A topic that I'm often asked about is how to motivate people. Executives are always looking for ways to improve the attitude and performance of their team. My clients will tell me about how they've met and worked with each of their team members to get them to improve their performance but can’t seem to make a difference.

The answer is that you can't motivate people. It's not that your people are a peculiar breed or that they’re an apathetic bunch. The fact is that you can't motivate anyone! Motivation only comes from within. People are only self-motivated. Think of it this way: If you get someone to do something they don't want to do, its coercion. People will only do what they choose to do. Don't take my word for it. Use your own experience with people as your best example. People will generally perform only to a level that matters to them. No amount of threatening, pleading or rewarding will motivate them into action.

Is that, then, the end of the story? Is there no hope for moving people beyond their current state? Not at all. There is a way to make a difference. And it's not a theory. I've seen it work on a regular basis. The key to getting people to rise above their present level of performance is to 1) develop a company culture, 2) recruit to a purpose, and then 3) appeal to that purpose to bring out the best in your people' performance and drive.

Developing a Culture
Most companies have policies and procedures, employee manuals and guidelines, effective marketing messages, and beautiful statements of mission/vision/etc. mounted on the wall. All of those are well and good, but they don't address the matter which has the greatest impact on their business and their teams. They don't address the Purpose of the organization and as such, have no yardstick against which to measure decisions, policies and strategies.

In the absence of a clear Purpose - the "WHY" of the organization - people are simply hired to fill vacancies, policies are developed which are unclear and don't further the attainment of a purpose, systems are lacking, actions are taken which would otherwise be in direct conflict with the Purpose of the organization, and decisions are made inconsistently, without regard to the culture of the organization.

In contrast, a business which has a clear Purpose ("Why"), a Mission ("What"), and a set of Values ("How"), hires smarter, has a consistent set of policies that support its Purpose, has a yardstick to measure its decisions against, has an easier time attracting and retaining the right people, and has the means to develop and deliver a clear marketing message.

Let’s define and discuss the implications of having Purpose, Mission and Values in your organization.

Purpose is the "WHY" of the equation. It defines why we do what we do. Each decision and policy should take the business closer to achieving its "WHY".

Mission is the "WHAT" of the equation. It defines what the business will be doing to achieve its Purpose. Staying true to the broad "WHAT" will allow the business to focus on its core activities and strengths.

Values are the "HOW" of the equation. Values define how the Mission will be carried out in an effort to achieve the Purpose.

Purpose defines why we do what we do. It defines why we go to work each day. Without purpose, people just go through the motions and as most of us know, there’s a great difference between activity and achievement. Having a clear purpose creates a yardstick, so to speak, to measure our decisions against. It helps us become passionate, helps us to select among the many options presented to us, helps us make better hiring decisions, and keeps us on track. It’s possible to succeed without a clear purpose, but having one speeds and magnifies the results.

When a business has a clearly defined purpose it begins to act as a magnet, attracting the kind of people who will further the purpose; people who are like-minded. Not only will having a purpose attract the right people, but it will also act to retain them. This is the power behind the success of many not-for-profit organizations. Although they often are unable to pay their people great sums of money, they continue to attract and retain people who are dedicated and who work hard to achieve the purpose of the organization. While your organization’s purpose may not be as altruistic as a not-for-profit’s purpose, it definitely plays an important, almost critical, role.

Author's Bio: 

Written by Michael Beck, “Head Zookeeper” at www.ClientMonkey.com, a marketing strategies website dedicated to getting more clients, making more money, and having more fun! Receive a FREE program on recruiting & prospecting success at: www.PowerRecruitingandProspecting.com
Permission to reprint with full attribution. © 2008 Exceptional Leadership, Inc.