Conducting 1-on-1 meetings with my team is a regular part of my job, and it’s a part that I look forward to week after week. Aside from the opportunity to make a positive difference in a co-worker’s career and life, I often find the 1-on-1 a very conducive time for me to self-reflect and somehow create structure to the knowledge I’ve had for a while but never really gave much thought to.
One of the things that often comes up during 1-on-1’s is the topic of learning beyond what’s required for the job. Everyone wants to do it. Unfortunately, few are able to actually put in the time to move forward with it. The word “motivation” comes up often as something that seems so hard to find.
This challenged me to really think about motivation – a concept often taken for granted, and a binary value as far as I was concerned – either you were motivated or you weren’t. But I realize there are layers to it and it’s worth taking apart piece by piece to find out how it works.
Yes, I’m often just winging it when it comes to explaining my perspective on things, and fortunately, that often comes with the side effect of accidentally creating an organized thought. On this particular topic, I came up with a 4-R framework of components I would look into to find out how one might find motivation.
The way I see it, the primary thing that drives “motivation” is reason. Why do we work? I believe there are no right or wrong reasons. There definitely could be an absence of it and that’s how a lot of work eventually finds its way into the bin. A clear reason paves a good path to achieving your goal and will serve as a guidepost to every decision you make along the way.
Find a good reason that makes sense to you and keep that on top of your mind every time you work on something. Don’t invest too much time on anything without fully understanding why you’re doing it. With a good reason in mind, you’re bound to find something that’s worth finishing.
Habit is a very strong motivator and, by definition, one that doesn’t really take much brain power to carry out. When a task becomes a regular part of your day, you build “muscle memory” and ultimately, there’s little cause to end up not doing it.
Take note though that there’s a difference between making time for tasks and choosing the right time for tasks. If you’ve been trying to integrate some habits into your day but still end up skipping them, think about whether you’ve chosen the best time to do it. Find a schedule when your mind is receptive to the job and your body has the right amount of energy, and start building your routine from there.
3. Responsibility & Accountability
Yes, I’ll admit “accountability” is the word that best suits what I want to say, but “3Rs and an A” just doesn’t sound as catchy. In any case, I feel it’s very important that you have accountability to someone else regarding the work you’re doing. That adds a pretty powerful “I-don’t-want-to-embarrass-myself” layer to your reason (see number 1).
That someone could be one who would benefit from the work you’re doing, or a teammate whom you’re working with who can check up on you. If no one makes a deal about when or what you deliver, set a date yourself and make an unsolicited promise. Or maybe consider whether what you’re working on is really worth the effort? Not being able to establish accountability to anyone for your work might mean you ought to be working on something else that has more impact.
In a broad sense of the word, a reward is any tangible result you get from the work that you do. Take time to consider what end you would like to see out of your work, and what benefit would it have on you and those that matter to you if you accomplish it.
Financial gain, esteem and praise, self-fulfillment – seek whatever reward is most meaningful to you. Don’t worry about seeming materialistic – I believe everyone is, to some degree. If you haven’t given much thought about what you value, this could be a good time to reflect on it and choose to pursue what gives you the best chance of attaining it.
Of course, the promise of reward often comes with risk and that needs to be managed. Here are my thoughts on risk management and how I approach it.
This is by no means a step by step guide to guaranteeing things get done, but personally, the framework has served to me as a good starting point of inquiry into where I might help someone (myself included) find that necessary push to make things happen. Hopefully, it helps you as well.
Dexter is an engineering manager at Synacy, a co-founder of ATeam Business Software Solutions, and founder of TechManagement.Life. He loves to share his experiences and thoughts on managing software teams and running businesses.