The Big Picture

Unleashing Human Potential Through Autonomy, Mastery And Purpose

Clare Anderson
16th August 2021
 < 1 min read

As offices begin to reopen, most companies are planning for a ‘hybrid’ working model future. ‘Hybrid’ is a tricky concept though - it fails to capture the scope of change that’s possible and needed. It’s a work model that risks creating confusion and chaos unless it’s clearly laid out and understood by all involved. 

Why do you work? What’s your motivation? Is it a bonus or commission scheme? The promise of a promotion? Or do you just, quite simply, love what you do? Many people still work in an environment motivated by a ‘carrot and stick’ approach:- do well and you’ll be rewarded; do badly and you’ll be punished. As Daniel Pink himself says, in his summary of his book ‘Drive’, “carrots and sticks are so last century.” With this approach, the satisfaction of doing a job well can often get lost in the drive for praise and promotion. Business operating systems built around this model don’t work and often do harm. When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. 21st century work needs to upgrade to autonomy, mastery and purpose. 

Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink turns the old school paradigm of motivation being rewarded with things like money on its head. His provocative and persuasive assertion is that the secret to high performance and satisfaction in all areas of life is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world. This new approach has three essential elements: 

  • Autonomy - the desire to direct our own lives
  • Mastery - the urge to get better and better at something that matters
  • Purpose - the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves

Empower people with these three things and they will really care about what they do. Greater freedom often results in greater responsibility. Given the chance, people will start to work harder and think smarter - for their own sake. Essentially, if employees are truly motivated from within, the sky’s the limit. According to Pink, if employees have a spirit of autonomy, mastery and purpose, they will have the freedom and inner drive to develop truly creative solutions. The best way for organizations to achieve transformative goals is to ensure there is intrinsic motivation - where work is its own reward.

So how do you bring these three motivational forces to life? Well, let’s start by looking at ways in which you might give team members more autonomy to control what, when and how they work, and who they work with - to ensure creativity and complete motivation. A great example is Atlassian (the Australian software company) who set aside certain times of the week, month or year to allow their team members to work on whatever company project they wished. This practise was highly successful and led to many innovations for the organisation. Another simple way to effect the autonomy principle is remote working (par for the course these days) which will allow your team to work where they want. You might want to also consider removing schedules from your workplace. Allow your team to do their work when they want, as long as they still get their projects done well and on time. Take some time to brainstorm how you can give your employees more control over the time they spend working. The more autonomy you can give them, the more productive and satisfied they will be. If you are looking for more ideas around how to implement autonomy in your workplace, click here to read our blog about successful flexible working models.

Most of us have the desire to get better at the things we do - this is where mastery, another key element to intrinsic motivation, comes into play. So how do you apply this to the workplace? Pink talks about matching each of your employees with the right tasks - what he calls ‘Goldilocks tasks’: tasks that aren’t too difficult or too easy, but just right. Giving team members projects that they aren’t skilled at will lead to them feeling overwhelmed and their motivation dropping. Give them tasks that are too easy and they’ll get bored. Task matching doesn’t have to fit capabilities exactly - it means putting your employees in the best possible position to succeed - and giving them the tools to grow and improve. Ongoing training opportunities, allowing people to improve their skill sets, is key when it comes to ensuring mastery.

Finally, there’s purpose. Workers want more from their jobs than just a pay cheque (which can be found anywhere.) They want to work towards something that matters. Purpose is the highest form of motivation. When your staff believe in what your company is building, they will be more productive, less complaining and fully engaged. How can you apply this principle? Make sure everyone understands your organization’s vision and can see the big picture. To be truly motivated, they should know the answers to what your company is really working towards and why this matters. The recruitment phase is crucial to ensuring you only bring on board people whose values and drive align with your company’s goals. Connecting personal goals to organizational targets using OKRs or OGSMs can win not only minds, but hearts as well. A strong sense of purpose can be fostered through encouraging staff to use their skills to benefit local non-profits - a values or ethics-led company vision brings a strong sense of purpose to any workplace. 

Unleashing and maximising human potential starts with trusting employees and giving them the freedom to innovate. Having autonomy, mastery and purpose in all areas of our life will change how we think and transform how we live. If you’re looking for a remote team partner whose vision and modus operandi truly embodies autonomy, mastery and purpose, Sharesource could be the answer you’re looking for. Download our eBook, '30 Essential Questions to Ask a Provider Before You Outsource’ to ensure you're informed and have the right questions to ask when considering the next step.

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If you’re looking for a remote team partner who truly cares about adding value to your business, Sharesource could be the answer you’re looking for. Download our eBook, '30 Essential Questions to Ask a Provider Before You Outsource’ to ensure you're informed and have the right questions to ask when considering the next step. 

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