Best-Selling Author Susan Fowler Releases New Book, "Why Motivating People Doesn't Work and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging"

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In her new book, Fowler builds upon the latest scientific research on the nature of human motivation to explain why traditional approaches don’t work. More importantly, she provides a cutting-edge framework, model, and course of action to help leaders shape a workplace where people flourish while producing sustainable results.

Every leader knows the statistics. The vast majority of their employees – as high as 70%, according to Gallup – are not engaged in their work. Leaders understand the bottom-line consequences of a disengaged workforce, so they implement engagement strategies to boost survey scores, believing that increases in productivity, morale, innovation, safety, and retention will follow. This approach seems reasonable, and leaders are held accountable for the results. The problem? Most engagement strategies employed by organizations simply don’t work.

Acclaimed leadership expert Susan Fowler argues that most of the current approaches to engagement have not caught up to the science of motivation, resulting in short-term practices that undermine the long-term engagement they hoped to generate. In "Why Motivating People Doesn't Work... and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging"(Berrett-Koehler Publishers; September 30, 2014), Fowler builds upon the latest scientific research on the nature of human motivation to explain why traditional approaches don’t work. More importantly, she provides a cutting-edge framework, model, and course of action to help leaders shape a workplace where people flourish while producing sustainable results.

As Senior Consulting Partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies, Fowler spent 15 years studying the science of motivation, which led her to develop, test and refine a research-based approach to motivation in real-world business settings around the globe. The key insight from motivation science is that leaders can’t motivate employees, because people are already motivated. The difference between an engaged and disengaged person is not a lack of motivation, but the quality of their motivation – whether the reasons they are motivated promote creativity, innovation, sustainable focus, and higher productivity (optimal), or thwart them (suboptimal – see attached). Following this finding, the key to long-term engagement is the day-to-day shift to optimal motivation – an internal process sabotaged by the external engagement tactics organizations continue to impose on employees.

Despite compelling research that proves carrots and sticks don’t work, leaders continue to use them – not because they are unaware of the science, but because they haven’t understood their alternatives. In "Why Motivating People Doesn't Work and What Does," Fowler implores leaders to drop traditional motivation tactics, and provides a much-needed model for what to do instead. According to Fowler, a leader’s role is not to motivate people, but to shape a workplace and use best practices that enable employees to shift themselves to an optimal motivational outlook by focusing on fulfilling their three core psychological needs:

  • Autonomy: our human need to perceive that we have choices, that what we are doing is of our own volition, and our perception that we are the source of our actions.
  • Relatedness: our need to care about and be cared about by others, to feel connected to others without concerns about ulterior motives, and to feel that we are contributing to something greater than ourselves.
  • Competence: our need to feel effective at meeting everyday challenges and opportunities, to demonstrate skill over time, and to feel a sense of growth and flourishing.

Regardless of gender, race, culture, or generation, the real story behind our motivation is whether or not our psychological needs are satisfied. When a person experiences high-quality psychological needs, she will have an optimal motivational outlook (see attached). Conversely, when a person experiences low-quality psychological needs, he will have a suboptimal motivational outlook (see attached). The quality of one’s motivation is a day-to-day, moment-to-moment experience that ultimately, over time, results in active disengagement, disengagement, engagement, or employee work passion. The great news is that people can learn to choose and create optimal motivational experiences anytime and anywhere. Motivation is a skill. Managers and Human Resource leaders can teach employees how to activate an optimal motivational outlook by:

  • Identifying the current motivational outlook by recognizing and understanding one’s sense of well-being and underlying reasons for current actions
  • Shifting to (or maintaining) an optimal motivational outlook by using the techniques of self-regulation to satisfy psychological needs
  • Reflecting and noticing the difference between having a suboptimal motivational outlook and having an optimal motivational outlook.

"Why Motivating People Doesn't Work and What Does" first teaches leaders how to shift themselves to an optimal motivational outlook. Then, Fowler teaches leaders how to facilitate shifts in their employees through motivational outlook conversations. She identifies specific scenarios that call for an outlook conversation, warns leaders of the most common pitfalls, and provides guidance on how to conduct conversations in the right way. This process requires leaders to rethink traditional beliefs about the workplace and their role in it, but the results are astounding: a workforce with the positive energy, vitality, and sense of well-being required for sustaining the pursuit and achievement of meaningful goals while thriving and flourishing (and the potential for significantly higher engagement survey scores, to boot).

For more information on "Why Motivating People Doesn't Work and What Does" or Susan Fowler, visit http://motivationbook.susanfowler.com.

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Megan Constantino
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