Career

The 3 Motivators That Will Make You A Better Manager

Work has become more creative and far less routine, making traditional management theories outdated and obsolete. Autonomy, mastery and purpose are the new drivers that set brilliant bosses apart.

By Natalie Cornish

Career

Work has become more creative and far less routine, making traditional management theories outdated and obsolete. Autonomy, mastery and purpose are the new drivers that set brilliant bosses apart.

By Natalie Cornish

Good management used to mean incentivising staff with money and keeping a close eye on their performance. Now work has taken on a different meaning, and employees are rightfully demanding more from their roles and their bosses.

As Daniel H. Pink explains in his seminal book on modern management, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, in the twentieth century many jobs were “algorithmic” or routine. Roles, such as accounting, where you did the same set of tasks over and over again in one set way. Then, with the development of computers and the advent of the internet, much of this routine blue-collar work could be completed “off-shore wherever it can be done cheapest” either by low-paid workers or specially-designed software. This left “heuristic” or creative work to fill the void. And that meant a change in the work on which modern economies now depend.

“Routine work can be outsourced and automated; artistic, empathic, non-routine work generally cannot,” Pink says. But there’s more to it than that. “Management 2.0”, or the idea that external rewards and punishments are key to getting the most from employees, can actually have the opposite effect on workers who use the right-side of their brain to problem-solve, create or innovate. Researchers call this “the intrinsic motivation principle of creativity” or the idea that internal rewards and satisfaction far outweighs external praise.

Add to this the fact that many of us now seek “inherently enjoyable” roles in rewarding companies to provide “optimal experiences” and the dynamic of the workforce has significantly altered. “For growing numbers of people, work is often creative, interesting and self-directed rather than unrelentingly routine, boring, and other-directed,” Pink explains. Old management theories now appear as outdated as the nine to five.

 

“[Workers] are not resources, they’re partners. And partners, like all of us, need to direct their own lives. Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.”

 

So how do we manage in the modern world? Pink says heuristic employees in forward-thinking companies need three key factors from their managers to thrive: autonomy, mastery and purpose. He calls this as ‘Management 3.0’. Autonomy means feeling empowered to work with choice without being forced to conform to strict workplace rules, while mastery is the desire to continuously improve through learning and practice. Purpose is the belief in working towards something bigger than themselves. All three go against traditional management hypothesis, so how do we instill them?

Pink recommends rethinking traditional methods of control to allow workers more autonomy, while still providing an active support network. Many tech companies allow employees to work flexible hours remotely, have done away with strict dress codes, and actively encourage them to work on their own side projects for self-development. “Our basic nature is to be curious and self-directed,” he says. “[Workers] are not resources, they’re partners. And partners, like all of us, need to direct their own lives. Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.”

Anna, a freelance journalist, says she feels far more motivated working for herself on projects she enjoys – even though she earns less money this way. “Obviously I still have rent and bills to pay so I have to strike the balance, but I feel a real sense of satisfaction having spent the day researching and writing a feature that I’m proud of,” she says. “My editor knows what suits my writing style and the topics I’m best at so commissions me with that in mind. She’s there to support me if I need it, but I can also manage my time and schedule in a way that works best for me so I’m more motivated to hit deadlines and provide good copy.”

Illustrations: Patti Andrews

That autonomy is important, Careers coach and spokesperson for the Careers Development Association Australia (CDAA), Rebecca Fraser says. “Autonomy is one of nine researched drivers that is fulfilled by being trusted to make independent decisions, and trusted to do our roles within limited supervision,” she explains. “If this is something that is an important driver to you, if you are not in an autonomous role then you will be challenged by your level of motivation and satisfaction at work.” She adds: “The future world of work and the future of businesses that will be successful in this environment need to attract these individuals as they are generally fast paced, strategic and willing to give anything a go if trusted.”

Studies suggest Pink and Fraser are right; autonomy can increase productivity and psychological wellbeing, while workers have also reported less burnout and higher levels of job satisfaction. And what about mastery and purpose? Pink describes mastery as “the desire to get better and better at something that matters”. This form of engagement is inherently important to productivity and personal fulfilment. Psychologists have found that when people are enthralled by what they are doing, the activity becomes its own reward. They call this “flow”.

“In flow, goals are clear,” Pink explains. “You have to reach the top of the mountain, hit the ball across the net, or mold the clay just right. Feedback is immediate. The challenge wasn’t too easy. Nor was it too difficult. That balance produced a degree of focus and satisfaction that easily surpassed other, more quotidian, experiences. In flow, people lived so deeply in the moment, and felt so utterly in control, that their sense of time, place, and even self melted away.” Now, forward-thinking companies are designing their systems to incorporate “flow”. That means more frequent feedback from managers and clearer objectives from the outset.

 

“The most deeply motivated people not to mention those who are most productive and satisfied hitch their desires to a cause larger than themselves.”

 

Purpose is the final of the three motivators. Put simply it’s the objective to achieve more or as Pink puts it “the most deeply motivated people not to mention those who are most productive and satisfied hitch their desires to a cause larger than themselves”. In practice this means volunteering outside of the office to give back (something baby boomers have been doing for years), or seeking out companies that stand for something – whether that’s environmental awareness (a big driver for millennials) or an onus on corporate responsibility. Most of us want to step away from our desks knowing we’ve made a difference.

“The two bookend generations are redefining success and are willing to accept a radically ‘remixed’ set of rewards,” Pink explains. “Neither generation rates money as the most important form of compensation… If they can’t find that satisfying package of rewards in an existing organisation, they’ll create a venture of their own.”

With these three motivators and an increase in workers taking on hybrid roles with their own goals in mind, some may question whether management is an outdated concept in itself. Pink would agree. “Perhaps it’s time to toss the very word ‘management’ onto the linguistic ash heap,” he says. “This era doesn’t call for better management. It calls for a renaissance of self-direction.” Until then, “Management 3.0” appears to be the theory modern workplaces, and workers, so desperately need.