Pyschologists have spent the last fifty years working to unlock the key to motivation. While the elements of this are surprisingly simple, they are chronically ignored by managers and those in authority. Not just in politics, but why else is it that so many of us feel so demotivated, lacking energy, not really sure where we’re going, why we’re doing it, or tragically, whether we care at all? Motivation is the impulse to act, and the desire to succeed. Powerlessness is its evil counterpart.
Boiling down the psychology, you can build motivation by helping people to:
- Have clear goals. As Steven Covey said, always begin with the end in mind.
- Have clear roles. Know where you fit in the bigger picture and concentrate on that.
- Do what they’re good at. Psychologists call it self-efficacy.
- Feel like they’re in control of their life and enabled to make their own decisions
- Feel good about themselves. This is called self-esteem.
- Be part of a community so that they feel like they belong, are valued, respected and appreciated by colleagues.
And here’s how to undermine motivation:
- Do none of the above particularly…
- Have all your autonomy taken away by being bossed around, work on your own and never receive any feedback or only ever receive criticism.
- Spend your time working on things that you are not very good at, and do not enjoy.
There is one other fiendishly effective way to destroy people’s motivation to work hard, and to work together: organise the system so that decision-making is opaque and unfair. This is the nub of the politics issue.
What social psychology has taught us is that people are exquisitely emotionally sensitive to feelings of injustice, lack of transparency, to corruption and nepotism. People can sniff it out at fifty paces. The merest whiff of unfairness, or even the appearance of it, will immediately douse the flames of enthusiasm. You see it at macro level in corrupt societies, where crime is rife, the streets are strewn with litter and nobody obeys the law. You can see it too in dwindling attendance on committees and working groups, and the pitiful attendance at town and parish council meetings up and down the country.
So, if you want to switch off people’s social impulses, their willingness to cooperate and collaborate, the thing to do is this: create a hierarchy where some people get favours which are disproportionate to what they deserve. Make your decisions behind closed doors, do not freely consult, ignore representations, and never explain your behaviour or your decisions. Be high-handed, imperious and give the strong impression that there are different sets of rules for different people.
The reason some people don’t vote or stand for election or get involved in local policy development is not apathy and disinterest, it’s because they think there is no point. Rightly or wrongly, they think the system, along with the people in it, stinks.
My goal after the next election in 2015 is to work towards creating an open, transparent, respectful, diverse and democratic Ledbury Town Council. Away with the whispering and rubbishing, and in with energy, good sense and openness to new ideas. Here’s to the future!
Note: please get in touch if you want to find out more about being a town councillor in Ledbury. Together we can make a difference, make things better. My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org