Progress is a powerful motivator. When individuals and teams achieve small wins, they have a big impact on the overall motivation. It also generates positive momentum and energy to take further steps in the journey of achieving the purpose.
Authors Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer presented their research findings in a book titled “The Progress Principle” – Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement and Creativity at Work” where they found,
“Of all the positive events that influence the inner work life, the single most powerful is progress in meaningful work” – The Progress Principle
The converse is also true. Setbacks and lack of visibility into progress (as a team and as an organization) can be powerful de-motivator.
In this context, three things are very crucial from a leadership perspective:
Make the purpose visible.
We are talking about meaningful work here. In the daily conundrum, it is easy for your folks to lose the sight of the purpose and meaning of their work. While the meaning of our work is largely driven by the personal lens we use to see our work, the key question you need to ask as a leader is: Are people clear about what we are trying to achieve here and how their work contributes to that purpose?
People will get stuck. Their ability to make progress will be stifled by all internal and external forces. And that’s when they will need help. Enable progress by helping people, coaching them when required and eliminating the roadblocks (potential derailers). When a setback is encountered, help them in finding a way through the set back. The key question you need to ask: “Am I doing everything I possibly can to ensure that I am enabling progress?”
Make the progress visible.
Once people are clear about the purpose, then progress matters. Leaders have a huge role to play in making the progress visible. Use all forums of communication (daily stand up meetings, weekly status, monthly meetings, newsletters, wiki, portals etc) to make the progress visible. The key question you need to ask: Knowing what purpose are we working to achieve, do people know all the time about progress we are making (or not) towards the purpose?
Why does this matter? Because people want to make valuable contributions to a purpose larger than themselves. And when they know that they are making progress in achieving meaningful work, they are more likely to be intrinsically motivated.
That’s what we need more of in organization’s and teams today – isn’t it?