Making Progress Matters Most

I found this article by John M. Kamensky to be interesting:

Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, in a recent Harvard Business Review article called “What Really Motivates Workers,” tell managers: “The key to motivation turns out to be largely within your control.”

Their advice? “Scrupulously avoid impeding progress.”

Amabile and Kramer surveyed more than 600 managers and then conducted a multiyear study of hundreds of knowledge workers, asking them to keep daily diaries to discover the top motivator of performance. Not surprisingly, managers and workers came to different conclusions.

Managers were asked to rank the impact of five workplace factors commonly considered significant motivators: recognition, incentives, interpersonal support, support for making progress and clear goals. “Recognition for good work” topped their list.

However, the recognition factor was ranked dead last by workers. The researchers found that workers ranked “support for making progress” as their No. 1 motivator...

Amabile and Kramer found that “making progress” was linked to 76 percent of employees’ reported “best days.”

I agree with this sentiment. I am most motivated when I can make progress. What do you think?


Guilherme Macedo (@macedogm) said…
I agree too. Some weeks ago I experienced this in work, after we got past some impediments and we were able to resolve some problems, you really get motivated and things start to flow much better. And I would also state clear goals as my second motivator.

I really liked this quote from the researchers “Recognition can’t happen every day. You can, however, see that progress happens every day.”
I agree as well, especially if you work for a large company (I work for BT). Recognition is expected for a job well done at the end of a project or quarter -- that's table stakes. What really makes a difference is management that clears roadblocks for you and provides the tools and investment you need so you can accomplish your goals. Accomplishment is the only way you can feel you are making a difference.
Anonymous said…
I think a lot of people who get into management roles without the proper education bring an insecurity to the job which causes them to think that management is the same thing as interference. The more they interject themselves into processes, the more they feel like they're "managing" when really they're micromanaging. The cause of this problem is nepotism in that nepotism is most often the cause of underqualified people ending up in management roles. I think a lot of people also fail to take stock of whether not they have motivating personalities when choosing a career whose main role is to motivate people. A COACH who makes everyone feel deflated or crappy tends to last like one season at best in most cases, whereas people can skate by as unmotivating micromanagers for decades on end without proper skills and peer review removing them from their roles.
Saad Kadhi said…
I do agree with the study conclusions and as a knowledge worker, making progress (and learning in the process of doing so) is what makes me waking up every workday and be happy to go to work and fight the good fight.

Like Guilherme Macedo, I also really like that quote :-)

Thanks for bringing this to our attention Richard.
Bill Bennett said…
It's my experience that people are often promoted to management roles for the wrong reasons and over time large organisations evolve, or should that be devolve, dumber management teams. These people may be able to say the right things when reporting up the chain, but are singularly unsuited for motivating and mentoring the people who report to them.

So, while it's right to say impeding progress damages motivation, this is just one aspect of a wider problem.
Anonymous said…
This would be very much in keeping with the message in the Jim Collins book "Good to Great".

An important point of the book was that level 5 leaders strived to get "the right people on the bus" and the "right" people are your most important asset. Assuming such types are self-starters, they likely would not be the type to blindly accept or appreciate bureaucratic bungling, paperwork and adherence to stupid policies and procedures that had little common sense as their foundation as opposed to management inertia or ego gratification.

These people value daily job satisfaction and obviously this applies to all areas, not just security.
jbmoore said…
There is nothing more frustrating than seeing a work related problem, cobbling together an easy solution that works that makes everyone's lives a little easier, handing it to management, and then being told that it can't be used for some trivially technical reason such as "the virtual machine can not share files with the host and we want that" when you can use scp for file transfers between host and vm, and file sharing is a security hole if the vm is to be used as a sandbox. Such roadblocks not only cause anguish and frustration, but they erode morale because worker input is not only not appreciated, but it is rejected by management. Morale is further eroded if fear of job loss is used as a motivator. Worker opinions and efforts being dismissed or outright rejected followed by threats of job loss for not meeting quotas pretty much kill the desire to want to go to work after a while. Yet, poor managers are quick to use the stick rather than the carrot.

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