In November 2009, the Harvard Business Review brought out The Drucker Centennial, featuring the highly respected management thinker, Peter Drucker. In his foreword, Editor Adi Ignatius states:
". . . . Drucker's belief in a strong sense of purpose has been central to his organization's work, in part because employees are so much more motivated by a higher sense of purpose than by money alone."
No doubt, material rewards are very relevant towards motivating people. One very simple truth is that the vast majority of us have qualified ourselves, and work, for one fundamental reason - better lifestyles. We want better lifestyles for ourselves and for the people that we care for. However, beyond a point, material rewards can actually block positive team behaviour. In "CorporateTheatre" workshops, participants experience and demonstrate immensely exciting possibilities as individuals and as teams. We then go on to explore the attitudes and the environment that enabled brilliant performances calling for instant integration into new teams, intense collaboration, phenomenal creativity, exciting innovation, open and trusting communication, and deep commitment. When processing this, a statement that is often heard is,
"This ideal team behaviour was possible here because there were no material rewards".
We ask the team,
"What is the purpose of material rewards? Are they meant to enhance performance or block it?"
The answer is obvious.
The realisation dawns that material rewards per se are not the problem. The problem lies in the way rewards are given. Very often, the way performance is appraised and rewards given, compel people to focus on self-seeking individual gratification rather than a higher purpose.
During the course of the workshop, the group is divided into constantly changing teams. Each time, they assemble together and wait for instructions on what the next activity is. As soon as the next objective is outlined, the purpose made clear, the parameters of performance defined, they instantly become a team that instinctively demonstrates all that we would consider ideally desirable behaviour. This offers a very significant learning. A group of people become a team only when they are clear about a common purpose and aligned to a collective success.
Sadly, in many organizations, we recruit people with great potential, then give them specific roles. Often, people in the team have absolute clarity and ownership of their invidividual roles, but are not too clear about what the team needs to deliver and what exactly would constitute a winning performance for the team as a whole. Even when they have the clarity, the alignment is often missing as individual performances are rated and rewarded over team performance. This being so, no matter what else is done in terms of team-building, they are not able to come together or function together as a 'team'.
Going further, one of the significant insights experienced during the workshop is that when we know what the team has to deliver, when we know what we need to do as individuals towards that objective, and when we also know what the others in the team need to deliver, it enables us to add value by complementing each other, and collaborating towards 'bonus' performances.
Key learnings that emerge are:
Ensure Goal clarity (what does the team need to do) before creating role clarity. When this is done, it is that much easier to ensure that every individual role is meaningfully aligned to the team goal.
Ensure that appraisals and rewards focus more on team performance than individual performances.
Make people aware of not only of their own roles but also of the roles of others in the team. This, on a platform of team appraisal and reward, will enable collaboration. If I do not know what you are supposed to do and how that is going to make us win as a team, how do I collaborate with you to add value to what you are doing?
Once the team objectives have been achieved, give significant weightage to the team's (peer) evaluation of who contributed most to that success. This will position the rewards, including individual rewards in a way that does not block team dynamics. It will ensure that the competition is between teams, and not within the team.
Winning as a team itself offers a higher sense of purpose to everyone involved, rather than winning just as an individual. Additionally if this shared purpose is one that has a meaningful value base and works towards higher good for the community, the country, or humanity as a whole, then that makes it even more motivating, even more fulfilling.