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Motivational Techniques That Work

During the past several years, the field of motivational theory and practice has been heavily saturated with seminars, a wide variety of self-study packages, and articles in professional journals.

While these offerings may differ in both content and approach to motivational techniques, they have one thing in common. They give the impression that any manager can quickly become proficient in the art of managing others by reading a book or completing one course. It simply does not work this way.

The reason that motivation cannot be instantly learned is that the subject is highly complex. Unlike a mathematical formula, the myriad factors of motivation are never black or white, but usually shades of gray.

Industrial/clinical psychology and applied psychiatry have made tremendous strides in understanding human behavior. New discoveries and applications toward understanding human behavior are being announced with increasing frequency in these inexact sciences. Still, it is possible to become reasonably proficient in the art of motivating others. While this skill is indeed complex, the average supervisor, through a comprehensive understanding of motivational elements (the dynamics of motivation, motivators, and motivational techniques), can become an effective leader of others in the workplace. With patience and applied practice, this skill can be obtained within a relatively short time span.

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The Dynamics of Motivation: While there exist several useful definitions of motivation, for our purposes we will define it as an individual’s desire to do something based upon a need. When a person is confronted with a need (either perceived or actual), he or she usually is motivated to perform specific actions for some sort of gratification. Once a particular need has been satisfied, the motivation to continue the actions diminishes and remains at “zero level” until the need arises again. In order to fully appreciate this phenomenon, we must further examine motivational theory and analyze the unique characteristics of individual needs. These characteristics can be described as follows:

  • Some needs are definitely short term, hence easily satisfied.
  • Other needs are long term, and thus more difficult to fulfill.
  • Need levels and their degree of intensity vary greatly among individuals.
  • Need levels rarely remain fixed throughout a person’s life span.
  • Need satisfaction (fulfillment of needs) is a constantly changing, dynamic process.
  • The perception of needs is highly personal; what one individual perceives as a need may not be regarded as such by another.

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