Every so often we need to adjust our thinking about a topic. This week an article from McKinsey popped into my inbox. It sets out – with evidence – why we need to go beyond Maslow in our theory and practice of motivation. When I talk to groups of managers about motivation, many of them have heard of Maslow, but very few have heard of other theories. And many don’t find Maslow’s concept of “self-actualisation” useful.

It’s time to give managers something more concrete and practical and there are some newer theories that are easily actionable. The McKinsey article states:

“people seek more from their employers than just a pay-check and a safe place to work. A preponderance of evidence suggests that “good work” also means satisfying employees’ psychological needs.”

Psychological Needs

Our psychological needs, according to Ryan and Deci[i], are for:

• competence (being good at what we do)
• autonomy (having some choice and freedom)
• relatedness (having connections with other people).

If we can satisfy these needs, plus our need for meaning and purpose, we not only feel motivated, we also have greater well-being. The challenge for managers is to give people opportunities to fulfil these needs in their work.
You can do this with a shift of emphasis from seeing yourself as an overseer of task completion to an enabler of self-motivation.  You can go beyond Maslow.

Key Management Capabilities

I see these four management capabilities – engage, develop, delegate and connect – as key to leading your team to meet their psychological needs and fulfil their purpose and potential. Here are some ways you can do it.

ENGAGE to give meaning

Use team briefings to explain how their jobs fit into wider goals.
Turn management jargon into common language – explain briefings in your own words!
Find out what’s important to individuals about their jobs and work.
Use the enjoy/do well matrix in job design.

DEVELOP to build competence

Use “do and review” approach to learn from situations
Use model of what went well/not so well/what to do differently next time
Give feedback – use stop/start/continue structure.
Give five times the amount of positive feedback as negative to build self-belief.

DELEGATE to give freedom

Give some freedom and choice in how, when, where they work.
Delegate areas of responsibility when you can – with support.
Give them opportunities to be involved in new things.
Check back with them afterwards re how it went/what they learned

CONNECT to create belonging

Have times when you bring the team together in person ie schedule when you are all in.
Make time for chat in the team, casual conversations eg open calls 15 mins early, have “tea at three” virtual sessions where anyone can drop in.
Always use face to face for difficult conversations
Be disciplined about scheduling 121s – make them a priority.

Motivation and Well-being

If you work in a job and in an organisation where you:

• have a sense of purpose
• can hone your competence
• have some freedom to act
• feel that you belong
• and have the opportunity to fulfil your potential,

then you most likely feel pretty happy.  And as a manager, you can feel proud that you help people to achieve that.

My new book has lots more advice and practical guidance on how to motivate your team, improve their well-being, and feel motivated yourself.

[i] Ryan, R. and Deci, L. (2000) “Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being” American Psychologist Vol. 55, No. 1, 68-78