Meeting Needs

Read Bob and Anne’s column in the McHenry Business Journal

From June 2007 McHenry Business Journal –

Tasks less tedious when personal needs are met
– Anne Ward and Bob Sandidge

Why do we do what we do? Who makes us do it?

Do we use the same motivation to get ourselves to go to the kitchen for a late-night snack as we do to take out the trash?

Most of us would agree that there is a difference between doing something we want to do versus something we are required to do. If taking out the trash met the same needs as going for ice cream, would we be looking for more trash to take out?

Our level of motivation is in direct proportion to a need being met.

What do you have trouble motivating yourself to do? Think about that and ask yourself, what makes this difficult? Then ask, what need of mine does it meet when I do it? Who else benefits? What else is made possible by my action, for me and for others?

When you think again about the task coupled with the results, do you feel lighter? You might have a sense of gratitude that you are able to make that possible. Perhaps you even feel motivated to get up and do it.

We humans are need-fulfilling systems. No motivation is required to do what we love to do. In fact, research shows that when we are rewarded for doing things we like to do, it might affect our motivation.

Psychologist Edward Deci did research with two groups to learn the effect of extrinsic rewards on learning.

Group one received money for solving a puzzle; the second group received no reward. Afterward, both groups were left alone and secretly watched.

The group that was paid stopped playing; the group not paid kept playing. The reward appeared to turn play into work. Rewards and recognition are important, but as the research shows, when rewards are used to motivate people, they might not work as planned.

Interestingly, when managers are asked what motivates their employees, they rank money at the top. Studies, however, have shown that employees rank money well behind such factors as interesting work or good people to work with.

How do we use this knowledge to motivate ourselves and others? Pay attention to needs.

People don’t need extra motivation to do what they want to do – and they want to do things that meet their needs.

But what about things such as taking out the trash, things that just have to be done? Sometimes people don’t immediately see the connection between a task and their own needs. A good coach or manager can help by drawing their attention to how completing the task satisfies their needs.

Have they considered how many others benefit from what they do? At the very least, there are those who benefit from the paycheck they bring home.

What does that paycheck make possible? A home, cars, clothes, food, gifts. And what do those things make possible? Things such as mobility, warmth, nourishment and fun.

And what do those make possible? Security, comfort, and community.

The connection becomes clear: By performing a task, you are making yourself and those you care for more secure, comfortable, and connected to others. Can you feel the motivation in that?

Knowing our own needs and taking a genuine interest in the needs of others will help us develop motivational strategies.

Psychologists tell us that people have a fundamental need for autonomy, so the opportunity is to create a workplace that is as democratic as possible, where people can participate in decisions that affect them.

Psychologists tell us that people have a basic need to feel connected and to belong, so our challenge is to create a workplace that facilitates collaboration and community building.

Psychologists tell us that people have a need to feel competent, so the management challenge is not to “make” people do a fixed series of tasks, but to examine the tasks together to determine, based on goals, the tasks to be doing.

Business psychologist Frederick Herzberg said it well in an Industry Week article: “If you want people motivated to do a good job, give them a good job to do.”

– Anne Ward and Bob Sandidge, owners of Creative Core Inc. in Algonquin, are marketing and media consultants. They can be reached by e-mail at