Last week, Seth Godin finished the week with a remarkable blog talking about the link between the amount of money somebody is paid and the effort they put forth. I read it and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Take a look at Seth’s blog and really think about what he is saying. My takeaway question is why can’t we be just as motivated doing jobs we are paid for, and deliver a peak effort, as when doing volunteer work?
When you take a close look at the “3” (volunteer or not paid) on the money graph, even though the range is quite variable, the peak effort can be higher than a highly paid employee. I see this all the time in our industry. People talk about being so tired doing the regular parts of their job and then tell me they are walking a trillion miles for breast cancer over the weekend. People will give up their vacation time to help with camps for kids with various diseases. When I ran a marketing group, the most exciting time was seeing the team plan for a “Memory Walk” for Alzheimer’s disease. Think about how excited you get when doing your volunteer stuff, whether that is coaching little league, working in a food pantry, mentoring school kids or serving on nonprofit boards. Does Seth’s graph ring true?
As I was thinking about this volunteer phenomenon, I came across Scott Keller’s HBR Network Blog and it just seems like the two tied together. In his blog he talks about the lottery concept and how much more valuable people thought their tickets were if they selected the numbers rather than having them randomly selected. People think they are at least five times as valuable, even though they have an equal chance of winning! He then gives some examples of how this concept is used in business. When people have a say in their future and feel they have control of their lives, motivation really goes up!
The simple concept may be about alignment. When people think they are doing something valuable for a cause they believe in, and if they feel they have a say, and are an integral part of the success, then money isn’t needed to motivate. We have all been taught that money can demotivate but not really motivate. People need to be paid their worth or they get demotivated, but to positively motivate someone it takes so much more.
Everyone complains about CEO pay and how out of line it is with reality. That may be true but the funny thing is that I have never met a CEO who is driven by the money. They are motivated because they control their own destiny. They set the vision and the goals. They determine the rules of the game and know the success and failure of their company is heavily determined by their decisions. It is all about power and influence and about really being able to make a difference.
I have been associated with a lot of for profit and nonprofit endeavors over the years and quite frankly they are not as different as society wants to make them. Both are trying to survive, accomplish goals, help society and provide meaningful work for their employees. Those running profit companies should study very closely what motivates people to work or volunteer for nonprofits. They should then look at what motivates them and make sure these things happen from top to bottom in their own organizations. Most recognize how critical vision, values, mission and even corporate strategies are to motivation but they don’t pay enough attention as to how these are implemented at all layers of the organization. Does everyone feel empowered or is control captured in certain layers of the company? Is everyone doing work they feel is worthwhile or do only certain people get that privilege? Does everyone see how the pieces of the company all fit together and how vital their role is to the success of the company or are there people who just think they are working so others get the glory?
On the flip side, it is important that everyone take the personal responsibility to understand how their role fits into the bigger picture. They need to view their work just as they would a volunteer commitment. Work should be chosen based on the vision, values, mission and strategy of the organization rather than the money they can make. I know in these times that is very idealistic, but it is where all the trouble begins. If you don’t believe in what you are doing and those you are doing it with, all the money in the world can’t buy your maximum effort.
If you didn’t need the money, would you do your job as a volunteer? That is a huge question and perhaps the ultimate key to motivation and peak performance.