BOLD: 3 Key Areas to Motivate and Inspire Employees
Abraham Maslow famously positioned the hierarchy of needs as an early motivation theory that drives human behavior. Though we’ve come to know that each level on the hierarchy doesn’t need to be fulfilled before moving to the next level, his model has merit to today. The pinnacle of the hierarchy is self-actualization.
Self-actualization is the iterative, unending pursuit of becoming your best self who contributes to the greater good. Such a pursuit is marked by constantly remaining in a learning loop – the desire for achievement and wisdom through the limitless desire to be a better you.
Self-actualization is the iterative, unending pursuit of becoming your best self who contributes to the greater good. Such a pursuit is marked by constantly remaining in a learning loop
It’s at the top of the pyramid that bold leaders focus their energies and are impassioned to lead people with growth central to their intentions. See, self-actualization isn’t for gurus, philosopher or scholars. Self-actualization is what the difference-makers use to fuel their efforts. For leaders, self-actualization is the pay dirt that ignites the noble pursuit of helping others to unleash their talents and apply their wisdom to solve business problems, to unify teams for a shared cause. In the noble pursuit of making life better for others we find the motivation that outlasts the limited influence of money.
It used to be that successful leaders exploited the human capital of its employees for profit gains. Now successful leaders inspire and motivate people to be willing, bold, daring, audacious, vulnerable, diligent in applying themselves in order to make a difference for customers. The shift is in how we motivate to ultimately make a profit. No longer can we focus on profit and find a way to fit and force people into boxes to make a buck. Bold leaders turn away from the Industrial Era mindset of treating people as resources. Instead, bold leaders treat people as people with a story to contribute to the value generation all businesses must create to thrive.
In the noble pursuit of making life better for others we find the motivation that outlasts the limited influence of money.
Bold leaders focus on three key areas to inspire, motivate and develop people. The intention? To help people on their journey to self-actualization and to create value for the organization.
In his new book, Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek explains that belonging evokes trust. Belonging creates a shared bond that the team uses to come together and help one another do meaningful work, even protect itself from outside threats. For if any of us are to feel a sense of belonging, we need to believe we are valued and that our ideas and work matter. That the work matters to those who benefit, to those who are evaluating our work, to our own self is a bold leadership belief that must occupy the minds and manifest in actions of those leading organizations and people.
My friend and CEO of Menlo Innovation talks about the importance of pumping out fear of an organization. When we feel threatened our lizard brain wants us to flee, fight or we freeze. These are no mental capacities to do our best work. Maslow’s second most basic need is safety. Leaders must create a safe working environment to allow people’s best thinking to flourish when solving business problems and creating new solutions to remain relevant and competitive.
Purpose for a leader is a lightening rod to inspire and motivate for a cause bigger than the work itself.
Though Maslow didn’t directly talk about purpose, I assert that it’s part of the journey to self-actualization. Without an anchor in why we exist and why we do what we do, we fall adrift into potentially misguided, meaningless work. We fall adrift in intentionally becoming our best self. Without purpose-clarity, our decisions about how we can make a difference in the world and in the relationships we value lack consistency. Purpose for a leader is a lightening rod to inspire and motivate for a cause bigger than the work itself.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs may not be the motivation theory du jour these days, but its message in totality is still relevant. As employees demand meaningful work, want organizations to model local stewardship of resources, and be a contributor to local communities, Maslow’s hierarchy remains relevant in business. Such inputs to a worthy pursuit seek to make life better for the myriad of stakeholders a business must satisfy. Furthermore, self-actualization, safety and the other rungs in Maslow’s hierarchy are essential to motivate and inspire employees to bring their best selves to their work, and to unleash their talents while working.
Maslow’s influence on leading today is simple: we need leaders who are willing to help employees discover their best self so that we can get their best work.
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