Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does: A book review by Bob Morris

Why MotivatingWhy Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging
Susan Fowler
Berrett-Koehler Publishers (2014)

Why and how we need to reevaluate traditional beliefs and practices in order to understand what motivation is…and isn’t

I am among those who are convinced that people cannot inspire other people; however, they can inspire them in one or more of several various ways. Sharing a compelling vision, for example, as when Martin Luther King, Jr. departed from his prepared speech and shared his dream. It is also possible to inspire others by setting an example, by appealing to their sense of justice, and/or by explaining what the consequences will be if a serious problem (especially a threat) isn’t resolved

Presumably Fowler understands all this much better than I do (in fact, I’m certain she does) and in this brilliant book, shares a wealth of information, insights, and counsel based on decades of his real-world experience in combination with revelations from recent neurological research. She provides motivation mini-case studies involving five quite different people encountering quite different challenges who responded effectively to them by taking an approach uncharacteristic of their leadership/management style. Fascinating stuff.

In the Epilogue, Fowler then focuses on ten “Masters of Motivation”: Phil Jackson, Colleen Barrett, Mike Easley, Billy Yamaguchi, Gary Ridge, Beth Scalone, Matt Manion, Margie Blanchard, Scott Rigby, Richard Ryan, and Edward Deci. (“Dr.” is Fowler’s suffix for Scalone, Blanchard, Rigby, Ryan, and Deci. I have deleted it because I have no idea if it refers to M.D., PhD, or D.Ed.) All of these women and men have made effective use of the science of motivation to achieve great success for their respective organizations and, in process, for those with whom they have been closely associated. Jackson, for example, has played on or coached 13 teams that won a National Basketball Association championship. He is frequently referred to as the “Zen Master” (perhaps you saw the Audi television commercial) because he makes effective use of unconventional tactics to teach his players self-regulation through mindfulness. Scallone is owner of the North County Water and Sports Therapy Center, a sole proprietorship. Her ability to fill the psychological needs of those entrusted to her care is of incalculable value to them, of course, but also in many cases to their loved ones. To her great credit, she also has a long-tenured, dedicated staff who also personify servant leadership.

These are among the dozens of other passages of great interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Fowler’s coverage:

o Ask the Right Question (Pages 1-3)
o From Theory to Practice (10-12)
o The Appraisal Process: How Motivation Happens (15-19)
o Three Psychological Needs (33-43)
o Anti-Drive Theory (52-54)
o The Nature of Self-Regulation: Eating the Marshmallow (55-59)
o The MVPs of Self-Regulation (59-66)
o Activating Optimal Motivation (74-99)
o Outlook Conversations — What Doesn’t Work (106-113)
o Rethinking Five Beliefs That Erode Workplace Motivation (127-149)
o The Promise of Optimal Motivation (151-156)
o Masters of Motivation: (160-180)

Who will derive the greatest value from this book? I think there are three primary readerships. The first consists of those who have supervisory responsibilities and are determined to become much effective helping to increase the personal growth and professional development of those entrusted to their care. The second consists of those involved in marketing who are determined to be much more effective when attempting to create or increase demand for the given offering. Finally, I think this book can be of incalculable value to academic teachers and athletic coaches – working with teams and/or with individuals – who want to be more effective when attempting to ignite self-motivation.

That said, I am certain that there is much of great value for anyone to learn from the new science of leading, energizing, and engaging. Just about everything anyone needs to begin or expedite that journey of self-discovery is provided in this brilliant book. Congratulations to Susan Fowler. Bravo!

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