FOR THE STUDENT of management and organizational behavior, the upcoming telecasts of the Red Sox spring training (yes, spring really is just around the corner!) provide an excellent forum for learning by observing.
The dramatic changes that have recently taken place on the team mandate a new strategic approach to building a distinctly successful ball club. Indeed, the Red Sox could well be the best team that money didn’t buy.
I have often been asked by various teams, “How can I really motivate these players?” Too often coaches are faced with self-absorbed individuals who seem to care little about collaboration and mutual encouragement, and have a different sense of “team” than the one that is needed to bring out the collective best in those around them.
This is a special time for Boston Red Sox baseball (and for the entire sport, for that matter). A number of events have had a significant impact on the organization from the head office to the team on the field. Ironically, these kinds of challenges present a great opportunity to strengthen clubs from the inside out by focusing on creating and sustaining the most intrinsically-rewarding atmosphere possible.
Intrinsic motivation is the “I’m glad I’m here” type of drive one can experience. It has us feeling “this is as good as work gets.” In this ideal environment, colleagues encourage each other to be the best they can be.
How can this be accomplished? Well, it varies from team to team. The techniques that work for the Red Sox may not work in your particular workplace environment, but you can be sure of this: People are people, and individuals respond favorably to having their innate motivational needs satisfied. And this translates to helping them develop and sustain a self-motivated state, for themselves and for those with whom they work.
Everyone can say it’s all about money. However, it need not be. Motivationally speaking, there is something powerful about looking forward to showing up for work each day, greeted by people who are pulling for you to succeed. Extrinsic motivation, by contrast, is about an over-reliance on outside rewards for motivating productivity. It results in excessive pressure and undermines collaboration. It promotes internal competition, rather than a spirit of working together.
Worst of all, extrinsic motivation often results in amotivation — a lack of self-motivation, culminating in poor performance, a sense of futility in even trying to meet imposed goals, and possibly disruptive behavior.
A leader’s communication style has a big impact on whether a team becomes intrinsically motivated (“I really enjoy being here”), extrinsically motivated (“I’m in this for the money and fame”) or amotivated (“How little can I get away with doing?”). Better performance results from an athlete being “in flow” — the natural state of engagement associated with intrinsic motivation.
This is true in other organizational settings, as well. Athletes call this “playing in the zone.” Teams characterized by this condition play to their full ability, often pulling off dramatic upsets. To understand this motivational dynamic, a coach must accept that he or she cannot truly motivate a player, but can provide an atmosphere in which it occurs.
Relatedness is an important component of motivation and entails feeling connected, both sensing care from and for others, being mutually reliant on members of one’s team. Coaches and managers do well to take a genuine interest in each individual’s life, meaning not just their occupation. Building a culture of trust and integrity is imperative.
Part of the need for competence or mastery — to be optimally challenged by goals mutually set — entails receiving evaluative feedback, both positive and negative. To ensure optimal growth there should be a two-way conversation with an encouraging tone.
Allowing individuals to have influence over what they do and how it gets done is an essential element of self-motivation. The need for autonomy is met when one is given a voice in the decision-making process. Having rules and structures in place for training and practices, on the field and off the field, are necessary. It is best, though, if an explanation for the rules is offered.
So, turn on the games and prepare to learn by observing interactions between players and coaches. Look for revealing words in media reports coming from members of a team. “We need to win,” speaks of a tone of pressure. “We really want to win,” reflects a more internalized goal.
It could prove interesting to see how this exercise provides insight on how best to motivate the team over which you have influence.
You have the ability to affect motivation and morale in your environment in a positive way.