make right decisions to be successful in their job. Then we talked a lot about the mastery aspect in developing, and I think it's not only about training, the real challenge here is to make sure every day has this person the optimum assignment, the optimum balance. It's challenging, they're developing on the job, it's motivating. It's not too easy, not too difficult. Another aspect that, that we talk a lot about is involvement, 

[34:52] Gerrit: hmm. 

[34:53] Martin: If we hire all these good people, they are experts, they are capable. They also want to be involved in, in the conversations about where is the business going, in solving the problems and making decisions, or at least contributing input to decisions. People want to be involved to feel important. 

[35:15] um, 

[35:16] Gerrit: it it is. And I think it's connected to so many other aspects of leadership. We spoke about utilizing the collective intelligence of the people in a, in a very fast paced and highly complex world. And I think it also comes back to recognition. When you mentioned this, I feel reminded of one of my, my bosses. So, I had in my corporate career a number of different bosses, and the one that stood out positively, I still remember this even though it's, already 20 years ago. Um, What contributed there to my motivation at work was that even though I was formally reporting to him, he never came across as a boss. I always felt like a discussion partner at eye level. We would oftentimes, before we went home, I would go to his office and then we would sit together and discuss what was going on in the organization. And I always felt not only involved but valued. So he was genuinely interested in my opinion and I felt, hey, we're really having a discussion at eye level here.

[36:28] And, I think, yeah, that is so immensely important. So this aspect of involving people, but also then through this involvement, recognizing them.

[36:39] Martin: feeling valued, feeling needed.

[36:42] Gerrit: Yeah.

[36:43] Martin: That, that is such a motivating factor, right? And the last aspect that I wanted to add here, really to show that you believe in people.

[36:53] Gerrit: Yeah. Yeah.

[36:55] Martin: many times when, when leaders delegate tasks. The delegation comes, but there are so many buts and ifs associated with it. So I get the feeling does this guy really trust this person or not? How do we lead to make people feel we trust in them, that we believe in their capability?

[37:18] Gerrit: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[37:19] Martin: And I think this is this famous study about the students, the Pygmalion effect, right? Can you remember that study, I can't remember it exactly, 

[37:28] Gerrit: Yeah, I remember the study and I have one practical example to illustrate that. So the study is from the 1960s, it's a Harvard study, and it was sort of an intelligence or aptitude test. And then based on the results of the tests, the teachers were told. which students were expected to bloom academically and intellectually, so based on this test result, right, it was a kind of prediction. And then a year later, the students were retested. And what a surprise, indeed those students who were identified as the, let me call them high potentials, they really showed intellectual gains and they were described positively by the teachers in so many ways. 

[38:21] But there's an irony to this story and that is that this term of, let me call them high potentials, this was purely randomly assigned, so not based on the real test results. So let's say they, they test Martin and they test Gerrit and Martin has the great result and, and Gerrit's result is not so great. Then they would go to the teacher and perhaps say, yeah, you know, Martin and Gerrit they are both these high potentials, so you need to pay special attention to them because they will flourish. So the moral of the story is then that, it was actually the behavior of the teachers, based on their expectations, that led to improved test results, not, not really the predisposition of the children. 

[39:13] And my real life example that I still remember very well, and I may have mentioned it in an earlier podcast episode because it still impresses me so much. I was still in the corporate world and there was one team in the organization that, what should I say, I often had difficulties getting along with them. I was not really impressed with the performance of these people. And then one day, they got a new boss, and then I was very surprised how this boss behaved.

[39:45] For instance, we would have a meeting and we would talk about a very important project and then this person said, yeah, so and so will take care of it. And I said, oh really, I'm not so impressed with so and so, right? I'm not sure he or she can handle it. And I saw then many of these examples where this leader would, so to say, in public, in meetings, express the confidence, the trust he has in his team members.

[40:16] And guess what, within a couple of months, I could see these people develop. I could see how they improve tremendously. So this is not just one, one academic study, there is a real life example. So if I put it in my own words, if you treat people at work like heroes, it certainly increases the chances that they become heroes. If you treat people like children, don't be surprised if they behave like children.

[40:48] Martin: Absolutely. Now we, we always end our episodes with some time for reflection. And I think today we have talked about so many different aspects of motivation. So of course there is a lot of different areas to reflect on.

[41:07] Gerrit: yeah. Yeah, Martin, if I can make a start, I could simply summarize these three themes that Daniel Pink identified. So, in terms of of autonomy, given the framework, the conditions that you're operating in, how can you give people more freedom at work in terms of how they do the work, when they work, who they work with? 

[41:36] And in terms of mastery, how can you support people's development? 

[41:43] Purpose. Does your company have a compelling purpose and vision that goes beyond just making money? I think that summarizes my three reflection questions for today.

[42:01] Martin: And I'm thinking a step back. If wanting to motivate people at work, I would think first about what motivates myself as a leader and perhaps in what priority, in what sequence, what drives me. Because my thinking then is that What drives me, might not be exactly what drives other people. So that I, by reflecting on my own motivators, I can then also be more open and not jumping to conclusion or being on autopilot, trying to motivate other people in the same way as myself.

[42:47] Gerrit: Yeah, beautiful, Martin, and that is, in fact, what I often start a coaching engagement with as a coaching exercise. Once people then identify or realize that what motivates them is, is really a unique set of motivators. And then once they go through this exercise, they realize clearly, ah, and now I understand why it's different for everybody else.

[43:11] Beautiful. Anything to add?

[43:14] Martin: No, thank you, it was great talking to you again, Gerrit, as always.

[43:19] Gerrit: Likewise, Martin. So, this wraps up today's episode. Don't forget to subscribe on your preferred platform to stay updated with our latest content. And sharing the podcast with friends, leaving a positive review or comment, or sharing it on social media helps us a lot to grow the show. For more insights about our work, please visit our website at, that's all in one word. And we also value your feedback, your questions, your comments. So please feel free to reach out to us at hello at

[43:57] Thanks for listening and bye for now.