This is something that I struggled with as a manager for many years. It’s hard to get people to do the things that need to get done. We’ve heard about the old “stick and carrot” strategies. This actually works, but not in the way you think. What I’m talking about is work based off of researchers at Columbia university. This was a feature from Harvard Business Review. Their work focuses on what is called prevention and promotion mind sets. If you understand these self-motivational strategies, you can tailor how you motivate your people into action. Hopefully, you’ll actually get them to move their butts.
In essence, when someone is a promotion mindset, you give them big picture “why” reasons. This enables them to focus on the positive outcomes of what they’re doing. In contrast, when someone is prevention mindset, you give them risks and “how” reasons.
For example, you want someone to troubleshoot a tedious experimental assay. Depending if the person is a prevention or promotion mindset, you give them the following reasons, respectively:
Preventions: “Joe, you won’t be able to finally complete your dissertation if this assay isn’t completed.”
Promotions: “Joe, you’ll finally be able to complete your dissertation if this assay is completed.”
The ONLY difference is the usage of negative and positive motivating words. Prevention and promotional mindset people are sensitive to verbiage that accentuate their unique frame of thought. Look at the sentences again, and ask yourself. Which one do I identify with? Which sentence would get you to do the assay?
Next time, someone isn’t getting their work done, think how that person is motivated and re-word your requests and demands.