Measuring Motivation

You can't DO motivation unless you MEASURE motivation.  And when you measure motivation, you're taking a giant step in getting big increases in results.

By Brent Filson - 6/2008

My son, a Marine Corps platoon commander, was recently wounded in combat in Iraq, and the month and a half I spent with him in the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland enabled me to witness the extraordinary motivation of the nurses and doctors.

The lessons of my experience go to the heart of your learning leadership. Promoting motivational leadership is, I presume, one of your key challenges. However, you cannot do it unless you communicate that motivation is actually taking place, and you can't make that communication unless you measure motivation.

In business, there is no value without measurements. However, experts assert that motivation is an unmeasurable moving-target.

For instance, I can say the staff at the Naval hospital was motivated; but I can't measure that motivation except on some sort of subjective scale.

I submit, however, that when it comes to organizational leadership, motivation not only can be measured, it must be measured. Over the years, I've developed and instituted with a variety of companies a way to measure motivation in leadership activities.

The measurement system is based on the principle that one better accomplishes a task when one is leading rather than simply doing.

If you don't see the clear and compelling difference between doing and leading, you cannot measure motivation. For it is this principle that lies at the heart of the measuring system.

To begin to measure motivation get an agreement with the people you lead that they will take leadership in accomplishing a task. I call this agreement the Leadership Contract.

The Leadership Contract is simply an agreement between you and the people you lead that spells out the specific actions they'll take to be your cause leaders.

Keep in mind three things:

  1. You and they recognize the important difference between doing and leading.
  2. They do not necessarily have to be reporting to you. They can be your clients or customers, members of your team, even your boss ... or even your teenage son or daughter!
  3. This is a "contract", not an "agreement." An "agreement" ranges from a mutual understanding to a binding obligation. However, a "contract" carries with it the force of law. The "law" in this case is a rule or injunction that must be obeyed. Hence, the contract is an instrument, an injunction fashioned by you and your cause leaders, that must be complied with as if it were a law.

Here's a 5 step process for making the Leadership Contract happen.

Step 1. Understand: Know and have the people know precisely what the Leadership Contract is— and isn't.

Implementing this step may entail some education and persuasion. For instance, if the people do not believe there is a difference between doing and leading, you cannot develop a Leadership Contract with them. You must first educate them as to what the Leadership Contract is then persuade them to join with you in the Contract.

Step 2. Develop: The process of developing the Contract is as important as the Contract itself. That process is always the same.

Have the people propose what leadership actions should be taken to accomplish the increase in results. Otherwise, if you tell them what actions they should take, you are into an order-giving situation; and in terms of getting big increases in results, the order is the lowest

Once they have made their proposals, come to a tentative agreement as to which of them will be implemented.

(They cannot take any leadership actions they see fit. You can veto actions you think won't work. In all the Leadership Contracts I have witnessed, I have seldom seen a leader veto a proposed action the people wanted to take. On the contrary, leaders are usually pleasantly surprised by the effectiveness of the actions the people propose.)

Step 3. Test: Once you have agreed upon their actions, apply a testing methodology to the results, such as the SAMMER test. Are the results Sizable, Achievable, Meaningful, Measurable, Ethical, Repeatable.

Review the actions you've tentatively agreed upon. Do they meet your criteria for getting increases in results? If they don't, get new actions.

Step 4. Support: Agree with them as to how their leadership will be supported. This support can take the form of additional training, logistics, administrative, communication, and flying "air cover" if they need to be protected from the scrutiny and interference of higher authorities in your organization.

Step 5: Monitor and evaluate. Agree with them as to how and when the actions will be monitored and evaluated. This step is critical to creating lasting change.

I suggest you meet periodically, e.g., every two to three weeks, to monitor and evaluate how things are going. Later, you can switch to monthly, semi-monthly and even quarterly evaluations.

The idea is to hold your cause leaders accountable for their leadership and the results they achieve through that leadership; and they will be especially accountable if you have made sure you take Step 2 of this process. I call it interior accountability – it comes inside from them not outside from you.

The Leadership Contract will take the guesswork out of motivation. Apply it consistently, and you'll have people lining up to be given the chance to work with you.

The pay off: Motivation can be measured through the Leadership Contract. The aim of each Contract is to achieve more results faster continually, which can only be accomplished through the good offices of their leadership.

Since one cannot choose to take leadership unless one is motivated, the people who enter into the Leadership Contract with you are ipso facto motivated.

onsequently, the measure of those Contracts, their number, scope, and effectiveness, is the measure of the true motivation of any organization.

Remember, motivation must not exist simply for itself. People who are motivated only are useless to an organization. Motivation must have an outcome. That outcome is business impact.

That impact must be increases in measured results. The business impact resulting from the Contract should be so unmistakable that any other variables can be ruled out as substantial contributing factors.

Statistical analysis and financial instruments should be used to validate the outcomes.

One analysis tool can be this equation: Y=A(LC) + V.

Y is measurable business impact. A is the delta or increases in hard, measured results. LC is the quantified individual or group effort measured by Leadership Contracts. V is the range of errors or variables.

Clearly, A must be a very big number in order for the Leadership Contracts to have a truly important business impact, an impact not attributable to variables. Such an impact happening in many cross-functional areas throughout your company can drive shareholder value and quite possibly stock price.

Finally, don't let measurements be mistaken for leader

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Brent Filson
Brent Filson