07 July 2016

Why you should think about motivation

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There once was a building supervisor managing three bricklayers who were helping him to construct a building.

They were all equally qualified, were of a similar build and strength, were allocated the same number of bricks, and were constructing similar structures.

After a while, the supervisor noticed something strange. At the end of each shift, Alan would only finish laying half his bricks.

Ben would finish laying three quarters of his bricks, and Carl, all of his.

The supervisor tried various ways to motivate Alan to increase his productivity.

He showed Alan how to lay bricks differently. Reminded him it was his job to finish his allocation for each shift, and showed him the building schedule. Pointed out that the others were working faster than him.

Alan would speed up his work for a little while, then revert to his previous capacity.

The supervisor tried to motivate Ben to increase his productivity, too.

Showed him a faster process for laying bricks. Reminded him it was his job to finish his allocation for each shift, and showed him the building schedule too. Pointed out that Carl was achieving more than him.

Ben would speed up his work for a little while, then revert to his previous capacity.

“How do I get them all to work as well as Carl, or better?”
The supervisor hatched a plan and took action, and this is what he found out:

  • All three bricklayers thought they were working at an acceptable speed.
  • Alan thought of his job as ‘laying bricks’.
  • Ben thought of his job as ‘building walls’.
  • Carl thought of his job as ‘creating a home’.

The supervisor asked Alan and Ben, what would make this job more meaningful for you and motivate you to work faster?

  • Alan said, “Well, I suppose if you paid me double I would find it more meaningful.”
  • Ben said, “Hey, if you played some countdown music on the worksite and made it a friendly competition where the winner gets a free case of beer, I’ll work harder for ya.”

With this, I invite you to think about how you empower your employees. Through education? Knowledge sharing? Fun events? Praise? Financial reward?