by Taylor Deer
The title of this blog represents by far and away the most frequent question that I get asked as part of my job. I guarantee that every recruitment chair has had this question pop into their heads at one point or another. Until recently I’ve never picked up this question and looked at it closely. I’ve never asked, “why does this question exist?” better yet “why does this question STILL exist?” The question is not new. Not by a long shot. People have been asking us this question since the beginning of recruitment education.
I picked up this question and started to look at it. My initial reaction, as usual, was to put it down and immediately begin to search for an answer. But it was a specific kind of searching. I realized that I was searching FOR something. I was looking for specifics; my vision had a filter on it that made everything else irrelevant around me except for what I was specifically looking for. It was like searching for a top to a water bottle that I dropped. The answer I was looking for had to have certain specifications and parameters to work.
I came across a vast amount of answers pretty easily. I read employee motivation books, watched TED talks, looked up old recruitment blogs. read through research studies, and looked through my own past experience.
I Googled motivation.
I realized that there is no “one size fits all” solution, there are even proven methods that directly contradict one another! I noticed that there is no lack of knowledge on motivation. Far from it. It seems to me that motivation continues to be one of the most written about topics with many approaches to solving the elusive lack of motivation among people in groups. There are personal approaches, group approaches, systemic approaches, emotional approaches, persuasive, coercive, and even manipulative approaches. There are even fictional approaches; just watch an episode of House of Cards!
So if there is a ton of knowledge, and a vast diversity of solutions, how on earth does this question still exist? Why haven’t we figured it out and moved on yet?
Then it hit me. We don’t care about the question. Well, actually, we don’t care about what the question is about: our “unmotivated” members. To us they are an annoyance. A hindrance. They are slowing us down. Holding us back for no good reason. We wish we could get them to do ANYTHING, and it would be an immediate improvement to their anemic involvement. We hold unmotivated members with contempt. We give them everything, set them up, all they have to do is show up and talk to somebody, and yet they refuse, to our bewilderment. Like an animal on the verge of extinction that refuses to mate to save the species, un motivated members are a strain on our resources.
Therein lies the problem. It’s not that the problem is so massive and complicated that it is above our intellect. It’s not that the problem is so massive that it’s beyond our comprehension.
It’s that the problem is too small…. Well, at least it’s too small for our egos.
It’s an ego problem. It’s “How can something LIKE THAT hold ME up?” Recruitment chairs probably have tried a few different things to motivate members. Those things failed, and then we quickly throw our hands up and say “I well I’ve tried EVERYTHING, that’s it!” As if to say, “it’s not my fault, it’s YOURS!”
The real problem is that our ego has deflated OUR motivation to keep searching for a solution.
The problem is that our egos underrate the problem and put it beneath us, which causes us to look past it. We are already looking forward to what we were going to do once all our members showed up to our recruitment event. And when they don’t, as always, it smudges the picture of reality that we’ve been painting. We throw our hands up and declare it ruined. It demotivates US. Then we resort to spending more time to playing the blame game rather than picking ourselves back up and continuing to work for a solution.
The solution lies within a word. Resiliency. Resiliency is the ability to recover quickly from misfortune. When someone smudges the “perfect picture” that our ego has been painting, it hurts. It hurts only because we had a concrete vision of what our success had to look like; that it had to happen a certain way. This vision relied on factors outside of OUR control, bending to OUR will, and doing things OUR way.
This might as well be a formula for apathy.
The key to being resilient is releasing perfect expectations. It’s looking at that smudge as part of the painting and still continuing to paint on. It’s shrinking your ego down so that it can embrace failure and keep your mind open to learning from it. Failure can be your best friend if you just sit back and laugh with it every once in a while. Later down the road when you have this all figured out it tells the best stories that teach others for years to come. So learn to love it.
There will never be one solution to motivating others, because we are not machines, we are humans, and we are constantly changing every single day. Most of us don’t understand ourselves let alone be able to understand another. It’s ridiculous to think there is one solution to try, and that if it doesn’t work then it just automatically gets discarded it into the “impossible” category.
This is not my prescription, this is my recipe for how we can tackle this problem: Acknowledge that “unmotivated members” are worth your time and effort. Appreciate the problem for what it is, not what your ego says it should be. Build something using the vast amount of knowledge available to you. Put what you’ve built into action. When it fails, learn from it, grow from it, pick yourself back up and build something else until you find the thing that works. Don’t be surprised if it looks vastly different from what you imagined it would look like.