On performance, motivation and engagement

People improve their own performance.  It’s an individual accountability.  Leaders can provide the ways and the means for people to do that, but leaders cannot do it for them.
Similarly, people motivate themselves.  Leaders cannot motivate individuals.  People can be forced to do something by fear, peer pressure, or incentive, but that’s not motivation — it’s control.  It’s what Harvard professor Herzberg decades ago called a “KITA” (kick in the ass.)  KITAs are effective at getting movement, but not high-level and sustained performance.
While many managers and companies continue to use KITAs, others are obsessed with employee “engagement”–a term that has made the rounds since the mid-1990’s.  Much of what passes for engagement is control in one form or another, or entitlements that may increase employee moods, but which don’t translate into better performance.
The best way to improve performance, motivation and engagement is to make the work itself meaningful, stimulating, challenging, and rewarding.

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